How Much Pattern is too much? What to wear for Portraits.

Have you ever heard, or been told by a photographer, that patterns are a no-no when it comes to portraits? Well, I’m here to tell you…you can bring back the patterns people, it’s ok!

The thought behind avoiding patterns is a good one…you’re investing in portraits and you want your faces, smiles, expressions, body language, etc. to be the focus of the photo. Sometimes patterns have a bad habit of drawing attention away from what is MOST important to capture – you and/or your loved ones.

BUT, other times, outfits with the right patterns can add a rich visual interest that helps grab and hold the viewers attention. Patterns can also help tie various clothing pieces together for an engagement or family portrait session. In fact, you can mix patterns very successfully when you choose the right pattern and have solid colors to balance them out.

The key is know how much pattern is TOO much. So here are some tips…

1. First things first! Think about the location you’ve decided on. If you’ve got a lot of stuff going on in the background (like flowers, architecture, etc.) , you may not want to add a lot of pattern to your outfit(s). If you have a simple, clean background (like a brick wall, line of trees, etc), you can probably get away with bolder pattern choices.

With the beautiful flowers as the backdrop, Kaylee knew she would have to keep her outfits simple.

2. Consider WHERE the pattern will be on your body ’cause that’s what it will be drawing attention to! Patterns will grab the viewers’ eye before solid colors will, so keep the pattern restricted only to areas you want to accentuate – NOT areas you want to hide! This is why I love introducing scarves with a pretty pattern…they draw attention up towards your face!

3. And finally, another very important consideration is picking the right TYPE of pattern. There are no hard and fast rules here. In fact, I think there is a really fine line between a great pattern and a terrible pattern for portrait photography. The bottom line is, you don’t want the pattern to be distracting. If you’re not sure whether or not a pattern will be too distracting, take these things into consideration…

The color & contrast in the print. Distracting patterns usually have bold, high contrasting colors like all of the patterns that I recommend avoiding in the image below.

The size & symmetry of the print. Distracting patterns usually have a larger print, like the large polka dots and flowers in the image below. Symmetry can help tone down a pattern.

And finally, remember that you can easily balance out patterns that might normally be too distracting for pictures, with a solid colored jacket or cardigan!

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