Creating a Timless Portrait | A Guide To Making Portraits That Touch The Heart And Decorate The Home

About Clothing, Color, Tone, & Style

When more than one person is to appear in the portrait, or when a special stylistic effect is desired, clothing and prop choices can make or break a portrait.

Skin Tone Considerations

Whether working with light or dark complexions, the objective always is for the face to dominate the portrait. Accordingly, skin highlights must be the lightest, brightest, most intense areas of the portrait. So when a medium to dark background is used, all subjects photograph best in medium to dark tones, whatever the skin tone.

Clothing For Small Groups

Couples or small groups should choose simple garments within the same tonal ranges, keeping in mind how the clothing and background selection will affect the stylistic intention of the portrait.

When subjects appear in a mixture of light and dark tones together, there is visual confusion—as the light color comes forward, and the dark color recedes. When this happens (see example below), one person becomes dominant and appears heavier than in reality.

Clothing For Families

In a family group, proper clothing coordination is critical. When decorating a home, a major concern is to coordinate the colors and tones of the walls, carpets, drapes, and furniture. Similar coordination is necessary when selecting clothing for a group portrait. Choose clothing in the same tonal ranges so that no single member of the family stands out because the clothing is too light or bright as compared to the rest of the group.

Light-colored clothing is appropriate against a white or pastel background.

Careful clothing selection makes the difference between a portrait that appears to be unrelated individuals and one in which every member of the family “belongs” to the group.

Casual clothing complements portraits made in outdoor environments.

Designing A
Successful Portrait

Our goal is to create portraiture as individual as the subjects we photograph. Our tools include various styles, techniques, and settings that make each portrait a unique artwork.

Memorable portraits take careful planning, and the clothing you choose is very important. These guidelines will help you to make clothing decisions that will enhance the style of your artwork.

Tips on Preparing For Your Portrait

  • Turtle necks or V-necks can be flattering, but they must not be exaggerated in style. Avoid very wide or particularly deep V-neck garments or bulky cowl-neck sweaters that completely hide the neck.
  • Long sleeves are essential for teens and adults, as bare arms call attention to themselves and will overpower the face.
  • Women being photographed in full length should wear long skirts, pants, or dark stockings with shorter skirts or dresses in order to keep the eye from being directed toward the legs and away from the face.
  • If feet are to show in the portrait, assure that shoes and stockings are in keeping with the visual intent of the portrait.
  • Men should have their hair cut about one week before the portrait session. Women should be photographed whenever they are happiest with their hair in relation to the time it is styled.

Clothing For Individuals

The goal of any fine portrait is to direct the viewer’s eye to the face(s) in the portrait. All other elements should be secondary. For individuals, simple long-sleeved garments in medium to dark tones of brown, rust, burgundy, green, or blue are pleasing choices when photographed against a medium or dark background.

Because darker clothing is slimming, it often is a good choice for full-length or three-quarter-length portraits in which a medium to dark background is used.

Bold stripes, plaids, checks, and prints are visually confusing and do not photograph well.

Bright colors, such as red and orange, will overwhelm the face and ruin a portrait.

Bare shoulders or tops with “spaghetti straps” often make the subject look heavier and take the eye away from the face.

with Portraits

Giving life to your personal artwork begins with a planning appointment, during which you and the photographer or design consultant can explore your ideas and discuss creative possibilities.

When the finished work is on display in your home or office, it will serve as both a tasteful reflection of your individualized decorating style and a tribute to the ones you love.

As the examples above illustrate, a well-designed portrait, when it is properly sized, creates a decorative focal point that can add both drama and personality to any room in your home.