I am not here to tell you to dress the way I want you to dress.
I am not going to prompt you to wear a BOHO dress because it’s trendy, or go shirtless because it’s edgy, or don khakis and a white button down because it’s classic.
See, here’s the thing. There is nothing objectively better about any one of those outfits than the other. All of those outfits are ones that I have photographed and LOVED.
It’s not about the outfit; it’s about who is wearing it.
Christian + Mubina – Affinity Photos
Ryan + Allison – Engagement Photos
Mark + Gary – Engagement Photos
Dress to impress [yourself]
When I was a young kid and (if we are going to be honest) a not-so-young highschooler, my mom picked my outfits for me once a year from Kohls.
That meant polo shirts, khaki pants, clog-like shoes, and a nice blue jacket for warmth. I love my mom, and she’s always been incredible to me. She knew me better than most people at that time, but even still, she didn’t understand how to pick out clothes that would reflect who I was. My mom put me in outfits that she thought looked good, but they just didn’t feel like me.
I was embarrassed to wear half of what she brought home because it made me feel uncomfortable, like I was wearing someone else’s skin. Eventually, I asked if I could go with her and pick out my clothes for the coming year. They were rough choices in retrospect, but when I look at the photos of myself in those clothes, I can viscerally recall who I was at that time.
The few images I have from that time are a reminder of who I was then, and more importantly, the change I’ve undergone to become who I am now.
Chris Koeppen circa 2009
What does my amazing highschool fashion sense have to do with anything? It shows that I wasn’t always confident in my wardrobe. One day I made a choice, and I finally felt like myself. I’ve been making choices ever since, and now my clothing speaks to who I truly am. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can do this.
If you feel like you don’t know how to dress for your shoot, then maybe you need to try something new. Think about who you are and the things that you care about. Find pieces that represent those aspects of yourself and your passions, the things that you want to see when you look at your images.
If you’re a confident outfit coordinator but don’t know what will be best for photos, that’s okay too. Think of why you’re doing the shoot, what matters to you, and focus on reflecting that in the outfit you select.
Be loud, be quiet, be you
No matter how you feel about your sense of style, the most important thing is to feel like yourself. Ask yourself right now: “What clothes do I wear that make me feel like myself? What’s the outfit that makes me love what I see in the mirror?”
For me right now the answer is: Black hoodie, fitted black or grey jeans, and a pair of well-designed shoes.
It’s what I feel comfortable and confident in, and it validates who I am. I can see myself and say “Yup. That’s Chris.”
Chris Koeppen 2019
Photo by JD Melnick
Show ’em how it’s done
Now that we’ve covered the concept, let’s take a look of some of my clients who have nailed the execution:
Bethany – “Bring it on 30’s”
For her 30th birthday, Bethany decided she would gift herself a photo shoot. She wanted to document who she was at that time, and to celebrate her newfound confidence in trying new things. For her outfits, she wanted to balance feminine and androgynous elements as well as adding a little fun to a mature look. With this in mind, we picked a vibrant, urban location and she selected her ensemble. I asked her what her thought process was while selecting her wardrobe and you can read her explanations below:
“Secretary, but make it edgy”
“The ‘I don’t give a f**k what people think if I’m having fun’ Jacket”
“I thought the hat would be a nice touch partly because the purple coordinated and as a lowkey acknowledgement that I am a nerd”
(The hat is a logo for her favorite character Sombra from Overwatch)
Ray + Simon – “Post-rave fashion shoot”
These two are the definition of a power couple. They reached out to me with the desire for a non-traditional couple’s shoot that would celebrate their mutual love of fashion. They had a particular mood in mind: the images should look like they were out raving the night before; a bit disheveled but still super styled. For the location we settled on a beach, the simplicity of which would help contrast the bold attire they had chosen.
Ray (Left): Leopard Print Top, Gucci Fanny Pack, Black Jeans
Simon (Right): Black Dad Hat, Denim Jacket, Fox Print Sweater, Grey Plaid Pants
Simon (Left): Ochre Beanie, Fox Print Sweater, Grey Plaid Pants
Ray (Right): Black Flat-bill Cap, Black Shirt, Gold Chain, Printed Denim Jacket
Ray (Left): Leopard Overcoat, Black Shirt
Simon (Right): Leopard Sweater, Plaid Pants
If you’re gunna wear it, you’ve got to OWN it
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you wear; it matters how you wear it. I cannot stress enough how much confidence can transform an outfit. When I posted the set from Ray and Simon I got so many messages telling me how amazed people were with the style and how they wished they could pull it off.
Guess what? You can wear whatever the hell you want. It’s all in the attitude.
It’s okay to wear something that breaks the rules. It’s okay to express yourself through clothing. It’s okay to have fun. If it’s true to you, and it makes you feel amazing, then it’s right.
Kallie Kerns – Stunt Driver Portraiture Session
Spencer + Michelle – Engagement Session
CC Weske – Portraiture Session
Colson + Haylie – Engagement Session
If you are reading this far, I love you AND you get a bonus prize:
1. One of these image captions contains a secret link to an unreleased blog post of images
2. If you enjoyed this and want to read my previous blog, here is the link – I am a Colorblind Wedding Photographer