A guide to dressing well for men when they are going to be photographed by a digital still camera.
Introduction to dressing for your portrait
Do you remember school picture day?
Your mother probably had the final decision on what you would wear, how you would comb your hair, and how you would smile. There was always an uneasy anticipation between having your portrait taken until the day you received the prints.
Some children think less of school photos, but some children believe that if their portrait is not good, it could make their existence in school a nightmare. We are no longer in school and mother does not tell us what to wear, but the importance of knowing how to dress for the camera has not changed.
Why is dressing for the camera important
You may be asking, “So what? Why is dressing properly for the camera important?” Frankly, the way you are seen is the way you are portrayed. If a man takes the time and puts in the effort to dress with effect, then the greater the impact and appeal his photograph will have.
No matter if you are having your passport photograph, family portrait, or business formal picture taken, a man should look his best. Before we launch into the details, there are a few preliminary points to take into consideration prior to sitting down in front of the camera.
The camera and menswear
Just like the video camera, the still camera is not as advanced as our eyes. Film and digital camera technology is far behind the capability of our sight.
Therefore what the camera “sees” is different than what we see in person. Why should you know this? A still camera will have an easier time than a video camera because the still camera is just capturing one image.
You do not have to worry about patterns. Yet, too much pattern can be lost in the picture especially if unfavorable lighting is added.
Lighting for effective portraits
In the world of portraits there are three major types of lighting. The first is neutral lighting. This type of lighting you will see commonly used for passport pictures or school pictures. The light is even and is used to light up your face and background. There is nothing particularly flattering about this kind of light, but it gets the job done.
The second is low key lighting. Low key lighting is used for emphasis and drama. Often the background is darkened and the lighting is focused on your face with sharp fall out from the chin down (leaving your neck and shoulders blend into the darkness). The third type of lighting is high key. High key lighting is bright and “airy”. The exposure values are high and instead of fading into darkness, there is a lack of shadows in high key lighting.
What should a man wear for passport photos
A passport photograph is a picture that only a few people glance at any time you travel internationally. A correct passport photo is more about showing your face rather than the clothes you wear. The head-shot does, however, show your neck and shoulders. Wear a dress shirt that compliments your face and wear a tie that works with the collar of your shirt.
A suit jacket in a charcoal or navy blue, while not required, pulls the strings of a well-dressed traveler together. Lastly, do not forget to be well groomed and make sure to maintain a natural, neutral expression.
What should a man wear for family portraits
If you are having a group portrait, then you might be coerced to dress in like colors, patterns, and materials. More often than not, family portraits are leaning towards the informal, casual and personal. There are a myriad ways of dressing for family portraits; it depends on the purpose of the shoot and the family's intention (formal or casual or even humorous).
Possible informal family portraits will have you wearing a sweater and complimentary trousers. Perhaps, you and your family will be outdoors on the beach and will wear khakis and a white short-sleeved shirt.
Should you choose to go to a photo studio on your own accord (say that you want to give your family a portrait of you as a gift), then you are 100% in control of what you wear. I suggest that you consider bringing three outfits to your photo shoot. The first outfit is formal: a suit or a blazer. The second is on par with business casual. And the third outfit is informal. Most photo studios have dressing rooms and most photographers include a change of outfits in their package pricing.
Here is a good example of a sharply dressed family man:
How a man should dress for neutral light portraits
As discussed above, neutral light is the basic lighting and the easiest to dress for. Any suit and coordinating shirt and tie will work with neutral light. However, you should avoid hot colors (like pink, orange, green) because the camera will have a difficult time properly exposing for the values of hot pink or hot oranges, etc. Besides, a man with a hot pink tie is not too manly.
What a man should wear for low key portraits
If you choose to have your portrait taken in low key lighting, then expect for dramatic results. However, wearing all black for a shadow-filled environment will give the photographer trouble. If you wear too much dark in low key lighting, then you run the risk of being a nothing more than a “floating head”.
The dark clothes you wear will be lost in the dark background and only your head will be distinguishable. To avoid this, consider wearing a lighter gray suit coat or blazer jacket with a white dress shirt.
What a man should wear for high key portraits
White is the predominate tone in high key lighting. Any colors work well in high key lighting, however, you should avoid wearing white because you do not want to be washed out. A gray suit, blue shirt and a burnt red tie is a classic combination and looks good in a shadowless lighting environment.
What should a man wear for business portraits
Conveying confidence, strength, knowledge and professionalism is very important in a business portrait. The clothes you wear will help radiate positive qualities that all viewers will see when they look at your business portrait.
A fitted suit is almost always required. A solid dark charcoal gray suit is classic and works well with any age. Wear a navy blue suit with pinstripes if you consider yourself “seniored”. White dress shirts are also expected, but light blue works well too. Keep the tie simple but complimentary to your suit and shirt.
Conclusion to how a man should dress for the still camera
We no longer have our mothers selecting our clothing for our portraits. Being grown up means that we are responsible for what we do and how we are perceived in public. The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words; I cannot agree more.
No matter if you are standing for a simple passport photograph or posing for a formal business portrait which will grace the halls of a Fortune 500 company, taking the time and the effort to dress properly will prove to be beneficial for you, for your persona, for your family, and for your company.