Family Portraits Preparation Guide FOUNDATION UP


    • Pants and Skirt/Dress areas are the Foundation of your portrait. As the word implies, the foundation is whereupon we build the composition and color harmony. Optimally, like the footing of any building, the foundation must be solid, sturdy and flawless. Yet, for all our efforts, we do not want the foundation of your portrait to take attention away from the real attraction: the highlighted faces in your portrait. Simplicity is the essential ingredient.
    • Remember, our goal in coordinating color is to achieve color harmony; not matching. Generally speaking, we do not wish for clothes to match perfectly but it is proper for the pants to be relatively close in color and design. However, we suggest you give more attention to harmonizing color over matching. For example, should you choose to wear denim, one pair might be a lighter or a darker blue than another pair. This is desirable. A khaki pair of pants may be a different shade than all the other pairs. Again, this is preferable for a more natural portrait.
    • There are two instances where the foundation must match: when the color is either white or black, all foundation colors must be the same.
    • Dress length is important; a short dress, standing, becomes a mini skirt, sitting. Portraits look best when bare knees do not show (unless your portrait is at the beach where shorts are acceptable).
    • It is acceptable to combine Pants and Dresses. I do suggest, however, that the dresses be worn by women.
    • As a rule of thumb, we suggest avoiding a pattern in both pants and skirts/dresses.
    • Lastly, it is acceptable to mix & match denim with a dark khaki, just as long as chambray is chosen as a shirt/top for balance.


    • No Patterns. Remember, we want to see only faces, not a clutter of busy patterns. A VERY subdued pattern is acceptable if necessary and if it blends well with the thematic colors.
    • LONG SLEEVES always work best. Sleeves with a 3/4 length or longer prove to be the most flattering. Any sleeve length shorter than 3/4 will diminish the visual impact on the face by drawing the viewer’s eye toward the elbow, upper arms, and shoulders. This also tends to add visual weight.
    • VESTS and SWEATERS are fine. Keep them simple. If patterned, keep subdued and include colors in harmony with the basic theme.
    • Our Family Portraits Preparation Guide Foundation Up suggests keeping materials SOFT and flowing.
    • Any type of collar is fine. Avoid excessively high collars unless you desire to be confused with an Elvis impersonator.
    • As with the pants, it is acceptable to mix and match shirt shades/colors within the family.



    • We recommend keeping patterns simple and colors subdued. Again, the idea is keeping the viewer’s gaze fixed upon your eyes/face, not an abundance of colors and patterns.
    • Family Portrait Preparation Guide Foundation Up WARNING: Colors to avoid are orange, pink, and iridescent hues.
    • If interested in learning about tie color psychology and what sort of persona you’re exuding to the world, here’s a link to a blog post I wrote on Tie Psychology.
    • Need help in tying your tie? Here’s a helpful link that’ll get you up to speed in a hurry: Learn How To Tie a Tie, or  How to Tie a Tie. This link, Expert Tie Instructions, will forward you to YouTube with numerous variations.


    • As with ties, we recommend keeping patterns simple and colors subdued. Again, the idea is keeping the viewer’s gaze fixed upon your eyes/face, not an abundance of colors and patterns.
    • Scarfs, by their nature, tend to be heavily patterned. Therefore, unless you desire your family portrait to be more about your scarf than you, please select a scarf pattern that is not only simple but the color is muted.
    • Colors to avoid are orange, yellow and iridescent hues. If interested in learning about color psychology, the following is a link to a blog post I wrote on Tie Psychology, which has applications relevant to scarf color selection.
    • Need help in tying a scarf? Here’s a helpful link that’ll get you up to speed in a hurry: 37 Ways To Tie A Scarf, or for a simpler version, check out 15 Ways to Tie Scarves.


    • Shoes must be in KEY with portrait clothing and background. For Park Portraits, any DARK color shoe will do. Brown, Tan or Navy works best.
    • For beach portraits, NO SHOES are preferred.
    • Please do your utmost to select shoes with plain design. That is, avoid patterns and shoes with color accents which demand attention.
    • We DO NOT want the viewer’s eyes to be drawn to the feet, waist or ankles. This is where many a portrait goes awry. People often think they know better or they are the exception. The reason that their OFF KEY socks, flats or belt will be much too insignificant to be seen. WRONG! ANY color in these areas which is NOT in KEY with the other thematic colors will be as shocking as lightning in the night sky.
restaurant test by Orange County Family Portraits

