What to Wear for your Family Photo Session

What to wear is probably the most common question I am asked before a photo shoot. Don’t get me wrong, wardrobe choices are really important, but try not to overly stress. I’ve got you covered! Below are some tips I’ve accumulated not only as a photographer, but also as a mom to two unruly, messy little boys. I understand. It’s stressful to be the one responsible for making your whole family look good… and stay looking good for an hour or so.

So here we go:

  • Coordinate but don’t match.
    • For family sessions, I suggest laying out everyone’s clothes in advance and coordinating as a whole. So maybe Dad refuses to wear anything but khakis and a navy sweater… Great! Put the kids in jeans (navy), and white + brown shirts / sweaters.  Maybe Mom can wear big brown boots and a khaki dress with a navy scarf or chunky earrings?
    • Thank globally, start with the hardest to dress first and plan around them. Or, conversely, start with one outfit that you love, and work everything else around that.
    • If you’re shopping for new outfits, try mixing and matching from the same store collection. For example, maybe you purchased a  floral dress for your daughter, have your other little girl wear the matching floral hair bow and a dress in one of the colors of the flower print. Work matching items across multiple people, so in the end you all coordinate.family photography
  • Wear colors that match your house 
    • Yep, that’s right! You’re going to love your photos so much that you’ll want to print and hang them up in your house, right?! So think about where you would want to hang them when planning your clothes. (So if you have a red couch in your family room, don’t wear orange)?
    • Don’t know where to start? Stick with neutrals. You can never go wrong.
  • Keep patterns + prints to a minimum
    • It just gets to be a bit too much. One or two great details are fabulous, anything more becomes distracting. Plaids + stripes are generally better underneath something (like a sweater or a coat) or maybe on a smaller accessory (like hair bow).
    • Use patterns strategically (and sparingly)
  • Add one or two really great details
    • A really great detail can make an image. For women, I love a great pair of earrings, scarf, fun books, chunky necklace, etc.  Something that pulls everything together. (So maybe, I would dress my boys in navy and green colors, and I would add a chunky green necklace to add some green in there).
    • Think pops of color + texture. (Knits are great, metals (jewelry), pops of color)
    • For babies and younger kids, try a sweet bow-tie or a great knit hat, chic headband, etc.
    • I love heirlooms when appropriate.
    • I love watches as well. Family photography is a lot about hands and connection, so I like to work in an amazing watch or bracelets when I take self-portraits with my kids. baby in yellow hat
  • Consider the session surroundings
    • Having fall photos taken? Try a navy, mustard yellow, and white/khaki combination. That looks amazing!
    • Having a beach session? Try light blues, turquoise, khakis + whites.
  • And one last word … on shoes .. .
    • Here’s the thing with shoes, they are important. And most of us (me included. I do this all the time!), don’t pay much attention to our shoes. After dressing the entire family, somehow we run out of energy when we get to everyone’s shoes.  And kids grow out of those dress shoes like crazy!  Especially those boys. I get it.  So here’s the “thing” with shoes:
    • I’m a woman. I love a great pair of shoes. If you have them on, I will shoot them. Because who doesn’t love shoes? They do make the outfit.
    • BUT, I find that I often don’t include shoes in a photograph. Really, if you look through most of my images, they’re often hidden.
    • (The one exception here is when the family includes a little one that stands but doesn’t walk yet.  That’s when you’ll have a lot of poses that include a little guy being held up by each parent’s hand.  In that situation, shoes will be really obvious).
    • Also, I photograph outside often in wildflowers, and grassy areas, on mulch and in the woods. So sometimes accidentally wearing flip flops works out better than stilettos.

boy and his family

Wardrobe choices are important, and I found that when people give it a little time and thought, the photos do turn out better. But, try not to stress too much.  In all honestly, some of my favorite photos of my own kids are in clothes that I wouldn’t have specifically picked out.  In the end, it’s your family’s connection, love and personality that is the utmost important. Let that shine over everything else. Trust me… you’ll notice that more than shoes in the end. (And if you want some tips on how to let your family’s true personality shine, check out my blog post on that subject).

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