What colour of clothing do you recommend your clients wear during a portrait photo session?

I recently completed an urban photo shoot where the colour of my client's dress gave an odd cast to some of the photos. Do you recommend clothing choices and colours based on your background?


I'm going to take the opposite position as those saying "neutral" or "dark". I think that color of your model's clothing is such an important element of the content, that you shouldn't try to sedate it.

For example, here's various portraits with bright colored clothing.

This one even has four different clothing colors. And it's still great.

Subject color is too important to give up. You should be working on avoiding the color cast in other ways (lighting, filters, distance to background, Photoshop) first.

  • 1
    Above all, don't let your camera chose the color temperature/white balance -- shoot at least one frame with a grey card (or a Color Checker Passport, or a WhiBal, or what have you) in the lighting conditions you're shooting under. Once you've found neutral, it's easy to go warmer or cooler, but if you have no idea where you are, it's hard to get where you're going.
    – user2719
    Mar 26 '11 at 4:45
  • And/or shoot in RAW so that you can fix problems after the fact. Mar 26 '11 at 16:05

In a studio I used to work in we used to recommend navy blue and burgundies and grays in darker shades.

  • Why? Are these good colors for all situations?
    – mattdm
    Jan 26 '12 at 4:40

I think you've to take your background into consideration. Suggest they bring multiple sets of outfits in different colors. Some people tend to think they only look good in black or white, so make sure they bring something with color too.

I was on a game show once and the big thing they stressed for clothing choice was no white and no black. Anything with colorful patterns made them happy.


If you want the face to be the central part of the picture, one tactic is to match the background to the clothing (or vice versa), e.g. charcoal clothes on black background or gray clothes on white background. What you're going for is that of everything in the image, the face has the most contrast with everything else (background and clothes) and the viewer's eyes are drawn to it.


Usually "neutral" color clothing is best. This covers a wide range of colors and quite versatile to work with.

  • What do you mean by "neutral"? Aug 2 '10 at 18:20
  • 1
    Mostly they are beige, ivory, taupe, black, gray, and white. My suggestion assumes that the client does not know what to wear or indifferent about it. But some times some clients feel strongly about some particular colors (for whatever reason: alma mater colors, gothic, etc) and in that situation it should be up to the photographer to adjust. Aug 2 '10 at 22:16

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