Recently, I hired a professional photographer to take pictures of my family. I noticed when the photographer arrived, they looked very polished in an all-black outfit complete with a hat to keep out the sun. It made me wonder—why did they dress that way? Is there a general uniform or dress code for photographers? Is there a uniform to follow when you work in such a creative field? I completed some research to discover what type of clothing photographers tend to dress in.
So, why do they wear black? It turns out, dressing in an all-black ensemble is a general rule of thumb in the photography world so photographers are as invisible as possible at a photo shoot. This way, they don’t take any attention away from what the main subject of the photo is or from their ability to work. Dressing in black is also considered to be more professional if they’re hired for an event such as a wedding, and this makes them appear as a legitimate staff member rather than a casual participant.
A black ensemble isn’t the only rule of thumb that many photographers adhere to. While it might seem like a photographer shows up to your photo session dressed relatively casually, chances are they put a lot of thought into their outfit and carefully selected everything they’re wearing from head to toe.
General Clothing for Photographer Outfits
Many photographers have an idea in their heads of how they want to present themselves, and even have pre-assembled outfits that are their go-to pieces for work. A photographer doesn’t necessarily have to have a uniform, but think of it this way—kitchen workers make sure they wear comfortable shoes such as sneakers or clogs because they’re on their feet all day. Being a photographer is another line of work that comes with certain requirements for clothing.
Although it’s not a uniform per se, a photographer will reach for the same things every time they get dressed. These things include:
- Clothes in muted or neutral colors. If a photographer does decide to go against wearing black, chances are their clothing is still in neutral colors such as gray, beige, or white. They might dress things up a little with cool shoes or a jacket, but they still won’t bring attention to themselves or stand out.
- Pants that have plenty of pockets. Photographers need to be able to change equipment at a moment’s notice, and pockets are perfect to hold backup batteries and memory cards so they’re prepared for anything.
- Sometimes, the photo session changes locations or people end up taking pictures in the pouring rain. Photographers are always prepared for the elements—both with their camera equipment and in what they wear. They almost always have a hat to keep out the sun, and if they’re not wearing a hat when they arrive, they’re sure to have one stowed with their equipment just in case.
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes. As they walk and climb to do their jobs, photographers spend their days on their feet and their work requires a lot of physical activity. The last thing they want is to be in pain or become exhausted during the shoot, so they wear their most comfortable shoes.
- Clothing that’s lightweight and moisture resistant. Again, photographers are working hard all day, and although their session could be interrupted by rain, they could be affected by other extremes as well as they’re working outside in the hot sun. To keep their focus on their work and not how sweaty they are, their clothes are moisture resistant.
What Does A Photographer Tend to Wear?
It’s a good idea for photographers to have a pre-assembled outfit or to at least have a few go-to pieces in their closet to wear for work. This gives them one less thing to worry about when they’re getting ready and they can focus on having all of their equipment. A lot of photographers depend on these tried-and-true pieces for their uniforms:
- Black or dark jeans
- Black Slacks
- A black belt
- Button-down black blouses or black polo shirts
- A black lightweight jacket or blazer
- Black or dark tennis shoes
- A hat with a floppy or flat brim that doesn’t interfere with their ability to take photographs
The idea is to look professional and polished but to avoid being any type of distraction whatsoever. There is no dress code, however, photographers have to balance looking good while also wearing something functional.
What Factors Does A Photographer Consider for Their Outfit?
A photographer usually considers their outfit as an expression of their personal style and an extension of their brand. However, there are general factors that every photographer will consider as they carefully select their brand and style statement for the day.
- They check the weather before they get dressed. A photographer is always on top of the elements, and they pay close attention to the time of day as well as the location of the shoot. This way, they can bring appropriate layers, wear sturdy shoes, or grab a hat to keep the sun out of their eyes.
- They prepare for those weird situations. Photographers often end up in weird poses or situations (they end up lying directly on the ground or leaning out of a window to get that perfect shot). They’re always prepared for this, and they make sure they wear clothes that they’re okay with getting dirty or tearing up. This isn’t a job where their clothes will stay pristine and perfect—true photographers are unafraid to get messy.
- They wear clothes that are completely comfortable. Photographers make sure they can move comfortably no matter what they’re doing. They know full well they’re likely to end up climbing, hiking, squatting, and lying in awkward positions, so their clothes allow for these activities.
- They avoid wearing anything that might be too revealing. Photographers don’t wear anything revealing in case of those moments when they have to squat or bend over to get a good photo. Any serious photographer wears a belt with their pants, and they make sure they’re fully covered.
