Guide for what to wear for black and white photos.
What to wear for black and white photos guide

Today I would like to share with you a few recommendations on what to wear for black and white family photos. We will look at how different skin tones look in colour and black and white. I will share a few ideas and tips on what to wear for family pictures in the studio.

Traditional style black and white family photos are making come back. I see this happening in my studio. After asking my past clients, the feedback somewhat surprised me. They said the reason for this is quite simple, the public is getting bored with white background photos. Yes, they are nice, but the problem is that everything is photographed on a white background these days, school photos, family photos and it can clean very sterilised.

What to wear for Black and White family photos guide 1

As part of my family photo sessions, I always take a few family portraits with the idea that these will be converted to black and white. They are very simple and I would always do a couple of these even if family requests to have mainly white background portraits.

Black and white family photos

It is interesting to see that 90% of my clients would pick black and white family portrait for their wall over the high key white background portrait. I think the traditional posed family photos will slowly start to come back. I have even noticed that painted portraits are slowly emerging too. Not so much here in the UK, but definitely in the United States.

What to wear for family photos.

What colour clothes to wear for black and white family photos

My recommendation for the beautiful family portraits is dress like your going to a nice restaurant. Short sleeves are ok but I suggest wearing long sleeves are more flattering. I have noticed that especially ladies, are not very fond of their arms. So long sleeves tops or dresses will work well for this.

I always recommend bringing a few changes. It would give me some selection and we can decide on the spot what will work for you altogether the best. You don’t want to have totally matched colours for clothing, but similar tomes would be ideal. Saying that it is up to you to decide if it is possibly easier for you to find all either black or all white clothing for everyone. It could be tricky to find something simple and plain for children to wear. These days everything has a pretty crazy pattern.

TIP: I don’t advocate this, but I have noticed that sometimes families head to one of the luxury boutique clothing shops and pick a simple set of clothes. Leave the tags on and after the photoshoot return it. 

What colour looks best in black and white photos?

If using darker colours, we suggest black, royal blue, burgundy, or hunter green colour clothing. Earthy colour tones work really well for black and white family photos. Should you go to a casual theme, long sleeve black tops and jeans work well together. Bring black socks as floor sit down portraits might be done with no shoes on.

Colour tonality for black and white photos. See how different colours convert in black and white

A better way to go is to pick a colour scheme and keep it consistent all the way through each member. Black on black always looks classic and timeless. If you wear a tie, be sure to bring a jacket as it photographs much better.

What should you not wear for family pictures?

Avoid busy patterns, stripes, and mixing darks and lights tone clothes. I always not recommended wearing clothes with shiny reflective items like beads or sequin. 

Think about your family photos in the super long term. You don’t want the clothing which will be outdated very soon. For this reason the simpler the better.

Personally to me, T-shirts are fine for individual men portraits, but not for the formal family group photos in the studio. Highly recommend having well-fited T-shirts. Too baggy t-shirts would make your body larger than it is. 

The obvious one would be to avoid clothes with creases. It is almost impossible to remove these even in post-production.

Darker skin tone studio family photos.

I thought I also should mention in this guide recommendation for darker skin tone families. There is something that I get told all the time. When they reach out they always say that they want white background photos. The notion is that if I would photograph them on the dark photo background, they are worried that they would blend into the background.

I absolutely disagree with this. In fact, I have found that if I photograph on a white background, it is even harder to achieve nice skin tones. I always tend to photograph on medium-dark or dark tone backgrounds. Families love results and are pleasantly surprised. 

Speak with your photographer. There has to be more special care on how to light darker skin tone portraits. Definitely don’t try to make darker skin to be overlit and shiny.

TIP: I recommend to use little toner to conceal shiny skin. Sometimes primer works well too. It just makes a bit easier in post-production to edit highlights on the faces.

General tips for family portraits.

Dark colours make you look thinner. If you choose to go with bare feet, make sure to trim and clean those toenails. Ladies should also take a last-minute look at fingernails for fingernail polish. The chipped polish will show up in the portrait if the hands are showing. If you’re bringing young children or wearing formal clothing, arrive a little early and change at the studio.

If you get a haircut, do it a week before the session. Hair should not be blocking the eyes so bring a hair clip to keep it from falling down into the eyes. 

Get everything laid out and ready the night before to save stress and be on time. Be sure everyone has enough time to shower. Men should shave an hour or earlier before the portrait.

Make sure clothes are iron and no creases. Use clothing hanger bags to avoid folding clothes. 

If you have pets coming with you for the family portraits, bring with you a sticky roller for clothes. Fur might be all over your clothes and super hard to edit it out. 

Make-up for family photos

Eye shadow should be applied lightly and with care as the centre point of interest in a fine portrait are the eyes.  Apply two coats of mascara on both upper and lower lashes. Wear your other make-up as usual. Bring all your make-up with you, in case any minor modification is required. Bring some powder to knock down shine.

What to wear for Men

What to wear for black and white portraits for men

Men look great dark shirts or shirt with a dark jacket with open-neck shirts or turtle necks will do as well. You are most welcome to wear dark jeans as well. Remember that colour is not that important as long as you are not planning to have these photos in colour. More importantly, is that tonality is not too bright and works together with the what other family members are wearing. 

What to wear for a woman.

What to wear for black and white portraits woman

A woman can wear nice long sleeve tops or blouses and long pants. Again jeans are ok as long as they are not white. You can also wear a nice plain colour dress. Again avoid stripes across the body. These can ruin your portrait. Stripes across the body make you wider. If you are not comfortable with bare arms, please wear long sleeves. The choice is yours.

What kids wear.

Kids wear simple clothing as well. It can be challenging to find something plain, I know. Everything these days have some sort of pattern, some shopping around will be required. Girls can have a nice dress on as long as it is not with glitter. Boys are fine with a nice shirt or long sleeves top and jeans. It all depends on what rest of the family members are wearing and how it will fit all together in the family photo. Feel free to bring few changes, just in case if something goes wrong :)

Clothing colour ideas for family photos.

I hope this what to wear guide helped you to plan your family photo session. Enjoy the photoshoot. 

Check out my other guides.