What to Wear to Photograph a Wedding:
Balancing Being Creative, Professional & Comfortable
It’s wedding season again. I was looking through my closet to pull out my go-to outfits and…. wow. Fraying seams. Strings hanging off. Pilling. Cracks in the soles of my shoes….. Crap. I had worn all my favorites to death and need to actually shop.
I am totally picky about what I wear to weddings. I want to be comfortable, but also look the part of a trustworthy, creative, professional business owner. I am always struggling to find this balance. I muddled my way through finding my new go-to “uniform” for this year and thought I would share some tips for finding those perfect shooting outfits.
This list comes from years of trial and error and discovering the hard way what DOESN’T work for me (like dresses). Your list might be different, but here are some tips to get you through if you are like me and dread shopping for shooting attire.
It is so worth it to invest in a really good pair of comfort shoes. I have a shoe fetish and love fun shoes, but when it comes to being on my feet ALL day, I have to wear comfort shoes with good arch support or I literally won’t be able to walk by the end of the night. A couple brands that I like are Sofft and Dansko. Style-wise, I dig mary janes or dress flats, but my second-shooter-sister can rock a pair of leopard-print Dansko clogs like a boss. We watch for clearance sales on them. (I got really lucky and found killer deals on Zulily and 6pm.com this year.)
I look for slacks, “ponte” or “ankle pants” made with stretch fabric so I can get up and down, crawl on the ground, bend over, lie down and climb stuff. This year, I was able to find comfortable stretchy slacks to fit my body type at Target, but I’ve also heard great things about the Betabrand “Yoga Dress Pants” – yes, you read that right. I totally have these on my wish list.
Leggings are meant to be athletic wear, not professional wear. If I am going to push the professional boundaries and pull off leggings to photograph a wedding, I want to make sure to choose a well-made pair in a heavy weight knit. I also pair them with a long tunic or short dress, nice jewelry and nice shoes. Basically, I try to up the formal ante on all of my other clothing items to overcompensate for the casualness of a legging-type pant.
A blouse or nice collared button down shirt is always a safe bet. Again, I consider how the fabric moves and breathes. I try to be aware of necklines and cutouts to make sure I will be comfortable moving in all sorts of ways. I love tops with embellishments like lace or beading, but that means I also have to watch out for stuff that might catch on my camera gear.
Not only do black and dark grays look instantly classy, but wearing black is also very practical in that it helps us to blend in and be less distracting during the event, it won’t cause color casts, it won’t show up most dirt or spills and it also will help make cheaper or lighter weight fabrics appear dressier. I know there are some who will argue with me on this, but really, you can’t go wrong with black. When incorporating other colors, I prefer subtler tones that don’t attract too much attention or cause color casts. Bonus points: colors that match business branding.
There is so much variation in weather and venue temperature, I like to layer to prepare for comfort. I tend to get hot while shooting, but may also freeze in a heavily air-conditioned venue. A pretty typical look for me is a lightweight, sleeveless or short-sleeved blouse with a cardigan and stretchy knit blazer – this way I am prepared to add and remove layers as necessary.
I choose to wear statement accessories to offset my very neutral black and gray wardrobe. I pick accessories like a funky necklace, pretty wrap, or off-beat shoe pattern that fit my personal style and brand. Restricting the personal styling pieces to accessories also makes it so much easier to get different looks out of the same outfit.
It’s always important to talk to our clients about the venue, how formal the wedding is, and any dress-code requirements (especially for cultural or religious ceremonies) to ensure that your attire is appropriate for the event. I’m located in Seattle so we’re a little more laid back here. If you are on the East Coast or in certain parts of the South you may have higher expectations for formal wear than those of us on the west coast.
This is not intended to be a guide to say that every photographer should dress the same way. My hope is to help others who are trying to find that balance of being comfortable enough to shoot, looking professional and being true to your style and brand. Remember that it’s not just our pictures, but what we do and what we wear are also reflections of our brand and our business.