As an aspiring photographer, one of the main questions you will eventually have is what you should wear on a photo shoot and whether there is a dress code for photographers. The answer will vary widely depending on the specific client you are working for, the kind of photo shoot you will be doing, your overall brand and style as a photographer as well as the culture for the area you are going to be shooting in.
For example, a portrait photographer might have more flexibility in terms of the way she or he dresses compared to someone who is a corporate event photographer. Also, a photographer who is shooting on the West Coast of the U.S. most likely can dress more casually than someone shooting on the East Coast can. Putting these variations aside, the following are some general guidelines for photographer dress codes to help you get started.
1. Invest in a pair of comfortable and solid shoes.
No matter what type of photo shoot you are going to be doing, begin with your shoes. Keep in mind that most likely you are going to be standing for many hours at a time, so ergonomics and comfort are essential. Also consider the terrain you may encounter on your shoot, as well as the weather. Will there be sandy shores, grassy fields, or other kinds of outdoor elements that you may be wandering into in order to get certain angles? If yes, then it will be very important for your shoes to be able to take a beating and then still look good.
I am a female photographer who mainly works with corporate clients, so I usually opt for dress black leather tennis shoes for long shoots in outdoor elements, black leather boots in cold weather or black leather flats in the summer. In any event, it general it’s a good idea to avoid wearing flip flops, high heels or sandals.
2. Cover up
For creative photographers who are constantly searching for creative angles, keep in mind the potential physical maneuvers you might need to do during a shoot like squatting, stooping and bending. You should dress accordingly, and be sure to wear clothing that allows you to be flexible physically without having a wardrobe malfunction or revealing too much to clients. For women, that means avoiding skimpy outfits, ultra short dresses and skirts and low-cut tops. Bring a sweater or blazer to cover up in at the very least. Men, don’t forget to wear a longer shirt and belt that you can tuck in.
3. Wear all black
This point is debatable. It could be argued that a better strategy is to dress according to what your specific brand is. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is best to wear all black in order to be as invisible as you possibly can during a photo shoot. This way you won’t stand out too much and draw attention away from the main subject of your photo shoot. Wearing all black also give you a more official appear, similar to a staff member. This can be useful in navigating around the venue you are working.
On all my photo shoots, I personally go with the all-black rule. It is one less thing I need to worry about since I have a uniform that is pre-assembled that I can rely on. This uniform for me involves matching and mixing from this selection: a black blazer, several different black polo shirts, several different button-down black blouses, a black leather belt, a pair of black slacks and a pair of black skinny jeans. Whenever I can, I try purchasing my black clothing in moisture resistant, lightweight fabrics instead of cotton so sweat absorption can be avoided.
4. Add a personal touch to your outfit
Some photographers may argue the point above about wearing all black by claiming it is important for you to dress in a way that is consistent with your brand. I definitely believe in that also, but you can still incorporate brand elements into your dress while wearing all black. For instance, I always wear a couple of pieces of statement jewelry for accenting my outfit. They also are great conversation starters. I have a few unique watches, necklaces and pairs of earrings that attract questions or comments, but are also subtle in terms of size so that they aren’t too distracting.
Another idea is to have black clothing custom ordered with your logo on it, like a polo shirt that has a subtle branding element on it. I have a photography colleague who has done this very successfully to reinforce his brand further, while also giving him a more official appearance during his photo shoots.
5. If you aren’t sure, ask
If you really are in doubt as to what you should wear on a photo shoot, you should ask your client what they prefer. For portrait sessions this probably isn’t too important, but in particular it could be more critical for event photographers, so it doesn’t hurt to simply ask your client. Once time a corporate photography client of mind forget to send me their two-page document which detailed their photographer dress code. I wouldn’t have ever received it if I hadn’t asked. You should at least find out whether the dress code on your shoot is casual, semi-formal or formal, and find out what this means to your client.
The Choice Is Yours
For some photographers, what they wear on a photo shoot might not seem that important. However, I firmly believe that the way you dress reflects your brand, so it is critical to consider each aspect of your outfit.