Honestly, most of my clients ask me what I think they should wear, and I am grateful for it. The outfits your client wears can totally make or break your photo. There are many factors that contribute to choosing what to wear including personality, location, weather, and what the photo will be used for.
As a professional photographer, you want the clients clothing to be a statement about their personality. For example, if they play sports, recommend that they bring their jerseys. You also want the client to be comfortable with themselves and what they are wearing. I usually suggest that they stick to what they know. Ask questions. Do they usually wear jeans? Then wear them! Are they comfortable with a button down shirt? Then go for it! Be creative and mindful at the same time.
The location of your photo shoot is also important to keep in mind. Will your clients be sitting in grass? Will they have to walk far to get to the location? It is also useful to plan your color scheme to the location. If I am shooting at the Guthrie on the Endless Bridge like here in this photo with Grant, I want his clothing to be sharp and compliment the architecture and blue sky shown in the background. I am an experienced equestrian photographer as well and for shoots on a horse ranch I want the client to dress the part. Riding boots and a beautiful beaded headband looks amazing next to a horse. Play off of your location and you may get some new ideas!
Minnesota weather can be a challenge. There are a few things I keep in mind when shooting outside. When you are taking photos of children, take note of what the weather is like and advise your client to dress their little ones appropriately. If it is cold outside, take advantage of a puffy vest, or use layers which is a very stylish idea. Children wearing hats is adorable. Suggest that they wear them and style their hair around it! The more comfortable your client is, the longer you have with them to get amazing shots.
Know what your client is going to use the photos for. Are they for Christmas cards? Then you will want the family to dress in a way that compliments each other. Pinterest is a fabulous resource for ideas. Your client may want to use the photos to for their modeling portfolio and in this case you may want to assist them in choosing clothes that will not take away from them, the subject, so that they shine in the photo. Rarely will I have my client wear a shirt with a pattern if we are shooting for their portfolio, because I want the focus to be on their face and not stripes, plaid or polka dots! Go through your latest copy of Professional Photographer or Rangefinder and you will see that styling clothing is done to make a statement, and to compliment the subject. Decide what your message is and plan!
One trick I use at every shoot is to play off of my clients eyes. Their eyes are my focus point for almost every shot. I want their eyes to pop, not only against the background, but from their clothing as well. Ask your client to bring a variety of clothing options. You want them to bring outfits that they are comfortable with and then you as the professional photographer can decide with them what will work for each shot. Color can be valuable in making eyes shine!
Lastly, offer advice to your client on how to prepare their wardrobe for their photo shoot. Clothing, whether new or already loved, should be ironed, pressed or steamed. Clothing should be hanging on hangers and free of stains, holes, animal hair and lint. There are two reasons. One, you will spend a lot less time in Photoshop, and two, you want your client to value their photo shoot. They should be taking the time to prepare their clothing, and by doing this, they will value the photos that you create with them even more!
Take time to get to know your clients and be a part of the decision making when it comes to what they are wearing in their photos. I am sure they will appreciate you for it!