How To Prepare For A Portait - Foundation Up: Part 3 of 4

Foundation Up 
by Mark Jordan ©2011

• We refer to the Pants and Skirt/Dress areas of your portrait as its Foundation. As the word implies, the foundation is the basis upon which we build your portrait. 

In particular, the fabric selections and color harmony of your garments are the groundwork upon which the success of your portrait is laid. Optimally, like the footing of any building, the foundation will be solid, sturdy and flawless. Yet, for all our efforts and attention to detail, we do not want the foundation of your portrait to command attention or take away from the real attraction: the highlighted faces in your portrait. Therefore, simplicity is vital.

• Please remember, our goal in coordinating clothing is to achieve color harmony - not matching. Generally speaking, we do not want the garments to match perfectly, though it is preferable for the foundation to be relatively close in color and design. Therefore, we suggest you give more attention to harmonizing color over matching.

Should you choose to wear denim, and you discover one pair is a different shade of blue (or lighter/darker) than the others, this is desirable. A khaki pant may be a different cut or hue than all the others - but again, this is preferable. The more 'natural' variety you include, the more "natural," and subsequently more believable, your portrait.

• There are two occasions, however, where it might be best to have foundational colors match: when the chosen foundation is either white or black. In such an instance, you may opt to have every pant/dress to be all white or all black.

Dress length is not to be overlooked; 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 in a portrait. However, I suggest that only females wear the dresses.

• As a rule of thumb, we suggest avoiding patterns in both pants and skirts/dresses. There are always exceptions but be very careful when opting to do so.


• Garments with NO PATTERNS tend to work best. Remember, we want the viewer's gaze to be drawn to faces, not a clutter of busy patterns. If necessary, a VERY subdued pattern is acceptable, and if it blends well with the thematic colors.

• LONGER SLEEVES always work best. Sleeves with a 3/4 length or longer (covering the elbow) prove to be the most flattering. Any sleeve length shorter than 3/4 has the tendency to 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, SCARFS, and SWEATERS are fine. Keep them simple. If patterned, keep them subdued and incorporate colors in harmony with your basic theme.

• Keep fabrics SOFT and flowing.

Collar variety is a little known design technique we suggest you take advantage of - it adds interest and keeps garments from looking too "cloned." Any type of collar is fine. However, avoid excessively high collars (unless you desire to be confused with an Elvis impersonator). Also avoid excessively low necklines (I'll allow your imagination to draw its own conclusions).
Family Portait at Newport Beach Home

• Footwear must be in KEY with portrait clothing and background. For Park Portraits, any DARK color shoe will do. Brown, Navy and Black works best. Sandals and flip-flops are also standard fare. For beach portraits, however, barefoot is the only way to go!

• Please do your utmost to select footwear with either no design or a plain one. That is, avoid footwear with patterns, reflectors, and color accents (typically gym-shoes) which draw the viewer's attention toward the feet.

• As to Socks & Belts, if not managed properly, they too will draw the viewer’s eyes away from the faces and direct them toward the feet/ankles and waist. Understandably, this small area is where many a portrait can go awry, in a hurry. People often think they "know better" or they are the exception. They reason that their OFF KEY socks, flats or belt will be much too insignificant to been seen. WRONG! ANY color in these areas that is NOT in KEY with the other thematic colors will be as shocking as lightening in the night sky. Enough said.


• Makeup that is SIMPLE and appropriate to your lifestyle always yields the most flattering look. In general, colors should not be too dark (especially around the eyes) or too dazzling.

• All women need some level of makeup or they will appear flat, dull and lifeless. Men, you are excused - no makeup required. I know it's not fair, but that's just the way it is.
As a rule, if you wear…
    - no makeup - apply a medium application.
    - light to medium application - I suggest you apply evening to slightly
      heavy makeup.
    - heavy makeup - Lady Gaga might be a good prototype, but maybe
      a tad overstated.

The Restaurant Test
• SIMPLE is the operative word.
• A family portrait is not the time to try a new hair style.
• If a hair cut is in order, allow a week to ten days to shed the "new-cut" look.
• Bring your favorite hair spray, brush and hand mirror (outdoor portraits) if desired.
• Since the "window to our soul is through our eyes," we suggest keeping hair out of your soul...

As always, should you have any questions or would like to contact me, no concern is too small: .Have fun!

©Photosical - the photographic and personal observations of Orange County Photographer, Mark Jordan

Mark Jordan Photography specializes in crafting stunning contemporary, traditional, classic, and storytelling family portraits (high school seniors, children portraits, babies, maternity, pregnancy), headshots and pets. Mark Jordan, a Photography Hall of Fame photographer in Rancho Santa Margarita and provides portrait photography throughout Orange County. The portrait studio also serves San Diego County and Inland Empire. Studio Photography Services are also provided in Riverside County and Los Angeles County. Local Cites where photography studio services are offered are in Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Costa Mesa, Coto de Caza, Cypress, Dana Point, Dove Canyon, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Northwood, Orange, Orange Park Acres, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda, Corona del Mar, Murrieta, Murrieta Hot Springs, Quail Valley, Riverside, Temecula, Winchester, Chino Hills, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Montclair, Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, Coronado, Del Mar, Escondido, La Mesa, Oceanside, San Diego, San Marcos, Solana Beach, Vista, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Rancho San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe, and San Diego Country Estates, Turtle Rock, Shady Canyon. Portrait Photographers everywhere (photographers in O.C. as well) are welcome to contact our portrait studio for mentoring/guidance.