Indianapolis Family Photographer | For Photographers Fridays | What the Amish Can Teach You About Portraits

You’re giggling, right? I was… at first, but then I took a second look and realized… yes. So what is it about the Amish that we can learn from when preparing for portrait sessions and preparing our clients in turn?


I can’t emphasize this one enough, and I won’t even go into detail. Take all of your technology out of your pockets and leave it in the car – no cell phones, no car keys, NOTHING. For my own sessions, I always offer to let clients put their items in my camera bag during the session. This allows them a chance to have a worry-free time knowing their belongings are safe… and not creating awkward bulges in their pockets. Indianapolis Family Photographer | What the Amish Can Teach You About Portraits | casey and her camera


When preparing yourself (or your clients) for an upcoming session, one of the most frequent topics of conversation is what to wear and how to coordinate. Simple fabrics are always best – solid colors in natural colors (just say NO to neon), minimal patterns, and clothing that fits. You may think I’m pushing it here, but really… think about the traditional Amish dress for a woman – it fits the body through the top, cinches in to emphasize the waist (although probably not the designer’s original intention) and then flows through the bottom. Now, I’m not saying you should wear an Amish dress to your session if you’re not Amish, I’m simply saying you can follow these same practices:

  • Be conservative with your colors. Natural colors (think primary colors… darker hues like below) and NO NEONS!
  • Find clothing that fits you – and that you’re comfortable with. Clothing that moves with you is always a good idea.
  • Keep your patterns minimal – you are the focus of the photo, not your clothing.

Indianapolis Family Photographer | What the Amish Can Teach You About Portraits | casey and her camera


Ok, this is probably a stretch here, because it’s easy to see that the Amish don’t accessorize with makeup, jewelry, scarves, or otherwise. However, they always have layers, right? Aprons or headwear worn for religious reasons, or the guys often wear suspenders (sensible AND stylish!!) and we can take something away from this. Layers give your outfit variation. The Amish get this. They intentionally dress plain for religious reasons, but their own layers visually break up the solid colors and pattern-less fabrics. For sessions:

  • Layers are versatile. Take off a necklace, bow tie, vest, or scarf, and you’ve got a secondary ‘look’.
  • Accessories visually break up large areas of bold color… see above!
  • Details in your accessories can become the focus of an image to help offset an album. Plus, they give you something to do with your hands!

Indianapolis Family Photographer | What the Amish Can Teach You About Portraits | casey and her camera

In all seriousness, though, what dressing for your session is really about is finding a style that represents you and your family, that is comfortable for you, but fluid enough for you to ‘live’ within your session as it is not my style to do a lot of sit-and-pose-shooting. As a teenager, I thought getting supremely made-up was the way to go for photographs… it was how I could look my best. I would come up with some elaborate outfit for something as simple as a quick family snapshot in front of the Christmas tree. My hair was down, my makeup was exaggerated, my outfit was straight out of a Forever 21 store front.

And I was terribly uncomfortable.

Family photos usually ended (and sometimes started) in tears for me. I was usually frustrated with my tights or just plain uncomfortable in them, I was bothered by a giant bow that was tied around my waist or hitting me in the face, and my hair was making my neck itchy. It happened EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. And you can totally see it in the photos.

The end of every family photo we took growing up ended with me rushing (literally, running) from the room to change my clothes and never wear any of those items again. The makeup was toned down, my hair was thrown up, and I became me again.

I’m a firm believer that your family photos should look like you. They should be representative of what you would normally wear, how you would normally look. My hair is up 85% of the time, but I absolutely style it down (or partially down) for a photo. I wear ZERO makeup on a daily basis, but I take the time to either get my makeup done, or do it myself. Women: makeup will accent your features when done right for photos. Wearing it a little heavier than normal is what will make you look ‘natural’ in a photo. Don’t be shy! As for clothing, I always feel a little extra ‘special’ when I have something new, so I choose to get something new when we’re going to be taking a photo. I take the time to make sure I’m comfortable in it, can move, and that it doesn’t contain tights… but that’s just me. 😉

Indianapolis Family Photographer | casey and her camera

If you’re thinking about scheduling a session, but are unsure of what to wear, just ask! I’m always up for having conversations with clients about what color schemes would work best, outfits would go together, and ultimately would achieve the look that is your family. Plus, as the photographer, I get a little giddy myself when clients start including me in their wardrobe choices and send me photos of outfits and accessories in advance. I automatically start thinking about shots and set ups and poses that would highlight these pieces… I just can’t help it!

So the next time you’re stumped about what to wear for your upcoming family session, let’s chat!

Indianapolis Family Photographer | casey and her camera

casey and her camera is an Indianapolis Family Photographer specializing in family, couple, lifestyle, senior, and wedding photography for Indianapolis, Indiana and the surrounding areas.

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