What Colors Should We Wear to Our Couples Session?

I went to the mall recently with my sister and her best friend who are both engaged to their high school sweethearts (I know, adorable). While we wandered around the shops for a few hours, looking at black knit sweaters, boots, spring dresses, and jewelry, my sister's friend began asking my advice for what would look good on camera. She was confused on her outfit and how to match it with what her fiancé was going to be wearing.

The friend didn't know where to start and was visibly getting overwhelmed at the idea of trying to dress them both so that they'd match and look great together! I gave her some simple advice that I always give to clients, and I thought Id' share it here for others who are feeling stuck too. Here's a quick list of a few of the ideas I gave to her to get her thinking about what would look good on camera, make her feel good, and help her to avoid the overwhelm.  

1. Avoid the Matchy-Matchy

While it can be cute to have photos of you and your cutie in matching navy blue sweaters, the problem that can happen is that in the photo you'll become one blob. I can't deny that it's fun to be a blob together in real life, but you won't have much definition in the shape of either of your figures in photographs which is usually not very flattering. So if you're considering wearing the exact same shade of a color, the best bet is to avoid it because it won't come out in photographs, and leave the blobbing for the couch.

2. Look for Complimentary & Harmonious Colors

Because I went to art school and printed my own photos for four years, I have complimentary and harmonious colors memorized like the back of my hand (which is a harmonious color #photographerhumor). If you're not as familiar with these ideas there are endless graphs on Google that will give you examples of how to go about picking these sets of colors - but I'll give you a simple rundown. For complimentary colors, you'll want to find two opposing colors on the color wheel that you and your partner like (for example; red & green, or cyan & red).

For a harmonious pairing I put some examples below because it's a broader meaning. For Kara & Dan's beach session they wore a dark red dress, and a dark purple shirt (harmonious - next to each other on the color wheel).

Similarly for Elaine & Brandon's beach session they wore varying shades of blue and cyan (harmonious - also next to each other on the color wheel). See how the lighter blue of Brandon's shirt goes well with Elaine's navy blue dress on the right? Stick with colors on the same side of the color wheel for harmonious pairings; for example, blue goes with green, and blue goes with violet.


Kara & Dan



Elaine & Brandon


3. Start with Colors You Already Like

Adobe has this super easy (and super fun) color chart that lets you play with colors you like, and then it'll tell you complimentary & harmonious colors that go with it. It also has a bunch of different options to play with color matching from the base color you chose. Another tip: You can upload a photo that has a color palette you like and it'll make color combinations from it. I do this all the time when I'm making mood boards for shoots and just because it's cool to play with.

So there it is! A few simple tips to help you narrow down you and your sweetie's outfits for your portrait session. Trying any number of these tips will help give you direction, or at least give you an idea of where to start looking. But remember; no matter what outfit you choose, what's most important is the two of you getting your portraits taken with someone you love. :)

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Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.