What to Wear: Photographer’s Edition

PhotographerFashionIn a word: black.

Black shirt.
Black pants.
Black shoes.
Black socks.
Black belt.

Here’s why: It’s easy, and it looks sharp. I’ve worn this outfit while shooting formal galas and casual get togethers alike, and I’ve never felt under dressed. Keeping it simple like this means I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear, not to mention that laundry is pretty straightforward as well.

Wearing black has other advantages too. For starters it doesn’t draw unnecessary attention. Let’s not pretend that I can somehow blend into the shadows when I’m wearing black; I’m simply saying that it’s not a flashy color or pattern that demands attention. Secondly, my clothes don’t look soaked when I get sweaty. I made the mistake of wearing a gray shirt to an outdoor wedding one time…

I definitely do not wear or recommend a tie or suit coat. If I did wear a tie it would be black which, in this case, kinda defeats the purpose of a tie as an accent color. Beyond that I don’t want one more thing hanging around my neck and getting in the way of my camera. Similarly a suit coat is too restrictive, too hot, and it gets in the way of my ThinkTank belt pack.

There are two situations in which I modify my outfit. If the event is casual then I will wear jeans instead of black pants. Everything else stays the same. The other time I will wear something other than all black is for outdoor events where I will either die from heat stroke or be sorely overdressed (think summer barbecue or festival or foot race.) In these situations I will wear khaki shorts and a black Under Armor shirt.

I still prefer to wear a black shirt even when I’m working in my studio. I may be barefoot, but I’ll still rock the black. The reason is because you can get unwanted color cast or reflection from a bright shirt. For example: I once wore a red shirt while shooting some headshots in my studio. I was bouncing the flash off a nearby wall, and I noticed that the photos were coming out too reddish. After a few minutes diagnosing the problem I realized that it was because the light was bouncing off my shirt and onto my subject. Lesson learned, wear black.

While the color is possibly the most important element in your wardrobe there are a few additional details that will make your life easier.

  • Wrinkle-free. Do yourself a favor and only buy wrinkle resistant pants and shirts. I personally have no problem putting on a wrinkled shirt, but my clients might think less of me for it. This solves that problem without the need for ironing.
  • Shirt pocket. I’m kind of amazed by how often I use my shirt pocket. Every time I change batteries in my flash or need a place to put a gel I’m reaching for my shirt pocket.
  • 511 Tacticals. I love pockets, and these pants have a lot of them. Not to mention that they are designed to be more rugged than your typical dress pants. The rear strap is perfect for mounting a flash pouch or holster even without a belt.
  • Under Armour. This may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I sweat more than the average human, so I’m a big fan of anything that wicks that stuff away. A dry undershirt and boxers will make your life much more pleasant.
  • Long-sleeve, button-down shirt. Class it up a bit and wear a dress shirt. Don’t wear short sleeves unless you’ve got shorts to back it up. If the shirt doesn’t have a collar, don’t waste your time. You’ll only make yourself look unprofessional.
  • Contacts. I genuinely enjoy wearing glasses, but when I’m constantly holding a camera up to my face they get in the way. Plus, when you use them for work they are a tax write-off.

Last but not least bring a change of clothes for the ride home when you shoot a summer wedding. After a long day on your feet the last thing you want to do is sit in a puddle of your own sweat. Pack a comfy outfit to change into before you get in your car. …and this time it doesn’t have to be black.

*A note to the ladies: I don’t blame you if you don’t want to wear tactical pants, and I don’t think it would be flattering to have batteries protruding from your shirt pocket. Regardless it is your responsibility to do your job well. Looking cute is not part of the job description. However I firmly believe that you don’t have to dress like a boy to get the job done. I’m not a girl, so I’m not going to suggest what you should wear; but I will tell you to avoid clothes that will result in accidentally flashing everyone –and I’m not talking about a speedlight here. If you are self conscious about your clothes then you will take less risks to get a good shot. Save that cute dress and those rockin’ heels for a time when you’re in front of the camera, not behind it.

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