This is where the balance of style, professionalism, and functionality comes into play. Photographers should be comfortable but avoid looking too casual or sloppy. Nothing makes a photographer seem unprofessional more than being unprepared, so they are prepared for anything.
The Technical Reasons Behind Wearing Black
Beyond comfort and respectability, there are some technical reasons as to why photographers tend to wear black, or at least wear darker colors. The biggest technical reason is to avoid having their reflection end up in the photograph.
Whether they’re taking pictures of a human face or there are objects that could capture their figure (windows, shiny cars), the photographer’s reflection is much more likely to be seen in the photograph if they’re wearing a white or otherwise light-colored shirt. For example, say someone is photographing their dog. If they’re wearing a bright yellow shirt, you might be able to see their reflection in the dog’s eyes. Unless this was the intention, the photographer should wear a black or dark shirt so they don’t appear as a reflection in their pet’s eyes.
Dark-colored cars can cause sneaky reflections in photographs as well. To avoid appearing in the photograph due to a dark car in the background, photographers wear dark colors.
Why Do Photographers Wear Hats?
Besides the color black, the thing you’re most likely to see your photographer wearing is a hat. Why is this so common? One of the first lessons photographers learn is that it’s impossible to wear sunglasses and take pictures at the same time; if you try to do so, you’re going to constantly be taking off your sunglasses which leaves you squinting in the sunlight. A photographer can’t hold the camera to their eye if they have sunglasses on, and even if that’s unnecessary, it can be tough to see the display on the camera correctly.
Hats block the sun, provide needed protection for the photographer’s face, ears, and neck, and most importantly, don’t hinder their ability to shoot if it’s the correct type of hat. Tillys, boonie hats, and other types of hats that have flexible brims and provide full protection are very popular among photographers.
What Kind of Hats Are Appropriate for Photographers?
There are many kinds of hats out there, but only certain ones will provide photographers with sun protection and allow them to do their jobs unhindered. These hats include:
- Baseball caps. These caps are more well known for sporting events, but a lot of photographers wear them while they work. These provide great protection from the sun and work well with a wide range of outfits. However, these won’t protect the neck or ears, and if the brim is curved, the camera will constantly push the cap upwards and off the photographer’s head.
- Narrow-brim Fedoras. Fedoras are popular among photographers because it can be a great aspect to their look and how they present themselves. It’s also a great costume piece to have on hand depending on the subject or intent of a photo shoot. This type of hat provides protection from the wind, sun, and rain, and if it has a narrow brim it won’t get in the way quite as much as a baseball cap would.
- Tweed driver caps. These hats are very stylish and make photographers look quite professional. Their high brims won’t get in the way of cameras. However, they don’t offer a lot of protection against the sun and may be appropriate for only certain photo shoots.
- Bucket hats. You’ll typically find these hats on fishermen and wilderness explorers, but they also make a great option for photographers and in fact, are the most popular type of hat you’ll find for people taking pictures. The brim is wide and very flexible. It doesn’t get in the way of the camera, and the wide hat provides complete protection for the neck and face. Although some people argue these hats aren’t very stylish and can ruin a professional look, it’s a favorite choice among photographers.
- Floppy sun hats. Many female photographers choose these because they’re wide-brimmed and very fashionable. These also won’t get in the way of the camera, provide sun protection, and are perfect for a photographer’s look if they’re taking photos along a beach or in a field of wildflowers.
These hats are a traditional and functional aspect to a photographer’s outfit. They’re a tried and true means of keeping out the sun and saving photographers from having to squint.
Does a photographer need to dress a certain way for a wedding?
One of the most common events photographers are booked for is weddings. In this case, it’s especially important that a photographer looks professional and does not call attention to themselves. While a photographer may wear a bucket hat, jeans, and sneakers during their typical photo shoots, for a wedding they should try to look a little more put-together and arrive wearing slacks or dress pants, black flats or dress shoes, and a button-down black shirt.
Is there ever a situation when wearing colors is okay?
There’s a lot you can do with color, and some people who are interested in the photography field might be disappointed to find out they generally will be dressing in black and muted colors. However, there are indeed situations when it’s appropriate to add some color to the outfit. For instance, some photographers match the colors of their outfit with the color of their own brand or their client’s brand. Or, if the photo shoot involves photographing a sports team, they might wear the team colors.
It’s important to keep in mind that color choices should reflect the context of the photo shoot. There is nothing wrong with wearing a little color, but there should be a reasoning behind the photographer’s selection. In the end, the aim behind their outfit is to refrain from becoming a distraction, no matter what.