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Quality portraits don't just happen, they must be planned carefully. And that's why you come to Scott Breen Photography -- we do the planning. However, the kinds of clothes you wear can make a difference.

Better Portraits

A QUALITY studio portrait has some pre-thinking involvement concerning clothing and backgrounds. Although, we believe that "rules" can be be broken, most of our quality portraits begin with basic "guidelines" involving you and your clothing and our backgrounds.

General Guidelines

First, think of how the portrait will be used or displayed (framed). . Second, decide on the mood or style (basic example: casual for formal?) . Third, consider clothing styles and colors. Individuals have much more freedom than do groups where organizing and compromising measures must be met. See our samples and display portrait gallery for additional ideas and success stories.

Avoid: Being the brightest or lightest or most colorful in the entire group.

Avoid: Combining dark and light clothing within couples or in groups.

Avoid: Extremely trendy clothes, this will limit your portrait's life.

Avoid: Busy patterns that overpower others in the group.

Avoid: Bare arms, wherever possible.

Women / Glamour

Remember dark hides and light colors add weight and power (unless working in Mid or High Key). Wear your makeup slightly heavier than usual; portraits will wash you out a bit. If you simply love an outfit, throw the rules away and "wear it"....we'll work with it, but be kind to yourself and read all the guidelines listed here, first. With groups, we may be revealing hose and footwear, keep this in mind. Refer to the "avoids" listing. Mature women should "cover-up" and avoid open neck clothing.

Men / Executive Portraits

Plan to wear a jacket or sweater if you're wearing a tie and dress shirt, at least for some of the poses. Long sleeve shirts with a bit of cuff showing is always best. Unless you are coordinated with others, darker pants and shoes and socks are best for full length group shots. Some "full" sessions allow a change of clothing, if you wish. Try a few casual poses, too.


Earth tones or jewel tones work well. "Get down" and casual as you may be seated directly on the grass or leaning on a tree, rock or rustic fence. Most outdoor studies contain some full length poses, too. Shoes?

In our studio we create in four KEYS ( or tonal ranges).

Couples - Families - Individuals.

High Key:

We sometimes use a true "high key" look, which is a stark, pure white Norman Rockwell type background. This is striking and unique and is usually full-length surrounding the subject with a sea of white. Shows clothing, props and bodies dramatically. Rather contemporary and posterized in its presentation. Perfect for blonde hair, white on white clothing, simple pastels or sometimes even a blast of bold solid colors.

Mid Key:

Pastels, grays, and gentle whites and gray tones make mid key portraiture one of our most unique and popular treatments. From formal groups and brides to gentle casual children. Mainly full length, similar to high key but softer and less stark and contrasty.

Low Key:

Rich, deep tones and colors in clothing. Faces stand out and glow. Body size is always subdued because of dark clothing and dark backgrounds. Dark on dark is a classic and timeless look. Yes, even dark hair looks great with special hair-lights against darker backgrounds. Although mostly formal, some of our newest casual groups have been posed artfully and casually onto less formal props and casual poses.

Color Key:

This can be handled with any one of the three keys above, but contains a definite predominant basic clothing color or combination of colors within the portrait (we then use props or background spotlights to accent the predominant color(s)).

Examples: a group of subjects in teal sweaters and coordinated pants on a coordinated background; or perhaps black and white tuxedos with a bold black and white contemporary background; or a child dressed in pink with a pink floral arrangement accent add into the portrait.

A word about props. . . . .

It has been said that no studio in the Rocky Mountain area has the variety of as many fine props as we have at Scott Breen Photography. Drop in and take a look at everything from antique chairs in all sizes, to kids' scooters and contemporary deck chairs and posing blocks, etc. . As for studio backgrounds, we have six large sizes and many small sizes from hand-painted canvases to casual fabrics and large dyed muslins.


1. Simple garments in medium to dark tones that have long sleeves are usually best because they help highlight your face. Colors can be muted shades of brown, blue, green and burgandy -- or similar colors. You should avoid strong patterns and colors, and also colors that are similar to flesh tones, such as yellow, beige and pink.

2. Simple styles are usually best, as well. For instance you should wear moderate styles and avoid radical V-neck or high collar styles.

3. Full length portraits of women are more attractive when they wear long skirts or pants.

4. Family portraits look best when everyone is wearing the same tonal range of colors. The colors should coordinate with each other so that no one person stands out -- unless that is the intention of the portrait.