“What should I wear,” is by far the most common question I get from clients.
And my answer is always the same…
How would you dress if you had the chance to meet hundreds or thousands of potential clients, customers, or your online audience members?
That answer is different for every single one of you reading this. For example, a tattoo artist may want to convey a different look than a business coach who may want to convey a different look than a pastry chef who needs a different look than a banker. All of them are professionals.
But you came here for actual answers so I won’t just stop at “it depends.”
There are a handful of guidelines that I give to every client that will ensure you make the best possible decisions when deciding what to wear.
This by far more important than choosing specific pieces of clothing to include.
Unlike a simple portrait shoot, a personal branding session needs to have a specific purpose or goal. Everything you do needs to be planned to advance that goal.
Some of the most common goals I encounter are (1) update or upgrade your website content, (2) increase social media engagement, (3) strengthen your visual online brand, or (4) create content that tells a specific story about you or your business.
Notice that none of those are about clothes?
When you are planning a personal brand session, you don’t start with the outfits…you start with the goal you want to achieve for your brand and then determine what clothing will advance that goal. Of course, at this point, you aren’t going to be able to use your goals to pick specific pieces of clothing, but it will help guide you in the general direction of where to start.
This is where you think about things casual vs. formal, choosing a color scheme that matches your brand, and the style of clothes that relate to the story you are telling.
Include Clothing Or Accessories That Convey Your Brand
Remember the purpose of this shoot is to represent your personal brand, so make sure that the clothing matches.
Always go back to what you want your brand to be. Are you a serious bank executive…a fun and laid back pastry chef…a fashionable mom blogger?
I’m not saying you always need to be in your “work” clothes, but you always want to make sure the clothes convey the brand you are trying to establish.
For example, even if that serious bank executive wants to include some leisure photos on their linked in profile…they may want to
Include Casual Attire
I touched on this a little in the last section but it is important enough to be a separate point. If you are building a personal brand then at least a small portion of the images we create should show your personality. In addition to your “work look,” it can be very helpful to include some casual looks as well. These are good for places like social media or about pages.
Your personal comfort level is going to show in the photos. If you feel stiff and uncomfortable in whatever you’re wearing, then you’re going to look stiff and uncomfortable in your photos.
There are a few things that factor into comfort…
First, you want clothes that fit well. To tight and you’ll look stiff in the photos and be self-conscious about the fit. Too loose and you’ll just look sloppy. Neither of those looks is very flattering and neither inspires confidence or authority. The best clothes are relatively form fitting but with enough flexibility to move around.
Second, you want to dress like yourself. You may be thinking, “what does this have to do with comfort?” Well, if you’re trying to dress up like someone you aren’t, then you may have a difficult time looking comfortable or authentic in the photos. Of course, there are times when you may push this rule a little bit to get a specific look you want. But don’t push too far. Remember who you are and what your brand is. You’ll feel more comfortable, you’ll look more comfortable, and you’ll be happier with the results.
Pay Attention To Colors
If you’re ready to invest in a personal branding photo session, then you’ve already spent some time planning your brand. That probably includes certain color palettes for your website or even a certain “look” for social media posts.
So consider that when planning your wardrobe.
A good photographer can color grade your images to match your brand (color grading is a fancy term for changing the color tones of an image). But if you don’t have that conversation before the shoot and let them help you select colors that either match or are complementary to your brand, then you’ll either have to spend more money for extra Photoshop work or it may be impossible to make the images work with your brand.
Consider A Clothing Stylist
If looking good, trendy, or fashionable is important to your brand then consider a professional to help you style your wardrobe for the shoot.
I’ll be the first to admit…I am not a fashion expert. I’m great at making you look incredible on camera and can help you use colors that have the impact that you want. But when it comes to being on top of the latest fashion trends…I’m not your expert. So when one of my clients needs to be on the cutting edge of fashion, I call in an expert.
Let’s face it, you can have a photographer that has their attention half on your fashion and half on the photography OR you can have an expert photographer and an expert stylist. I think you know which is going to bring better results.
So for important sessions where the clothing really matters, consider bringing in an expert to help you out.
Plan Your Changes
A lot of personal brand shoots occur on location. So opportunities to change outfits may be limited. In these circumstances, you need to plan ahead for ways to easily change your look without having to get completely undressed.
A great way to accomplish this is by creating layers in your outfits. You can add a jacket, a cardigan, a scarf, or other accessories to give you a completely different look without having to take anything off.
What To Avoid
Now that we covered how to go about picking a wardrobe that can be effective for personal branding, let’s talk about some photography specific tips to help you look your best on camera.
Most of these are things that can distract the focus from you and decrease the effectiveness of the photo. Some are just things that look bad on camera.
Avoid Small Patterns and Prints
This is advice I give to anyone that gets in front of my camera, whether it’s for business or a personal portrait.
Small patterns and small prints are extremely distracting in photos. They will draw all the attention away from you and onto your clothing, and not in a good way. Larger patterns can work great though.
One thing photographers always want to do is simplify the photo. That means no distracting or busy backgrounds or objects in the photo that are irrelevant to the subject of the photo. A busy print on a piece of clothing does just the opposite
Whenever possible, stick to solid colors. Use accessories for style rather than prints.
Avoid Branded Clothing
This is YOUR brand session. Unless your an influencer for specific clothing brands, avoid including obviously branded clothing in your photos.
Avoid Worn Out Or Older Pieces Of Clothing
Things like worn-out spots, rips, missing buttons, or other tiny imperfections tend to get really magnified when they are on camera.
Ok, so all of this is probably a lot to remember.
But honestly, it all goes back to the beginning. Figure out what your goals are and what you want to accomplish with your branding shoot, and plan ahead to accomplish those goals. When in doubt, ask your photographer…they should be able to help you out.