Family Portrait Preparation Guide Foundation Up – The Restaurant Test


    • Makeup that works best is simple and appropriate to one’s lifestyle. Colors should not be too dark around the eyes or too bodacious in general.
    • Lips and Eyebrows are especially important in portraits. Both should be defined nicely. However, please know that we are also happy to help with post-production retouching if you feel they need more attention.
    • All women require some degree of makeup application, otherwise, they will appear flat, dull and lifeless (men, you are excused).
    • Generally speaking, women who do not wear makeup, we suggest a light application. Those who wear light makeup, a medium application will do just fine. The more traditional, medium makeup wearer, will do best with a slightly heavier to formal evening application. For heavy makeup wearers, Lady Gaga is not too far from reality, but maybe a tad overstated.
    • If you prefer to hire a makeup artist, please inform the artist we are using digital capture. Also keep in mind

      that unless you have very specific makeup needs, it’s less expensive to request post-production Artwork from us rather than hire a makeup artist.


    • SIMPLE is the operative word.
    • Family Portrait Preparation Guide Foundation Up WARNING: A family portrait is NOT the time to try a new hairstyle.
    • If a haircut is in order, do it about a week to ten days ahead of time.
    • Bring your favorite hairspray, brush and hand mirror (especially for outdoor portraits).
    • Since the window to our soul is through our eyes, we kindly suggest that you keep your hair out of your soul.
    • If a 5:00 shadow is a concern, please shave beforehand – just be very careful to avoid razor burn. Digital removing a “five o’clock shadow” is possible but is time-consuming can add cost to complete your portrait.


    • Simple earrings are preferred. Large dangling ones do not photograph well as they will never stay put…
    • Necklaces that photograph best are simple with no center focal-point design. Even though we can center a necklace feature (such as a diamond or cross), it may not appear to be so in the image – so much depends on how your body is turned. Generally, this is not a detriment for most people, however, the slight off-center feel can cause heartburn for perfectionists like myself…
    • Necklaces look best when they are simple and not bulky. Avoid ones that will neither hang behind or atop your blouse. Also, avoid necklaces that spin around easily. It is very disappointing to see your necklace half in/out with the backside your pendant sparkling.
    • Earrings that photograph best are simple and small. Dangling earrings can be problematic, as with any sort of a tilt of the head the earrings will hang freely on one side while falling askew on the other side of the face.
    • In general, most bracelets and watches are fine. Keep big, bulky ones at home, unless you wish your bracelet/watch to be a focal point in the portrait.
    • If you decide to keep your bracelet/watch at home, yet have a “white spot” on your wrist, apply a dab of makeup to lessen the contrast (or we might opt to place it so it will not be seen by the camera). No worries should it show – we can amend with post-production retouching.


    • ALL glasses present two essential challenges: they not only catch light reflection (glass glare), but they also distort contour facial lines (eyes & temples).
    • Artwork to remove glass glare and restore facial lines is not included in the price of your portraits.
    • Glasses without non-glare coating are problematic, at best – we do not recommend regular glasses for portraits. The resulting glare can be light (easy to remove) to severe, which may require a complete rebuilding of the eyes.
    • Non-glare glasses work wonderfully and generally are no problem. However, non-glare can still present a challenge depending on the degree and where the soft-green glow appears, as well as distortion caused by thicker lenses.
    • Glass glare removal may be requested, however. The costs vary depending on the extent of artwork required. Though we do provide this service at cost, it can become expensive.
    • If you wear glasses and wish to avoid glass glare/reflections and facial distortion, you have three options:
      1. have your optician supply you with empty rims for the day of your appointment
      2. pop the lenses prior to your portrait (be sure to bring a secondary pair…)
      3. wear only non-glare lenses (doing so will lessen glare but do nothing to mitigate distortion of contour facial lines).

Family Portraits Preparation Guide Foundation Up WARNINGTransition lenses are especially troublesome and should be avoided.

Contact Lenses work well, though they can cause a bluish ring to appear around the iris.

If glasses must be worn, but they reflect glare and/or distort contour facial lines, we can always create a few exposures with glasses off, and then “paste” these eyes over the lenses of your glasses, completely removing the distortions. The cost is approximately $30.

THE COMPLETE Family Portraits Preparation Guide


Orange County Photographer, Mark Jordan

Mark Jordan
Master Craftsman Photographer
American Society of Photographers
International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum
Orange County Photographer of the Year
3-Time Honoree -EPCOT’S World’s Greatest Photographers Exhibit

When looking for a professional Orange County Family Portraits photographer, or Orange County Headshots Photographer please call 949-888-8071 or complete our online request form.

Family Portraits Preparation Guide FOUNDATION UP


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