Elle Lavon - International Personal Style and Brand Specialist
With my 15 years of experience styling people all over the world - combined with Jason’s 10+ years portrait expertise on what does and doesn’t work on camera - these recommendations will set you up for success on the day of your shoot.
As far as style goes, no two people are the same. Jason and I both agree that style is an extension of our identity... a way in which we show up and express ourselves in the world each day.
There are endless ways in which you can visually translate your personality into a look that tells your story. One of the tools I use every day is the Style Archetype. For example, if your archetype is Classic, you might feel most at home in a sharp suit which speaks of chic simplicity. Or perhaps you’re the Creative and tell your story with an original and unexpected combination of vintage pieces… You might be a Bold archetype - commanding and impressive - in which case you might use strong colours or attention-grabbing patterns.
Find out your Style Archetype in Elle’s Style Book
From behind the lens, there are some standard guidelines that have been tried and tested over the centuries and proven successful. Jason’s personal stylistic preference? The simpler, the better. It means less distraction from the expressions we spend so much time developing.
So - any single, block colour is great. A simple black shirt can be one of the most powerful ways to frame human expression.
However, black isn’t flattering for everyone... especially if you’re fair. It can really drag you down and create a tired or flat look and make your skin lose its lustre. If that’s the case for you, then consider Navy or Charcoal for dark neutrals that won't suck the life out of you or if you’re very fair, go for lighter tones. In fact, as “standard” as it may seem, light blue is a great (and safe) option for those with a lighter palette.
If you’re not sure… give it your best guess and bring lots of options.
2 Frustrating Things EVERYONE Should Know:
#1 Certain things look TERRIBLE on camera that you would never realise until you get into the light and test the outfit.
Sometimes it’s our most expensive, favourite, most confidence-inspiring pieces that just sometimes just don’t work up-close, on camera. It’s weird and it’s really hard to pick beforehand.
Here’s a good example of what commonly goes wrong:
A lady came in a little while back with one of the most ‘boss’ suits I have ever seen. She did a bit of public speaking and this was her very favourite piece. She said she felt like she had superpowers whenever she wore it. We tested and found that the texture of it was hideous up-close, under lights, on camera. I stood there… looking at her in front of me… and then looking at the monitor with the test images… and then back again. Neither of us could believe how different it looked On Camera (terrible) vs. In Real Life (amazing).
Fabrics/ textures/ patterns/ fit & form heavily impact the visual outcome. It can sometimes be as simple as a tighter knit… or a looser knit, for that matter. It could be the way certain fabrics hold a structure that just doesn’t frame your face well for a few reasons… It could be any tiny detail normally imperceptible outside the scrutiny of up close portraiture.
#2 Certain things look AMAZING on camera that you would never realise until you get into the light and test the outfit.
Sometimes it’s “that old thing” you’ve worn for years... that piece that is just...YOU… Your Go-To. You know the piece that, no matter what, you always feel most comfortable in your own skin when you wear it. It works for almost any occasion and it just looks right in every way. Jason has a totally plain, collared dark grey shirt that is just… his shirt. He’s had it for years. It’s casual but dressy but simple. He wears it for anything and everything and somehow it just works. If he were being photographed, it would come with him.
Style Tip: Make a statement. Bring one piece that surprises you or pushes you a little bit (more) out of your comfort zone. Something adventurous, a truly bold expression of who you are, the epitome of your Style Archetype.
We all have that one totally awesome thing in our wardrobe that we bought when we were feeling adventurous but somehow haven’t had the courage to wear. BRING THAT!
We’ll test it and see right away if it works or not. If it doesn’t, we don’t waste our time exploring it further. We just don’t use it. We just try something else and move forward.
That’s why, if you’re not hiring a stylist, it’s best to have lots of options on the day so you and Jason can work it out together.
Photographic Insights - Gals
1. Let’s talk about sleeves… well, more precisely the absence or presence of sleeves... Especially in Headshots.
Don’t get me wrong here. We’re not talking about “toned” vs. “tuck shop” (which really should be considered when choosing which clothes to bring). We’re talking about something as simple as having the right balance of ‘skin’ to ‘not skin’ in a headshot. Pragmatically speaking, a headshot is just hair, face and shoulders. Headshots with an uneven skin : not-skin ratio just feels off somehow.
Sleeveless tops (if appropriate at all) are more suited to the realm of wider, more creative portraiture - waist-up with arms and hands in the frame. This gives a bit more context and balances out the skin : not-skin ratio with other information in the frame.
First Step - Download Elle’s Style Book for Women
2. Jewellery. The most important piece (especially in a headshot) is the necklace. Mainly, it’s one of the key ingredients that frames your face in a photo (besides hair & neckline). And part of it comes back to the skin: not-skin ratio. Sometimes adding a necklace to a more plunging neckline breaks it up a bit and helps balance out that ratio on camera.
Earrings get second place. Often the expression is so engaging they get overlooked. Although, short hair ‘ups’ the earring value and long or voluminous hair diminishes their importance.
Give it your best guess. Bring lots of options.
Photographic insights - Guys.
1. FIT IS KING. Neat fitting tailored items such as suits, trousers, jackets and shirts are always more flattering.
Visually, an ill-fitting suit that’s too big - whether it’s a $12,000 or a $120 suit - will make you look like you’re out of your depth. And the visual communication reflects exactly that. Not a good impression.
The good thing about photography is that we can always cheat a bit.
Clips and clamps are on hand to try to pinch up some of the looser fabric to create a better effect but ideally, you should wear clothing that fits you correctly.
First Step - Download Elle’s Style Book for Men
2. Bring options. A couple of jackets… A few different shirts… Some ties (if ties are your thing). There are pieces and combinations that just look better on camera than others.
Jason has a contrast ‘rule’ that he recommends to clients and tends to follow personally. Based on how our eyes have evolved, brighter tones closer to your face work better because that’s where our attention has evolved to go. An example of breaking this rule would be a lighter coloured jacket and a darker shirt. It unsettles the eye and almost never looks good on camera… Unless you also have a fedora, thick moustache and a cigar.
None of this is written in stone
Style is dynamic and surprises me almost every day
If you’re styling yourself, give it your best guess and bring lots of options
Nail your style 100% (no guessing needed) download Elle’s Style Book above for the next level in DIY style.
You can leverage all my years of expertise and show up for your shoot stylin’ in a look that tells your story without you saying a single word.
Whoa… That was a lot of information! I need a bit more help. What’s the NEXT STEP?
The Style Books are great place to get started. Wanna know even more about your unique style archetype? Ok, let’s do this.
The first thing every one of my clients does before we even start working together is complete this Discovery Questionnaire.
It provides every bit of information needed to build an accurate Style Profile that sheds a light on everything related to your style.
You'll find out what your style archetype is and how to use it not only in your photoshoot but also in your wardrobe, business brand, interior styling and even what car to choose.
Once completed, you'll get a personalised report of your Style Archetype.