At this moment in time, I think this is the first ever post about the best clothing for photographers. This is a surprise to me, since I consider clothing for professional photographers an important topic. In fact, it’s particularly important if you are a wedding photographer, or anyone whose business depends on referrals and wants to look their best for their clients.
For the past 3 months I’ve been reviewing what I consider to be the best clothing for male photographers. My goal was to find clothing that looks great and is comfortable to wear for extended periods.
There’s a new breed of clothing which looks like smart, traditional attire but is in fact made from high-tech materials normally associated with sports wear.
UPDATE (September 2016): this post now includes some options of clothing for female photographers. Please keep leaving your recommendations for more clothing you ladies wear for photography so I can keep updating it.
Here’s another one for all the female ‘togs out there: the best camera bags for women.
Clothing for Wedding Photographers
The first wedding I shot I was keen to make an impression so made a special effort to dress as smartly as possible. I wore a well cut 2 piece suit with dress shirt, tie and fancy dress shoes which tapered at the toe.
Needless to say, after a few hours I was sweating my ass off and my toes were literally bleeding. Never again.
I think as a wedding photographer in particular, it’s very important to dress well. Not only does it show respect to your client, but if you get it right, you’ll be remembered by your guests as “that photographer who dressed really well.”
Other than your personality and demeanour at a wedding, the way you look is all that a wedding guest knows about you at this point in time. You could take the best pictures in the world, but if you make no effort in the way you look, you’ll devalue your worth.
The Best Clothing for Photographers
As far as I know, there are no fashionable clothes made specifically for photographers at this point in time. In order to find the best clothes for photographers, I needed to uncover clothing manufacturers who were producing items for people who put a high value on both how they look and how they feel.
Traditionally, smart clothes make you look great, but make you feel like crap. Comfortable clothes on the other hand allow you to move freely but make you look like you’re either off to the gym or ready for bed.
Luckily there seems to be an emerging niche that caters for the exact clothing needs of an active photographer. Here are my recommendations for the best clothing for male photographers.
Ministry of Supply
I was introduced to this brand of clothing by Jeff Newsom who said it changed his life. Ministry of Supply makes clothing that looks like smart office wear, but feel like active sports wear.
If you’re the kind of photographer who ducks down low, reaches up high, and paces around a wedding or production set working up a sweat, this type of clothing is for you.
I reviewed a pair of Ministry of Supply Aviator Chinos, which feature 4-way stretch integrated into the areas you move the most. This means that when you crouch down or kneel, the chinos stretch like lycra without any restriction.
Another feature that I really liked was the addition of urethane tape inside the waistband which kept my shirt from untucking when bending, twisting or sitting. Don’t be that photographer with his shirt tail hanging out…
The Aviator Chinos are made from moisture-wicking nylon which keeps them light and cool, and breathable pocket linings promote air circulation as you move. They also resist rain and repel spills.
When I first wore these for a wedding, I found myself looking in the mirror at multiple times throughout the day just to remind myself I wasn’t wearing sports trousers!
The best thing about these chinos and all the other items on offer at Ministry of Supply is that you never need to iron them. Just chuck them in a cold machine wash and tumble dry on low. This is a game changer for those who travel a lot – you can pull them out of your suitcase and they’re ready to wear.
Another item I reviewed was the Apollo Dress Shirt.
Also featuring a 4-way stretch for an athletic fit, the Apollo dress shirt teams together perfectly with the Apollo Chinos to create an outfit that looks fit for an office, but feels fit for a running track.
Boasting NASA engineered Phase Change Material, the Apollo shirt regulates your body temperature keeping you cool and wicking away sweat. I tested these claims out on a 35 degree day here in sunny Sydney, and found the shirt to perform very well, showing no signs of sweat the entire day.
Again, there’s no need to iron, which means I can throw a spare Apollo Dress Shirt in my camera bag or car ready for emergency use.
For those who prefer a more casual look at a wedding, I also reviewed the Atmos LT V-Neck T-shirt.
This cotton blend variable-knit t-shirt wicks away moisture, provides ventilation and moves closely with the body like a second skin.
Whilst I’d never wear a t-shirt to shoot at a wedding, (although I know many successful wedding photographers who do), I have worn the Atmos LT T-shirt every other day for a few weeks and love how it feels and performs.
I’m considering replacing my entire plain t-shirt collection for a set of these, as they’re perfect for the summer out here.
One final thing to note about buying your clothes from Ministry of Supply is that the trousers come very long. This is so that you can have them adjusted to your exact fit, then send the tailor’s receipt to Ministry of Supply who will refund you! Now that’s great customer service.
For the Ladies
As of September 2016, Ministry of Supply (rebranded to simply ‘Ministry’ now offers a great range of womens clothing.
