As a budding photographer, one of the biggest questions that will eventually come to mind is, “What should I wear to a photo shoot? Is there a photographer’s dress code?” The answer varies widely depending on the type of photo shoot you’re conducting, the specific client you’re working with, your overall style and brand as a photographer, and the culture of the region where you’re shooting.
A portrait photographer, for example, may have more flexibility in how he or she dresses compared to a corporate event photographer. Similarly, a photographer shooting in the West Coast of America will likely be able to dress more casually than an East Coast photographer. All variations aside, here are some general photographer dress code guidelines to start off with.
1. Invest in a solid, comfortable pair of shoes
Regardless of what kind of photo shoot you’ll be conducting, start with shoes. Consider that you’ll likely be standing for hours on end, so comfort and ergonomics are key. Also, think about the terrain you might encounter during your shoot, and the seasonal weather. Will there be grassy fields, sandy shores, or other outdoor elements you might be venturing into to get unique angles? If so, shoes that can take a light beating and still look good will be of utmost importance.
As a female photographer who shoots mainly for corporate clients, I generally opt for black leather flats during the warm season, black leather boots for colder weather, or dressy black leather sneakers for extra long shoots with outdoor elements. In any case, it’s generally a good idea to stay away from sandals, high heels, and flip flops.
2. Cover up
As a creative photographer in constant search of creative angles, consider the possible physical maneuvers such as bending, stooping, and squatting that you might be pulling off during a shoot. Dress accordingly, making sure to wear an outfit that will allow you to be physically flexible without giving your clients an eyeful, or worse yet, causing a wardrobe malfunction. Ladies, this means avoiding low-cut tops, ultra short skirts and dresses, and skimpy outfits. At the very least, bring a blazer or sweater to cover up. Gentlemen, don’t forget a belt and a longer shirt that can be tucked in.
3. Dress in all black
This is a contestable point, as it can also be argued that dressing according to your brand is a better strategy. However, it’s a general rule of thumb that wearing all black is best for being as invisible as possible at a photo shoot. That way you won’t stand out and take attention away from the main photo subject. Not to mention, dressing in all black makes you look more official, like a staff member which can potentially be helpful in navigating around a venue.
Personally, I opt for the all-black rule for all of my photo shoots, simply because it’s one less thing to worry about when I have a pre-assembled uniform to fall back on. For me, this uniform consists of mixing and matching from the following selection; one pair of black skinny jeans, one pair of black slacks, a black leather belt, several button-down black blouses, several black polo shirts, and a black blazer. Whenever possible, I also try to buy my black clothing in lightweight, moisture resistant fabrics rather than cotton, to avoid sweat absorption.
4. Add a personal touch
Some photographers might contest the above point of dressing in all black with the argument that it’s important to dress according to your brand. This is something I definitely believe in as well, but having brand elements infused in your style of dress can also be done while still wearing all black. As an example, I always make sure to wear a few pieces of statement jewelry to accent my outfit and also serve as a conversation starter. I have a couple pairs of unique earrings, necklaces, and watches that almost always attract comments or questions, but they are also subtle in size so they don’t stand out too much.
Another idea is to custom order black clothing that has your logo on it, such as a polo shirt with a subtle branding element. A photography colleague of mine has done this with huge success as it further reinforces his brand, while also making him look and appear more official at photo shoots.
5. When in doubt, ask
If you’re truly stumped on what to wear to a photo shoot, ask your client if they have any preferences. This is likely less important if you’re doing an intimate portrait session, but for event photographers, in particular, it never hurts to ask the client. I once had a corporate photography client who forgot to send over their two-page document detailing their dress code for photographers, which I would never have received had I not asked. At the very least, it’s important to find out if the dress code for your shoot is formal, semi-formal, or casual, and what exactly those terms mean to the client.
Over to you
To some photographers, what you wear to a photo shoot may not seem like a big deal. But I firmly believe how you dress is a reflection of your brand, so considering every element of your outfit is crucial.
What do you wear when you’re conducting photo shoots? Let me know in the comments below!