Usually one of the first questions out my clients' mouths when we book a date for their promo shoot is something along the lines of: "What kind of clothes should I bring?" And I've learned over the years that my answer to that question is much more important that it might seem on the surface.
You see, when I was first starting out, my knee-jerk reaction would have been to respond with something really simple like “Wear something cool!”-- mainly because half the time I honestly didn’t have any idea what to tell them. I mean, truth be told, I knew in my heart of hearts that when the shoot finally did roll around, my client’s choice of wardrobe was gonna be the LAST thing on my mind.
In reality, I’d be doing my best to look calm and collected on the outside, while inside my head…it would be pure pandemonium: “Is my lighting right? What about my f-stop? Should I be shooting more wide open? Crap, why is my background so dark? Maybe if I drag the shutter a little more…no wait—I’ll move my lights closer. Whoops, that changes the exposure on my subject too—yikes! What to do, what to do…”
But you know, as I started getting better with the technical stuff, I found that it freed me up to be thinking about other [more important] things during the shoot, like posing, expression, mood, the subtleties of my lighting—and yes, wardrobe. And so it came to pass that when clients would ask me what they should wear to the shoot, eventually I was prepared with a little better answer.
My Wardrobe Recommendations
So based on my experience, here’s what I recommend that you use as a starting point in your wardrobe discussions with clients. Basically, you wanna tell them to bring at least 3 outfits:
- Something they'd wear on stage at a live show/concert
- Something a bit more formal (not super-formal, per se, but definitely something nicer than jeans and a t-shirt)
- Something casual with bright colors/designs (try to avoid prominent logos/trademarks, if possible)
Now of course this all assumes that you’ll have a place for your client(s) to change clothes, and that the shoot is even gonna be long enough to warrant doing so. If neither of these applies to you, and you’re only gonna be concentrating on a single “look”, then the answer to the question of what to wear will depend on the nature of your shoot.
For example, if you’re shooting press kit photos, then you might wanna suggest #2, since that will help the band to convey a more mature, “corporate” look. If you’re shooting something that will eventually go on a gig poster to advertise the band’s live show, go with #1. If you’re shooting an album cover, then the choice of wardrobe could be any of the three above, depending on what the artist/band is going for. I would suggest meeting with them beforehand to work out all the details in advance.
But for me, almost all of my shoots go for at least 3-5 hours once you throw in makeup and styling, and I’m always shooting in a studio (with restrooms/changing rooms). So I generally start with the three suggestions above, and I’ll also usually mention that the more clothes they bring, the better.
Having additional options is almost always a good thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a shoot with a very clear idea of what the various “looks” were gonna be, only to completely change course when a certain outfit didn’t end up looking as good on-camera as we thought, or maybe the client brought this totally amazing article of clothing or accessory that ended up looking fantastic. These kinds of things can totally change the complexion of your shoot, so try to keep your options open.
Below are a few examples from my portfolio where the client's wardrobe choices had significant impact on our shoot. You may very well come across similar situations, so try to keep some of these things in mind as you build your portfolio.
You may recognize this image from the main page of the Band Photo School website. It was greatly affected by wardrobe choices, as the band specifically went out and bought matching leather outfits to portray a futuristic, Matrix-like appearance. If you find yourself shooting a client with shiny or reflective clothing, make sure to adjust your lighting for maximum visual impact-- you really want to accentuate those highlights/shadows and bring out as much texture as possible!
Here's an example of the 'bright colors/designs' that I suggested in Recommendation #3 above. The band was going for a whimsical nod to the sitcom "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", and we all agreed that the saturated colors would attract lots of eyeballs on the 2014 Vans Warped Tour home page. Fortunately, it worked like a charm, as they got more page views than any other band that year.
Here's an example of Recommendation #3 in action. Normally I'll advise my clients to wear something similar for press kit shots, because record labels often like to see that prospective signees can "clean up" nicely, and that they can be marketed to a wide(r) variety of audiences.
Finally, here's an example of clients sporting the type of clothing that they'd typically wear on stage for a live show (Recommendation #1).
So how about you? Got any tips that you'd like to share, or did you have any wardrobe-related questions that weren't covered here? Drop me a comment below.