“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” {Guest Writer}

The quote above is from Yves Saint Laurent, who knows just a bit about style. Someone else who knows a bit about style is the always lovely Angela of AMR Photography.  I’m so excited to have Angela back (See her other posts here and here) on Go{4}Pro – I don’t get all that inspired reading my own posts (well duh) but oh wow do I ever when Angela is on here! Seriously, you want to see style, Angela is oozing it!!


There you are, waiting for your clients to arrive, dressed perfectly with your Kelly Moore hobo slung artfully across you and your dream camera set and ready to go in your hands. A slight breeze ruffles your perfectly coiffed hair as you looked around and survey the beauty of this new location you discovered; a stunning orchard in which the trees are laden with blossoms and the air is thick with perfume. You hear a car pull up and turn to run in slow motion to meet your clients. Ah, is that a red head in the bunch? They wave excitedly at you and tumble out of the car with joyous expectation…all perfectly dressed in dreamy outfits of…. white polos, khakis, and white shoes….WHAT?!??!?!!?!

And scene.

Sorry to disrupt the reverie. Ah, what I would give to be able to shoot in an orchard and be perfectly dressed while doing so!! (I am a pony tail/no makeup/t-shirt and jeans photographer…hahaha). Anyway, the point of this is that you could have set up the most perfect scene EVER in the history of photography but if your clients are not dressed properly, the artistic effect can be lost. As a fine art portrait photographer, my goal is to create art as an escape from reality…choosing a moment we wish to remember and have hanging as a canvas on the wall for the rest of our lives. I don’t want to give my clients the everyday that is, but the everyday we wish it to be (remember…the escape).

The crazy amazingly talented photographer Jose Villa says is best: “Yes, I do some documentary photography to capture important moments, but I also compose and direct. For me, it is all about making something beautiful, even if I have to insert myself into the situation”. One of the most important ways you can compose and direct is through styling. For example….I wanted a picture to convey the angelic, sweet side of my youngest daughter (which only briefly shines through in a given day. She is a 21-month-old spitfire).

How about this?

This is sweet. As her mama, I love the expression on her face and the softness of the light, but would I really enlarge this for the wall?

Now, how about this?

or this?

Putting her in this blush velvet dress and jeweled headband completely transformed her into art. This dress, by the way was a mess and off her in 5 minutes. Again, I’m not capturing the “every day”, well, at least not my everyday…your children may wear velvet dresses on a daily basis and stay clean, but mine do not! 🙂

Okay, now before I lose all the lifestyle photographers, please stay with me. Everything I will list out can be applied to any style of photography (keep reading and you will see).

I’m going to walk you through what took me a while to figure out. Hopefully it will save you some major time and energy!! If you have never styled your clients before and are ready to jump in, here are the steps to follow.

1.  Figure out your style

Modern? Vintage? Urban? Lifestyle? Casual? Traditional? Formal? Edgy? Funky?

What are you? Who are you? Figure out what style you want to convey in your portraits. How do you do that? Look at what you are drawn to in your tastes in photography and in your choice of shooting locations. Once you do that, dream for a little bit and answer, “if you could have models dressed for a session in clothing from any stores you choose, what would that be?” This will help you figure out even more the artistic bent you wish to become known for.

2. Assess the market you are in

Is the clothing style you just wished for a complete disconnect from your market? This is where I spent months of frustration (which I hope I can save your from). When I started out, I knew my end goal was a vintage/modern feel and I wanted to achieve that through the either vintage clothing (which not everyone has so that is limiting) or the layered quirky style that is so popular right now. You know, the whole, “looks like a mess in person but photographs beautifully” type of thing. I felt like I was beating my head against a brick wall trying to steer clients toward that…I loved it so much but very few would follow my suggestions. Then I woke up one day and realized….hello! people in Dallas, TX do not dress like that at all! I was trying to force a look that was a disconnect to my clientele. It would be like being a beach photographer and telling everyone to not go barefoot for shots…or something like that.