Looking smart and attractive and feeling comfortable has always been difficult for female photographers.
When your job involves being on your feet for long periods, crouching down low, climbing up high and everything in between (I’m looking at you, wedding photographers!), you need something that feels like sports wear but still looks the part.
Thankfully, Ministry has answered your prayers with their range of revolutionary clothing, designed to allow you to move freely, keep cool and look sharp all at the same time.
According to their homepage, “Ministry combines innovative materials and purposeful design to solve the everyday problems presented by traditional work clothes.” Basically this means comfortable clothes that look great.
Top of the list are the ‘Structure Your Day Slim Leg Pant‘, with extreme stretch and all-day shape retention, meaning no saggy knees or seat. These are billed as the wear-to-work pants that look as good as they feel.
Photographers often need to crouch down low to get the shot, and with regular pants/trousers which feature stretch, the knees can often become saggy by the end of the day. The Structure Your Day Slim Leg Pant are designed to resist this sag, keeping them looking sharp and tailored throughout.
If you prefer a more traditional wider cut, there’s also the Structure Your Day Classic Leg Pant which are identical except for a slightly wider leg.
Both pants are cropped at the ankle which is great for hot weather shoots, so you’ll need some ‘no-show socks’ for your shoes like these popular ones by Osabasa.
The Structure Your Day Slim Leg Pant are made of moisture wicking, wrinkle free fabric (94% nylon and 6% PU), which also allows a unique 4-way stretch.
Available in black, charcoal and navy blue, they look great teamed up with a crisp white blouse like the ‘Easier Than Silk Shirt‘.
Available in black, blush, ivory and pale gray, the Easier Than Silk Shirt gives you the drape and feel of high quality silk, but without any of the traditional hassles.
Featuring 4 way stretch, moisture wicking, anti-odour and a machine-washable, wrinkle free design, there’s no need to waste your time ironing – just throw it in the tumble dry on low after a machine wash, then it’s ready to wear.
As its name suggests, the Easier Than Silk Shirt is soft to touch and feels just like you’re wearing a silk shirt -again, perfect for hotter climates, and thanks to the moisture wicking/anti odour, you can remain confident until the end of the day.
As another take on the classic silk shirt, the Easier Than Silk Nehru offers a fashionable collarless neck and hidden buttons, with cute, contrast buttons at the neck and wrist fastenings.
Constructed from the same active material as the Shirt, the Nehru offers the comfort and good looks of silk without the maintenance. If you’ve ever worn a silk shirt on a long, hot day, you’ll know how terrible it looks come sun down. Laundering it is a nightmare too, usually necessitating dry cleaning.
Thankfully all the Ministry clothing for women photographers means there’s no wasted time spent behind the iron board – just throw it in the wash, then hang or tumble dry and you’re good to go.
Outlier has a die-hard following of obsessive clothing fans who swear by the attention to detail, high quality and functionality of their pieces.
I was keen to review some of their most popular clothing items to see what the fuss was about, and why they are able to command such high prices.
Outlier doesn’t specify who exactly their clothing is aimed at, but several of their pieces struck me as perfect for a photographer. Indeed, the brand seems to care about photography judging by the creative model shots on their homepage.
The first Outlier item I tested were the Futureworks pants (or trousers to all my fellow Brits out there!) I chose these as they’re the lightest and most breathable trousers on offer by Outlier. Working in the sweltering Sydney summers, this is essential for me.
The fabric used in the Futureworks is strong and durable, but also manages to remain soft to the touch. The two-way stretch allows freedom of movement, essential if you crouch a lot during shoots.
The texturized Cordura grade nylon yarns feature a durable water resistant treatment that helps them keep them clean and dry – if you’ve ever spilled water on the crotch of your beige chinos before, you’ll appreciate this feature!
I was also sent a pair of Outlier Slim Dungarees, one of the most popular items available on the Outlier site. Described as a ’21st century take on jeans’, the Slim Dungarees are a tough and casual five pocket pant, cut for movement and made form comfortable but extremely rugged tech fabric.
The outer face is canvas weave comprised of Cordura grade nylon, making it strong and durable. The inner face is a loosely woven nylon-poly blend that has been made to provide a subtle softness. The result is a rugged, ready-for-anything fabric that stays both comfortable and breathable.
I’d consider wearing the Slim Dungarees in the winter for my shoots in Sydney since they provide more warmth than the Futureworks.
For those of you brave enough to wear shorts at a wedding, I wanted to review an item that looked tailored, but performed like a sports short.
When the mercury pushes over 35 degrees here in Sydney, I break out my shorts, pairing them with these boat shoes, a tailored shirt and bow tie. I don’t really have the legs for shorts (who does?!), but I like to think I still look like I’ve made an effort.
