But what should I wear?

Amanda Dinkel

A Quick Guide to Portrait Wardrobe Choices

As we leap into Senior Portrait Season, I am reminded of one of the most common questions asked as we schedule the session: What should I wear?

Long gone are the days where you were required to wear a dressier outfit where you were looking over your shoulder off in the distance with a weird smile on your face. (I wasn’t the only one who had to do this, but as a seventeen-year-old who disliked dressing up and didn’t enjoy fake smiles, this pained me to my core. Sorry mom, but it was true) As children of the eighties and nineties are now watching their children graduate high school, there may be a battle waging in the households as to what a senior portrait should look like.

I bet as you read this, you are ready to take vicious notes about the color of shirt to wear, or the style of the dress, or if tank tops are allowed. Maybe your parent is in the background with a knowledgable smirk on their face waiting for one of their peers to tell these teenagers exactly what they need to do.

Sorry to burst your bubble. I’m here for one purpose only, to showcase your senior as they are. I am here to show them in all their incredible, unique, and remarkable glory. However, here are some tips to help you sort out your wardrobe into the few pieces that will be documented until the end of time (because nothing on the internet can be deleted, you know).

1. Feel comfortable

Did you know that even if you are wearing the fanciest outfit possible, if you don’t feel comfortable, it will show? I mean it. Look at celebrities on the red carpet and tell me if you see even one true smile out of any of them. Why? They are uncomfortable! The people that will see your photographs will be able to tell if you are comfortable or if you are giving off the faint impression of a constipated social media influencer. They don’t want to see that fake person. They want to see the person they love in the picture. If you love wearing jeans and tees, wear them! Do you like sweaters and hiking boots? Wear them! Is your ideal look wearing a tank top and shorts and playing at the beach? My gosh, that sounds glorious! Let’s head to the beach!

2. Remember that these pictures will be around FOREVER

As much as you love your sweats and hoodies, think about your future self for a bit. Look at what your parents wore when they were seventeen. If you think they look ridiculous back then, imagine what your future self or future children (or, in my case, future judgmental teenage students) will say when they find your #seniorsunday posts from 2021. It’s okay to be comfortable and quirky, to push the boundaries and to make a statement, just think about how you want to be remembered for yourself. I recommend making sure what you wear is also intentional. Is it clean? Does it fit the location of the session? Does it fit your personality? If it does, rock it with confidence. Trust your photographer to showcase you in that outfit in the best way possible.

3. Choose one white flag outfit

Let your mom or dad or whoever is footing the bill have a say in one outfit. Make sure it follows the first two guidelines. Then wear it. I would suggest this to be the last outfit you wear for the session for two reasons:

  1. By the end of the session, you will already feel comfortable with the photographer and the process of taking the pictures. If you started the session with the white flag outfit, it will show in your facial expressions and body language. Once you have felt comfortable in your session with your own wardrobe choices, you will translate that feeling into whatever you are wearing.
  2. It will provide balance to your images. As much fun as it is to have all of your own wardrobe choices, it’s a great way to branch out and try something new. Not to get to psychological on you all, but let this session be an opportunity for growth…or, if nothing else, a bargaining chip when you want something from said parent or financial assistant who is funding your session.

The outfits you choose will showcase the person you are right now. This is a generation of people who are interesting and unique and contrary and funny and compassionate and inspiring. I can’t wait to see how you showcase you in your senior portrait session.

Class of twenty twenty-two, share this blog post to your parents to help you win the case that you should wear what makes you feel good.

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