Since you do not commission a fine portrait very often, we cannot expect you to know all of the elements that affect its creation. The following guidelines should help you to make important decisions about your portrait:
Clothing Selection - The objective of any fine portrait is to direct the viewer's attention to the face. Everything else in the portrait (clothing, hair, background and props) should be secondary to the face. When the face dominates a portrait, you will never tire of it as time goes by. Improperly selected clothing can overpower the face and ruin an otherwise excellent portrait. While it is our job to choose the proper portrait lighting and posing for you, we must rely on your help in selecting clothing that will create the visual effect you wish to achieve.
Clothing Color - Garments in medium to dark tones of brown, rust, burgundy, green or blue always photograph well. Light colored clothing, however, calls attention to itself and away from the face. Avoid light colors that approximate flesh tones such as beige, tan, peach, pink, white and yellow. These colors not only dominate a portrait and overpower the face, but also visually drain color from the face and make the wearer appear unusually pale. Light colors also tend to add bulk to subjects wearing them. Dark colors are more flattering and slimming to the wearer. Especially bright colors, such as red and orange, will ruin a portrait, and bold stripes, plaids, checks and busy prints do not photograph well.
Clothing Style - Very simple garments always photograph best. Turtle necks or V-necks are flattering provided that neither is exaggerated in style. Avoid very wide or particularly deep V-neck garments as well as bulky cowl neck sweaters which completely hide the neck. Long sleeves are essential since in a portrait bare arms will overpower the face. Women being photographed in full length should wear either long skirts, pants or dark stockings in order to keep the eye from being directed toward the legs and away from the face.
Clothing For a Family Group - When photographing a family group, proper clothing coordination is critical. In home decorating, a major concern is to coordinate the colors and tones of the walls, carpets, draperies and furniture. This kind of coordination also is necessary when selecting clothing for a group portrait. Choose clothing in the same tonal ranges so that no single member of the family stands out because his or her clothing is too light or bright as compared to the rest of the group.