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FAQ: How do I mix colors & patterns?


Take a deep breath, you’re halfway done with your week–it’s going to be ok!  Today I’m answering easily one of the most common questions I get as a photographer: How do I mix colors and patterns for a photo shoot?

Some people ask me when they first email me about taking their photos, and some just bring their whole closet on a shoot with them so I can help them choose their outfits!  Now don’t get me wrong, I love doing that, but I thought I’d share my general input with you here on my blog.  If you’re planning a shoot with me though, don’t worry, you can totally bring your closet and I’ll help you out!

Please don’t assume that I think I’m some stylist fashionista or anything because I’m offering advice on this subject!  I’ve just done this many times, that’s all haha

In the future I’ll be answering some more questions on this subject and others regarding photography–so if you have a specific one you’d like to see answered here, feel free to email me at .

Here are some tips for coordinating colors and patterns for a photo shoot!

Let’s start with colors.  Try thinking of them, whether for a group, couple, or individual, as a palette.  It’s easy to get caught up in trying to “match” everything together, but it’s so much more visually interesting to coordinate instead.  Below are a few examples of color palettes you could consider.

Jewel Tones


Earth Tones & Neutrals









When considering patterns, some people get really intimidated (myself included).  If you’re a little weary of including patterns in your photo shoot wardrobe, it’s ok!  If there’s only one person being photographed, as long as the pattern is one you feel great about, you should definitely go for it.  If you’re really that nervous about the pattern, try layering it with a block of color like a cardigan or scarf.


If you have a couple or a group being photographed and you want to incorporate patterns, there are a few options for you!

One option is to choose one or two patterns with color, then pull one color from that pattern for someone else to wear.  This works especially well when the solid color is found in small amounts in the pattern.



Another option for you is to go with multiple patterns that look good together.  Maybe it’s a large pattern and a small one, maybe it’s totally different patterns in similar colors.  Either way, this plan can work well!



It’s also important to consider where your photos are being taken.  Are you going to be in a big empty field?  Go for a little more color or pattern to keep it interesting.  Will there be fall leaves everywhere?  Try sticking with minimal patterns since there is so much going on already.  Vary your color with texture to draw focus.  Are you taking photos in front of brightly colored walls?  Consider those colors when choosing your outfit.  Will you be in an urban environment?  Bright colors and jewel tones will help you stand out against the gray buildings.  I’ll say this over and over again though: if you feel good and comfortable, you probably look good and comfortable!

What other questions do you have?  I’d love to hear them!


Mary O.

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