When most clients contact me, they are looking for portraits of their beloved animal companion (canine, equine feline or other). They have not considered taking part in the portraits themselves. I know from my own personal experience that one of my greatest regrets with my own dogs is not having had professional portraits created with us together before they passed away. I highly recommend not passing up the opportunity to do so, if it presents itself.
Here are a ten tips to assist you in selecting your outfit in order to create beautiful and timeless family portraits.
1. Keep it simple and timeless
The best family portraits are those that are timeless. Fashion trends come and go—sometimes very quickly. Trendy clothes can easily go from stylish to dated in a blink of an eye. You want the viewer’s focus to be on you and your pet, not the once cool fashion find that makes you cringe a decade later.
Keep your outfit simple, clean, and well-fitting. Clothing should be flattering to you, but shouldn’t overwhelm or distract from your pet.
Simple jeans and blue t-shirt keep it cool and classic for a summertime session
Khakis and a polo shirt are a classic look
2. Coordinate, don’t match your outfits
One of the best ways to create a classic look is to coordinate the outfits of each member of the family. That does not mean all the outfits have to match. Think of the white shirt and blue jean clad family portrait fad from several years ago.
You want to be unique, show your personal style. Choose a color scheme, one that compliments your companion best, and then select pieces that stay within that color scheme. To add a little interest, vary the tones of the color, add a little texture (for example a sweater), or add just a little bit of pattern—nothing too bold—that stays within the color scheme you’ve chosen.
Subtle color scheme accentuate the Golden Retrievers and suits the fall scenery
It is important to keep in mind the color of your companion’s fur when choosing on your color scheme. Choose a color that will best accentuate your companion’s color best. In general medium tones/colors work best with most colors of fur. Also, it is not recommended to choose colors that create too much contrast – for example wearing white with a black dog or black with a white dog.
For instance, in the photo above, the neutral brown color scheme accentuates the Golden Retrievers gold while the blue jean provide a good contrast. The scarf adds a touch of color and pattern without overwhelming, providing a nice visual midpoint between the two dogs.
3. Start with one piece and build on that
Choose your favorite scarf, hat or any other favorite piece of clothing and build your outfit around it. This one “statement” piece is a way to add a little bit of your personal style and flair without it overwhelming or becoming a distraction in your family portrait. The scarf in the photograph below provides a splash of color that draws the eye to the focus of the photo.
Adding a splash of color and personal flare with an accent scarf
4. Keep your location in mind
You’ve got the perfect location for your session, now you need to choose the perfect outfit for it. Going to the beach for session? Choose color and outfits that reflect the beach’s natural soft tones. Going to a location filled with autumn’s bright foliage? Then choose colors and outfits that reflect the bold colors of autumn, but don’t disappear into it.
This perfect combination of grays, black and bold reds complement the bright autumn colors.
5. Comfort matters
Choosing comfortable clothing and shoes helps to create a more relaxed atmosphere for your family members. When you’re comfortable, your expressions—face and body—are relaxed which creates a better portrait. Also, when you’re at ease, your beloved pet is more likely to be calm and less stressed during your session.
Sometimes it can take time to get the perfect shot. Dressing appropriately, so that you’re comfortable during the heat and humidity of summer or the chill of late autumn, is also important. It can be the difference between having fun and enjoying your portrait session and absolute misery for you and your pet.
Classic blue color scheme while keeping cool in the summer heat
6. Avoid being too seasonal unless that is part of your goal
It’s best to stay away from outfits that are overtly seasonal. Leave your favorite holiday sweater or Halloween costumes at home. The goal is to create portraits that can be enjoyed all year around not just during specific times of the year.
A touch of red adds some seasonal cheer
On the other hand by choosing the right combination of colors it is possible to create portraits that can reflect a specific holiday or season in a subtle and pleasing way. In the photograph above, a bright pop of red creates a portrait that can be used to celebrate the Christmas holiday, but it’s not so seasonal that it can’t be enjoyed through out the rest of the year, too.
7. Consider your home decor
Your home is a reflection of your personal style. So, it is important to consider how the final artwork of portrait will look when displayed with your decor. If your home is full of bright and bold color, then choose bold colors for your wardrobe. On the other hand, if your house is decorated in neutral tones, then a bright palette for your portrait may be inappropriate. Unless, of course, you want to create a bold, eye-catching piece of art for a focus piece. It all depends on your desired outcome.
8. Stay away from too many patterns & textures
Patterns and textures can be fun, but they are not always flattering. Some is good, more isn’t always better. Too much can distract from the main subjects of the portrait. Small, subtle patterns are work well, as long at they are limited to a small article of clothing, and/or to just one person.
Subtle combination of color, texture, and patterns that complements both the location and lovely equine companion.
Well-coordinated outfits of medium blue and grey tones allow these two happy Tollers to shine amongst fallen autumn leaves
9. Say no to characters or outfits with logos
Just say NO—to outfits with logos, your favorite Disney or Marvel character T-shirt. Just like bold patterns they distract from the main focus of the portrait.
10. Plan in advance
Plan out your outfits in advance of your portrait session. It can be helpful to lay out all of the pieces of clothing, including accessories and shoes, so you can see what the overall look will be in your portraits. If you’re still not sure, you can always send a quick snapshot of your outfits for review. That way I can help you to make the best choice so that we can create the stunning piece of art you’re looking for.
Remember your goal is to create a portrait that you will be admiring for years to come.
If you would like to talk about holding a portrait session for your family and your animal companion, please get in touch.