3. Find a happy medium between steps one and two

So, I loved the crazy thrown- together–but-not-matching look…how do I translate that to Dallas style? I decided to let go of some of that and pulled out fashion magazines and researched and people watched and practiced shooting and FINALLY came up with a goal that was a happy in between of both (you will see all this as you read on). My style is a vintage modern simplicity with a little bit of uptown casual. Okay that is a totally made up sentence but is the only way I could think to describe what I do!

4. Write out a style guide for your clients

We all eat, sleep, and breathe photography. The more we shoot and know what photographs the best, the more the dress “rules” become second nature to us. Clients are not privy to this as a professional photography session is often a once a year event. It’s up to us to guide them. How many of you have family pictures from your childhood that you look at and say, “good heavens, what were we THINKING wearing that?”. Ummm, yes….all of us have at least one of those. I want to create pictures that stand the test of time and so I want to guide my clients in choosing outfits for their shoot that are stylish and fashionable, but not trendy. Trends date…. style does not.

Look at this stunning 50’s ball gown…still as beautiful today as it was 60 years ago…

Hang on now…IS it vintage? Hmmmm……where did I buy this……oh yes, I remember!! I bought this a few months ago for $30 at Forever XXI!!! (isn’t that crazy?!)

Or how about this Anthropologie dress with such classic lines.

IS it an Anthropologie dress??? Sorry, my mistake! This is from the 1940’s and was purchased from a vintage clothing shop.

My point is that true style and fashion (whether dressy or casual) stands the test of time.

Listed below are some pointers from my clothing guide:

Look for clothing with…..

~patterns

I love love love love patterns, but I have rules. No writing, no logos and in a group of three or more only two people max wear a pattern. Again, this works best with my style. This family did a lovely job with that. I have taken their pictures several times and they do an amazing job at picking the right clothing! The dad has a subtle stripe in his shirt that makes it stand out from mom’s solid classic dress and then soon-to-be-big sis wears a bolder print that is a perfect compliment.

This couple came in from out of town and had a last minute session. Since we didn’t have time for a consultation they just brought a whole bunch of choices with them and I styled on the fly. I loved his classic western style snap shirt and how her necklace complimented it so well. They hadn’t intended for these outfits to be shot together and it was so fun to see it come together like it had been intended!

The pattern just makes this picture pop.

Just a little side note….when using patterns, also consider your backdrop. I tend to shoot in nature settings or very subdued urban settings so patterns work really well. If you are an urban photographer who shoots in areas with extremely textural, cool and crazy backdrops I would back off on using a lot of prints as it could become too distracting in the final product.

~texture

Texture in clothing can add another element of dimension to a picture. Look at what something as simple as a leather jacket and textured tights adds to this shot:

And in this other shot add to that the glint of the spectator pumps..

Or how about embellishments and ruffles?

Ummm, two gorgeous best friends both dressed from Anthropologie= photography heaven!

~color

You can go bold…

or you can maybe give attention to the outcast colors in photography….the softer hues…which can work well as long as you have textural interest somewhere.

pastels….

These pastels work because the lace detail on her shirt gives a textural “pop” between the cream and the pale blue.

This stunning outfit jumps out due to the ruffled detailing and the sheen of the fabric.

and solid white….

(gasp!! what??!!!??!!). Yes, solid white. I said it!! I love it! There are rules….I do discourage white as a main color when photographing large groups because I feel that in a group it can be as distracting as a shirt with logos or writing (unless it is for a wedding when the one person in head to toe white SHOULD get all the attention!!).

I think that an all white piece of clothing can be done well in single portraits. Add subtle textures and patterns to keep it soft and sweet….

…..or make it bold with pops of color.

And then there is every woman’s favorite color…black.

Whether it’s a little black dress or skirt or an accent in the outfit…I love incorporating it. Black is such a great style anchor and points the eye to the most important part of the photo…the subject’s face.

