what to wear

style guide

I am so excited for your portrait session! Whether I'm capturing your sweet family, or celebrating a special moment in your life, like a graduation, birthday, anniversary or new baby, I'm so honored to help you create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. I’ve created this guide to help you get the most out of your photos, and by the time you’ve read through this, you'll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever. I can’t wait to get you in front of my camera!

01 choosing colors


When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting softer, lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about your family. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments, and especially complements the desert and the snow.

Try one of these color combinations:

02 classic but current


A pop of vintage style with floral patterns, collars, suspenders, bowties, textured socks and dresses with lots of lace detailing and texture makes for a classic timeless look that extends the life of the photos. Textures carry an element of surprise: ribbons, ruffles, suspenders, knitted items add details and depth - just a pop of personality is all we need! Want your photos to look more editorial? Bring a little extra something with you! Fresh flowers bring an extra “wow” factor to just about everything, especially when they’re attached to something else, like a bicycle basket, tree swing, tent, picnic basket, balloons or car bumper. Whether you want to incorporate larger items like classic cars or bikes, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even planning for just one extra styled item could be a fun way to make your session more unique.

03 don't be afraid to dress it up


Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, a lot of my clients love Rent the Runway for their session because it’s such an affordable way to feel like a million bucks. Other clients love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into their closet!

Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! We recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two instead.


Long, full-length, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature, like the desert, forest, plains or beach. Consider softer fabrics like chiffon or tulle which allow for beautiful movement in the images. 


When considering the length of your dresses or skirts, it’s also a good idea to factor in whether or not there will be little ones in your photos. If you have smaller children, I’ll likely have you sitting or crouching on the ground to interact up-close with them. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a floor-length dress or skirt, or perhaps a cute midi-skirt, will make moving around with your kids much easier, and look perfect on camera, too. 


If you’re an expecting mother, I always recommend floor-length gowns or maxi dresses. These dresses create the best silhouettes to flatter your figure and really highlight your bump. A lot of our expecting mothers love to incorporate flower crowns or headpieces as well.

04 add visual interest


Patterns add visual interest and a pop of character if done right. One person wearing a pattern is enough to carry everyone's outfits. I suggest solid pieces for the rest of group. If the pattern is subtle and complementary like small polka dots then it is okay for someone else to have bold blocked patterns. Another thing to avoid are cartoon character patterns like Mickey Mouse or big bold logos and graphics because they are distractions that take away from the overall coordination of the outfits.

05 professional hair & makeup


Professional hair and makeup artists are the ones to be trusted with your look. They have learned to work with all kinds of skin types, face shapes, and skin shades. With their creative eye, they are able to give you a makeover experience you will love and in the end ties in with the overall look you are trying to achieve. They are trained to use product that will enhance and accentuate your beauty in front of the camera.

I am partnered with licensed professionals that will be happy to style you pretty.

Feel free to check out their work on Instagram: Nancy Rice, Rosa Mercedes, and Michael Tourville.

06 look & feel fresh


Details for the gentlemen and children are just as important. Make sure faces and fingernails are clean, hair is tidy, clothes are clean and pressed nicely, shoes are dirtless and shined. In short, spic and span from head-to-toe!

07 shoes matter


The choice of shoes can make or break an outfit. Wear your best footwear and if you decide to wear a fancy pair of sandals clean and pretty feet will work in your favor. Depending on the feel of the session, we may even ditch shoes altogether, so make sure everyone is well-groomed.

Ladies, this is the time to rock a really fabulous impractical pair of pumps to elevate your look! Heels are much more flattering to your posture than a flat shoe. Do you have a gleaming pair of gold glitter heels? YES - wear them!

Gentlemen, dress shoes are great statement shoes. Nothing elevates a good shot than a nice pair of clean and shined dress shoes that compliment your outfit.

Children can be a little more practical in this case. A simple pair of dress shoes, flats, Mary Janes, a cute pair of boots or loafers will do.

08 accessorize artfully


Pick a couple of gorgeous pieces that you love and limit them to that. Statement necklaces are great for women while men are encouraged to wear a watch that matches the style of your outfits. Children should look like children and are encouraged to keep their simplicity. An oversized bow for girls is enough while a vintage-style hat or suspenders and a bowtie for boys is perfect. One accessory for each person is enough to make a statement. Two is pushing it.

09 details matter


For couples, what I love most to shoot is that new shiny gorgeous engagement ring! I also take detail shots for family sessions. I love what hand holding represents, so I tend to focus on the closeness of the family and will take photos of just the hands. This is important to mention, so the ladies (and maybe gentlemen too) can go to the nail salon and get their hands and feet pampered and polished. If you or someone in the family is needing a haircut or a color, make sure to do it at least a week before the session in order to look most natural.

10 a quick recap...


  • Matching outfits is a no-no.

  • Wear outfits that are classic and timeless - remember to add some texture for a pop of personality!

  • Dress up, not down. Flatter your figure with the right outfit.

  • Bold patterns are okay in moderation with only one person wearing it.

  • Avoid anything with cartoon characters, graphics, and logos.

  • Your makeup makes the world of a difference in photos, go pro!

  • Look and feel fresh so you can be your best in front of the camera.

  • Do not over-accessorize. One accessory per person is enough; two is pushing it.

  • Be ready for detail shots. Get yourself pampered in the nail or hair salon. Be sure to give at least a week for your hair to look natural.

  • Details matter! Come to your session looking dapper.

I'm excited to see what you've put together. See you at your session!

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Kate Stapleton is a wedding photographer who values telling your story in a way that feels like you.

She creates images that are sincere, meaningful, and real.

Kate is based in Reno, Nevada and photographs weddings in the Reno-Tahoe area as well as destination weddings all over the world.

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