How Clothes, Color of Outfits, Backgrounds & Lighting Impact the Portrait

When picking clothes for a photo shoot I have a few tips. For these photos of recording artist Sydney Rhame we had a few outfits. So here I will show you how there are many variables that can impact the final photos.

Sydney Rhame


I recommend wearing solids over patterns. It keeps your eye going to the face rather than the outfit.


If you have two or more people you need to coordinate your outfits, but by yourself you have much more latitude. You just want to pick a color that works with your skin tone, hair color and eye color.

Sydney Rhame


Be careful to coordinate your lipstick color with your outfits.


Backgrounds need to be simple and uncluttered. Backgrounds need to be complimentary to the colors the model is wearing.

Sydney Rhame


Black and White are great neutral colors to use as well as Gray. I would avoid pure white due to it is difficult to keep the detail in the white when you start going to different outputs like photo prints or to a newspaper.

Black works well and I like it when the fabric has some texture as Sydney’s sweater does here.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, AC-9, AC-3, PocketWizard Mini TT1, TT5, Paul Buff Vagabond, Alienbees B1600, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/640

Notice that you can keep the same background and change outfits and the mood of the photo will change.

Also keeping the same outfit but a different background changes the mood of the photo.

What I have learned through the years is if you want the very best photo then you need to bring a variety of outfits to a photo shoot and mix and match those outfits with different backgrounds as well as lighting schemes.

Sometimes in the case of a recording artist like Sydney you need a different look depending on the music you are promoting.


While your clothes, the background and lighting can have a huge impact on the photo the one thing that really makes the photo is the expression of the model. Now coordinating all these into one moment is when you have that EUREKA MOMENT!