~layers

I love layering. It can be easily overdone so I tells clients to proceed with caution…we don’t want to add bulk and we don’t want to get too busy.

Here we took a very basic neutral ensemble (which worked well on it’s own due to the texture in it as well as the texture we added by the backdrop}

Then we added a thin cotton shirt on top and chose a softer backdrop…

…and then a pop of color with a jersey sweatshirt on top of that which contrasts well with the bricks .

Viola! Three completely different looks and feels in a matter of minutes.

5. Offer assistance to your clients

Some may take your style guide and run with it….some may take it and run away. HAHAHA! What I mean is….offer guidance. Don’t just email them some tips and expect them to show up ready to go. After booking, I call my clients to talk about their expectation for their shoot. From there, I draw up a plan for shooting locations and then clothing options. I send them the guide and then walk them through the process. My clients text and email me pics of possible outfits to help them decide. I often will take snapshots of outfits on my phone while I’m out shopping to text as options. You may not be able to afford that stunning designer or vintage dress but that doesn’t we can’t recreate the look for less!! Also, all my senior high girl clients Facebook friend me which allows me to look at their pics and figure out who they are. This gives me a great edge in helping them choose outfits that are most flattering to them physically while at the same time expressing them and me! People hire me because they like the “look” I create. A huge part of that look is clothes, so I will go the extra mile to help achieve that!!

I have to say that about 95% of my clients follow the rules and allow me to help them by styling the shoot. I adore fashion so this part of the process is incredibly enjoyable to me. If the thought of styling makes you want to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth….never fear! Go look at the ads from clothing stores that you listed out in step one. See what they have put together and use that as a guide to get started. Look at your circle of friends. Is there a fashionista among them that you could bribe with chocolate or free pics to help you get started? Utilize your resources!

Remember, we want to help people look their best so that our best can come shining through.

Would you like to be a guest writer on Go{4}Pro? We would LOVE to have your submission! All we need from you is an article with images and one self portrait along with contact info – or if you’re not sure of a topic, you can email me and I can help you brainstorm! Guest Writers are always welcomed and wanted!!!

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  1. Amy says:

    Angela – You are my “Mary”! Fantastic post with breathtaking images. Thank you for all that you give us “Sally & Janes”. Cheers!

  2. Sandy says:

    Thank you so much for this article! So well written and a pleasure to read. I’ve been trying to build my own signature brand of portraiture, and although I try to guide my clients on what to wear, it’s hard for them to visualize. I need to write up a style guide and take a more hands-on approach to helping them style their clothing for the shoot.

  3. Angela says:

    thank you two for making me cry!! I needed some encouragement….it’s one of those days!
    xoxoxo

  4. Casey says:

    Very interesting post! 🙂

  5. Kathy says:

    Oh sweet Angela…you are so amazing. You are TOTALLY my Mary.

  6. Maggie says:

    Such a wonderful article-thanks for all the examples. I’m a visual person! Beautiful style too!

  7. I just posted a what to wear post on my blog and plan to do it once a week to help my clients. You really are an inspiration Angela!

  8. kelli taylor says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!! Gently guiding my clients style has been a struggle for me and this post totally helps!!!

  9. Ileia says:

    Oh! This totally speaks to me!!! I’ve recently moved to a large city known for it’s fashion and most of the people I’ve been shooting have been AMAZINGLY dressed. It’s rocking my world! I was just thinking about how to “encourage” all my clients to help me create art with their sessions!

  10. Morgan says:

    Wowzas! You are amazing! I love the whole layering series. Thanks for the great tips. You have given me a lot to think about and improve on.
    PS You really are totally a Mary!

  11. Audrey says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article! You are amazing! I’m still working on finding exactly my style and I loved your images as examples.

  12. Carrie says:

    Oh wow, do I ever love this post! So inspirational and Angela, you work is to die for!!! Love, love, LOVE it!!! Thank you so much for all the incredible tips and information!

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