One of the questions that comes up most often before a session is "What should I wear?" Clothing that is flattering in everyday life is not always the most flattering in a portrait. In everyday life, one may look for clothing that grabs attention, but in a portrait all of the attention belongs on the face and the clothing should point the eye to the face rather than drawing attention away from it. There are many details that go into that, but one of the most important is color harmony. In the portraits above (comparing the photoshop rendering of the color with the actual image), the family did a great job of color harmony. When looking at the rendering on the right, the eye goes directly to the faces of the family members. The clothing looks nice, but doesn't capture our attention. It's part of the scenery and fits in nicely with the colors in the room so all of our focus is on the family and how they relate to one another. In the rendering on the left we see that if the older son had worn a green shirt and the dad had worn a darker shirt, our eye would go first to the green shirt and then to the navy shirt before we ever looked at the faces or how the family relates to one another. The green stands out in the room and draws your eye to the portrait, but not to the family in it. It doesn't fit in with the decor and feels incongruous.
So how do you use color harmony in planning for your own family portraits? First consider where you plan to display the portraits, whether it is a living room, dining room, bedroom or family room, we tend to decorate with colors that make us feel comfortable and that is a good place to start in planning the color palette for your portraits. When looking around the room, choose 2-3 prominent colors. Next, go and look in your closet. Chances are you will find several outfits that contain one or more of those colors. Look for solid colors, no bold designs, and lots of texture and details. If you want to look slimmer in a portrait, plan to wear a jacket, the vertical line of the jacket opening draws the eye to the face and slims the body, especially if the jacket is slightly darker than the top worn underneath. If you want to look broader, look for something plain with no detailing and structured shoulders. Note the tones of the outfit you've chosen - are they light tones, mid tones or dark tones? In the portraits above the entire family is in mid tones in the image on the right, but in the image on the left, the father is in dark tones. This draws our eyes to the father's shirt and makes him stand out from the rest of the family. Try to keep all the pieces in your outfit in the same tone. It's alright to go a shade darker or lighter, but try not to go to the two ends of the spectrum. For instance, if you choose to wear black and white together in a portrait, the eye will go directly to the white (because it is the lightest thing in the image) and from there to the black, again missing the most important aspect - the faces. Once you've chosen a base outfit and are happy with the color palette and tones, go to your spouse's closet and look for an outfit that is complementary. You will want to stay with the same level of formality (a prom dress and sweat pants never look good together), but it isn't necessary to exactly match. You may want to wear tan pants with a chambray shirt while your spouse wears jeans, a tan shirt, and slightly darker blue jacket. As long as the color palette and tonality stay consistent the resulting image will be pleasing. Once you're happy with the wardrobe selection for each of you, it is time to move on to the children. Keep adding in pieces for each family member one at a time and making sure the look stays consistent. It is helpful to lay out all of the pieces of clothing (including shoes, socks, and accessories) on a bed or sofa in the room where you plan to display the portraits and view them together. Remember the old Sesame Street segment, "One of these things is not like the others"? Look for things that stand out and replace them with pieces that fit in.
Once you have the basics covered, there are a few more things you can do to improve the end result. Look for places that you can add texture and dimension to your outfits - accessories are a good place to start. Jewelry, scarves, etc are nice accents to add to an outfit. Another thing to consider in blending the family's outfits is where each color is. A good rule of thumb is that if you use a color once, you should use it at least three times. If your daughter is wearing grey tights, you might choose a grey scarf and give your son a grey bow tie or your spouse a grey sweater.
We are happy to assist you with this process at your Style and Planning Consultation and to help you decide about any pieces you may consider while shopping - just text us a picture! Call us today at (501) 623-2811 to schedule your Style & Planning Consultation and start the process of your custom portrait art for your walls.