The Outlier New way Shorts are designed to be the “only shorts you’ll ever need”. Tailored like a dress short but built using performance fabrics so you can run or train in them. They even double as a swim trunk with water-ready details.
The New Ways don’t feature a turn up hem, but they’re well cut and still look respectable, also featuring a decent width belt buckle.
I probably won’t be wearing the New Ways to shoot weddings since I already have some dress shorts that perform adequately, but I have been wearing the New Ways almost everyday since I received them! I’m actually considering ordering a second pair in another colour…
I was also keen on reviewing Outlier’s range of merino t-shirts but unfortunately they weren’t in stock which hints to their popularity. The odour-resistance of merino wool seems like a great choice for photographer attire.
You have to admire a company that concentrates its efforts on one product and one product only. In the case of NYC workshop Bluffworks, that product is the humble chino.
The Bluffworks chino has been developed to fulfil the needs of its founder Steffan Loble, in his quest for the ultimate pair of trousers. I admire independent companies that are so passionate about their products, so I knew I had to reach out to Steffan to review his products for Shotkit.
The first pair of trousers I tried were the classic Bluffworks chinos. These comfortable, soft, wrinkle-free trousers were also designed to both look smart like office wear and offer the mobility and breathability of sports wear.
The Bluffworks Chinos are marketed as a travel pant, and it’s easy to see why – aside from the wrinkle-free material and stretch construction, they feature zippered internal pockets (as well as regular pockets) to deter pick pockets. I made use of the zippered pockets to carry my memory cards without the fear of them falling out when I sat down.
I particularly liked the discreet side pocket which allows you to store your phone without creating any unsightly bulge in the front of your leg (or are you just pleased to see me?)
Whilst the Bluffworks Chinos are casual and soft, the Bluffworks Originals are a pair of more lightweight and breathable trousers, perfect for hot weather use.
They have a wool-like appearance, so are better suited to formal settings. However, the Originals don’t feature any stretch so may not be as well suited to all those commando-like wedding photographers out there!
They are somewhat expensive, but once you’ve worn them all day at a shoot, you’ll be considering ordering another pair just in case they ever stop making them!
Not only are the Cole Haan Lunargrands funky and fashionable, but more importantly, they’re also damn comfortable. I jog in pair of Nike Lunarglides, and I feel like I could easily jog in the Lunargrands too!
It may sound a bit superficial, but wearing something a little different to a wedding as a photographer can make you more approachable, since it allows an easy conversation starter. Pick-up artists call it ‘peacocking‘! I just call it ‘making yourself memorable’ ;-)
For the Ladies
Cole Haan also do a great range of shoes for females which feature a more subtle approach to the ‘sports sole + smart upper’ design that’s so popular with photographers.
The GrandRevolution range of loafers, pumps and heels features a heel unit which absorbs every step of impact and returns it to you with a bounce of energy – in short, it’s like a bouncy sneaker but with the look of a leather sole.
The Cole Haan Women’s Sloane Penny Loafer are one popular option – you’ll never know that such a dressy, classic loafer actually contains the technology of a sneaker, allowing you all day comfort.
If you’re looking for a bit more of a statement shoe, but still want it to appear smart (at least from above!), but function like your favourite sneaker, the Cole Haan Women’s Zerogrand Wing-Tip Oxford features some funky colours that can give a unique twist to your outfit.
Finally if you’d like a super simple slip-on ballet style flat which still provides enough thickness and comfort in the sole for all day standing, the Cole Haan Women’s Zerogrand Stagedoor Stud Ballet Flat are a great option.
Available in a range of colours, the Flats can be doubled over and stored in your bag as a spare pair of shoes, or carried easily in your luggage when travelling for photography.
The Cole Haan Women’s Zerogrand Stagedoor Stud Ballet Flat may well be the most expensive (and long-named!) pair of ballet flats you buy, but with the comfort and long-lasting capabilities of the patented Grand OS technology, these will be an investment you’ll thank yourself for at the end of a long shoot.
Timberland boat shoes are my other favourite shoe for wedding photography. I like to pair them with beige coloured chinos or shorts.
I love how you don’t need to wear any socks, and thanks to the high quality leather insole, they’re both comfortable and odour-resistant.
Personally I think the white, low-profile sole of the above Timberland 2-eyed classic boat shoes look the smartest, but they do lack a bit of grip when the ground is especially slippery. You may want to opt for the more rugged soled 3 eyed variety below:
I hope you enjoyed this post on what I consider to be the best clothing for photographers currently available.
Disclaimer: Whilst I did receive some product samples, I wasn’t paid to write this article, and I don’t get any commission from any of the clothing companies mentioned below. If you’d like to show your appreciation, hit one of the share buttons so everyone can benefit!