How to dress your child for a Portrait Session

As a Perth Portrait Photographer who specialises in Bespoke Child Photography, one of the questions I get asked often by parents is how to choose clothing that will really make their child shine. The truth is, it all depends on what kind of portraits are you looking to create. If you want something whimsical and light-hearted you’ll want to dress you kids in a different way than if you’re going for a timeless portrait look. Both can be stunningly beautiful. But, if you’re planning to make a piece that you’ll proudly display in your home for many years to come, you’ll want to spend some time thinking through the look you’re trying to achieve before you even start thinking about how to dress your child for their portrait session.

What is your Portrait Style?

There are many different ways to do a child’s portrait: Playful, traditional, vintage inspired or modern. Do you want portraits that are artistic and original or a cookie cutter photo? What do you want to FEEL when you look at these portraits on your wall each day? It is worth spending some time thinking about the style, feel or mood you would like to achieve in your child's portraits. Once we are clear on the style/ mood of the portraits, it becomes a lot easier to choose clothing, colours, props and location that would fit the vision you have in mind.

Some things to consider when you choose a portrait style:

  • What’s the style of you home? Think, especially, about the look and feel of the room where you plan to display your portrait.
  • How long do you plan to display your artwork? We believe in family heirloom's that you pass down from generation to generation. For this reason we recommend you go for a more classic and timeless look that will not date.
  • What’s the personality of your child and your family? If your family loves being outdoor and don't mind getting a little dirty, you might want to capture this through your portrait. A good portrait artist will be able to help you find a portrait style that will complement both your home and your family’s personality.

Once you settle on what you want, make sure you spend some time finding an artist whose work reflects the kind of portrait you’ve been envisioning!

How to Dress Your Child for a Portrait Session

1. Keep it simple.

Less is always more when it comes to portraits. You don’t want the clothing to be the focus and outshine your child and their personality. Avoid loud patterns and lots of crazy, bright colours - especially if your portraits are to be taken in an outdoor setting. Solid colours and simple lines make for the most beautiful, timeless portrait photographs. Consider going with neutral or muted tones for a look that will never go out of style.

2. Opt for natural fabric.

Consider choosing clothing made from natural fabrics such as cotton, linen or wool as these materials often look and feel more organic and earthy. Natural fabric keeps the kids cool and comfortable during the warmer months which will show in their demeanour and expressions.

3. Use layering to create interest.

Layering different natural materials and textures can add depth and interest to your child's outfit. Consider paying a chunky knit sweater with flowy skirt or layering a linen shirt over a cotton dress. During winter/ autumn months, layering can also include wool scarfs and beanies.

3 year old Perth boy during photosession

4. Make sure sibling outfits go together.

You don’t have to go crazy with matching everything. (Please don’t, actually, because getting TOO matchy-matchy is boring.) It is a good idea to at least give some thought to how the outfits look next to each other. Going bold with colours can work great as long as the colours are complementary. It is important above all else that they have the same general style. A great way to know if you have selected the right clothing is to lay ALL the clothing out on your bed - take a picture with your phone . . . does anything stand out? If it does - replace that item! No sure? Don't worry, I can help you put outfits together in our pre-shoot consultation.

5. Let nature be the inspiration

Once you have decided on the location of your child's photoshoot, it becomes a great starting point for choosing colours for their clothing. Good colour harmony can have a huge impact on the final portrait. Choose colours that reflect the natural surroundings. Consider the colours of the flowers, trees and other elements in the environment, and select clothing in similar shades. For example, if the photo shoot is to take place at a beach, you might use clothes in the shades of light blues and browns. Similarly, if the photoshoot will take place in a forest, you might choose clothing in earthy greens and browns.

Good portrait artists are masters at making sure all colours in your portraits are harmonious. A well put together portrait will be pleasing to the eye and have a dreamy, magical quality to it.

6. Draw from photos you love for inspiration.

If you’ve done your homework, by now you know what kind of portraits you like. So, why not use those examples of portraits that you’ve oohed and aahhhed over for inspiration for your own. Pull together some of your favorites and lay them side by side. What do they have in common? How are those children dressed? Use that for inspiration and choose clothing that is a similar look and style of that other photograph you love. Send these to your portrait artist. Giving them ideas of what moves you will help them create the feel you love so much!

7. Make it sentimental.

Did your great grandpa wear a certain type of hat that your 3-year-old would look adorable in? Maybe you could capture his photograph wearing the hat (or if it’s too big one that looks a lot like it). Do you have a string of pearls that’s been passed down from generation to generation? How sweet would it be to let your granddaughter wear them in her portrait. Do you have a traditional clothing of your country or costume passed down through generations that you will like incorporate in the photos? Or perhaps you could include a family pet or your child's favourite toy. Incorporating sentimental items can create portraits that are a powerful reminder of their childhood, identity or heritage - far more powerful than a memory alone.

8. Call in the experts.

As a Bespoke Child Photographer, I help you with all the little details for a perfectly styled photoshoot. With years of experience, I know what looks good on camera and in the photos. We will meet up for a pre-session consultation in your home where we will go through wardrobe and colours in detailI. I love helping my clients dress their child for the portrait session.

More Quick Tips for Finding the Perfect Outfit for Your Child’s Portrait

  • Have a couple of outfits ready to go. Even if you don’t use everything, it’s great to have options!
  • Go easy on the accessories. Oversized hair bows are adorable for everyday wear. But choose something a little more understated for a portrait so that the focus is on your child’s face, not her accessories. This is KEY.
  • Go for simple, clean lines in neutral or muted tones for a classic, elegant look that will never go out of style.
  • Don’t overthink it. I know, I know. I’ve just given you a ton to think about in this blog post, but to dress your child for a portrait session is only a small part of the puzzle. Your photographer's editing style, photography skills, location choice, how they work with children will all have an impact on your final portraits. A professional photographer who is an expert in their field will assist you all the way so don't have to worry.

Some of my favourite brand to purchase kids clothing from

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