I’m fascinated with kid’s fashion. I must admit it’s a huge source of inspiration for my photography. I’m always excited to get the new Crew Cuts or Mini Boden catalog to see the adorable way they’ve photographed the kids in the clothes. Heaven help the day that I have my own children and constantly “dress them up” to take their picture. Maybe they won’t like their mommy so much, ay, ay, ay.
As a photographer, if you are working towards a commercial or editorial look, clothing choice can make or break an image. Putting in the extra effort to help my clients select wardrobe helps me achieve the “Amy Wenzel” look and keeps me in love with what I do! For those of you who would like to invest more creative vision into your shoots, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on how to go about it. I’ll start by sharing a few favorite images from a shoot that I styled in June.
1. Start with a Vision
If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get there? I approach each shoot with a distinct vision for the look and feel of the photographs. In custom portrait work, you are not only the photographer but also the creative director, so I like to keep a running list of ideas and ‘dream shoots’ I hope to carry out someday. When I book a new session, I see if the client is a good fit for any of my current ideas and then I suggest my concept to the parents. Sometimes clients come with their own great ideas and that works too! Usually I choose the location first, and then select clothing that will compliment and complete the vision. The above session took place in the evening at this family’s farm, so I wanted the clothing to be soft and elegant with a touch of ‘country’ to it.
2. Offer to Style the Session
I don’t personally style every single shoot, but I always like to offer assistance with wardrobe to the parents. My level of involvement is different with each client, but most of the time they take me up on my offer when I explain how strongly styling affects the final outcome of the photographs. Help your clients become excited about what you are excited about and they will want to come on the creative journey with you. Be sure to tell them how fashion inspires your work and that you’d like their session to reflect your personal artistic vision. Remind them that the styling in your portfolio is part of what drew them to your images.
3. Go the Extra Mile
There are many approaches to styling a session. Possibilities range from consulting with their current wardrobes to shopping with Mom online or in person. I often send emails with links to clothing that inspires me, and I’ve even shopped for clients at the local children’s boutique and left clothes on hold for them to make selections. Do whatever works for your business plan, but make your session fee is high enough to compensate for the added time and effort. Remember that better photographs can also mean higher sales, so I personally believe in going the extra mile to make my photos as awesome as possible!!
4. Compliment Your Subject and Environment
When choosing wardrobe, I look for unique items with a great cut and fit. I tend to choose fashion forward clothing rather than traditional styles. I’m not afraid of using patterns and mixing colors, and I usually suggest an entire size down from what the parent typically buys. This ensures the clothes fit snugly without the “growing room” for which parents usually allow. I always keep in mind which colors look good for individual skin tones, and I also consider the colors in the setting so that the outfit will stand out against the back drop. For instance, a green dress in a green field isn’t so compelling. But a royal blue dress in a yellow field is dynamite! Remember your complimentary colors (red & green, blue & orange, etc) to know what will look exciting in your composition!
5. Don’t Skimp on the Details
It’s amazing how simply adding a headband can complete the look and take it to the next level. Never underestimate the power of a hairstyle, a pair of shoes, or a bangle bracelet. Props should blend seamlessly with the vision and should enhance your image but never distract! I bring along a couple of small props to each shoot. I may or may not use them but I like to have options. The little antique fishing pail featured in this session was a prop I’d been holding onto for awhile just waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. Also remember that it never hurts to take a few risks, so I’m not afraid to suggest a change in hairstyle if I think it will compliment my client’s face structure or add interest to the look. Great style is from head to toe, so don’t go to all the work to pick out a great look and then just throw on any old pair of shoes. In this farm session I think her Hunter galoshes make the whole outfit!
6. Inspire Through Your Website
It’s a great rule of thumb not to display photography on your website that isn’t an accurate reflection of the type of work you’d like to do. For instance, if you don’t want to shoot families in matching white shirts, don’t put that type of work on your website. If you can point your clients toward a dynamic portfolio filled with images in cute clothes, it’s much easier for them to lay hold of your vision and select an appropriate outfit. If necessary, do a few free shoots for friends where you style the kids yourself to build your portfolio. It will be well worth the investment even if you have to pay for the clothing yourself! Your website is your selling tool and should attract the right type of client for you!
I hope these tips are helpful for both parents and photographers as you approach an upcoming session. Thanks for reading!