What To Wear: Family Photo Edition

Sep 6, 2021

The number one question I’m asked as I head into family photo season is “what do we wear?!”.

I have been shooting family photos for a decade now and I am finally creating a blog post for people to refer to when it comes to planning their attire for their photo session. Here are my top tips when it comes to finding your family photo inspiration!

Choose a Color Palette. If you have specific colors you’d like to have in your photos. Try to limit it to 3-5 muted colors. Neutrals are great, bold colors are great, but too many loud colors like neon or red/orange can really distract from the photo (some red/orange or neon could work fine, but try not to overdo it).

Notice how everyone kind of built off of the little girl’s floral dress for this photo

Shoe Choice Matters. Pay attention to the footwear on the family, not just the kids. Offer the option of brown shoes, black shoes, or all closed-toe shoes, or nice tennis shoes. A grungy shoe will drive you nuts when the photo is hanging in your family above the fireplace. Tennis shoes are totally fine, but avoid neon colors, yard shoes, or worn down tennies.

My husband was definitely on my sh*t list for this shoe choice for family photos.
These tennis shoes are great because they are neutral. This is the best option if he didn’t have any brown shoes to match the fam.

Dress Based on Location. If you are taking photos at the beach, too much khaki might make you blend into the sand, or too much green might be aggressive if you are going to an area with a lot of greenery, or blue next to the ocean, or white in the snow…I think you get my drift. Try to stand out against your background if you know the situation you are headed into. Look at Google images of the location beforehand or ask your photographer if they have any photos of other families at the location.

I loved how these blues and greens turned out next to the light, long grass. They stand out but are not too “loud”.

Print-Conscious. With each family photo session, I assume you are going to want to print these and either hang them on your wall or create an album. Consider that some colors will look better on your wall than others (neutral options are great in larger extended families, it will go with everyone’s living room decor).

Limit Patterns. Choose one pattern with the color palette you want, then build the other outfits off of it. If someone has an amazing floral dress, or plaid shirt, use that as your base, then coordinate outfits accordingly (depending on size of family, could have a plaid or two, stripe, and the rest are solid). More than one person can wear the pattern, but to keep it to only a few people and not the entire family. The being said, sometimes multiple patterns work well because they draw in similar colors.

I love how the floral dresses are not too overwhelming and they each bring in color from another sister’s dress.

Limit Stripes. This “rule” goes along with the “limit your patterns” one, but I love how this family below had a couple of striped shirts and another patterned jacket, but they are simple and aren’t taking away from the rest of the family. Smaller stripes are usually more flattering than larger chunks of stripes or patterns.

Perfect use of the multi-pattern look

The Same, But Different. Finding kids outfits can be tough, but I love how this family has the girls in dresses that are almost an inverted version of the other. A red dress with white flowers and a white dress with red flowers. Even the little guys’ plaids are similar enough that they go well together but don’t distract from the red of the photo. And can we talk about that gorgeous marigold color on mama?!

I love how each person brings in a little bit of color from another family member.

Minimal Holiday Set-up. A lot of Santa photos are full of reds and gaudy decor, but I try to keep things as simple as possible. The decor is a mix of greens, golds, cream, brown, and a touch of red. For studio holiday sessions, I keep things super minimal with greenery, white lights, and possibly a tree and garland.

Typical Santa Session Setup!

Know The Studio Vibe. If you are having family photos done in a studio, ask your photographer for samples of their work from that studio, and if they have never shot there before, maybe they have access to photos of what that studio will look like upon arrival. It’s best to keep things simple. Some studios have a lot of decor and others may have very minimal decor, so knowing this ahead of time will help you determine if you should wear patterns or keep things basic. As for me, I tend to choose very simple, minimally decorated, neutral-toned spaces where we are able to get creative with what we bring into the space, or maybe there is a brick wall, awesome plants, or cool windows to work with.

A couple of other pro-tips for your family photoshoot:

  1. Bring an extra outfit for kiddos. They might spill their lunch or snack on it, or maybe have an accident, you just never know, its worth bringing something along. Heck, if you have babies, even bringing a little extra something for the parents could be good just in case there is spit up or a blow out.
  2. Snacks are always a good idea for shoots. They can be used as bribery (for husbands or kids) and they can also help with everyone’s hanger as family photos can be worse than pulling teeth for some people.
  3. Bring bubbles/balloons/toys for kids. It’s an easy way to get them to smile candidly and have a great time. Wait to pull them out until the end or else they will end up being in every single one of your photos.
  4. Allow yourself plenty of time to arrive at the location. Not only will you most likely need to find parking, but you will also need to find out where your photographer is specifically shooting at your location.
  5. Pay attention to details. Remove all hair ties from wrists, phones from pockets, sunglasses from face/hair, hats, iron clothing, and bring a lint roller. Photographers don’t love editing these things out later and sometimes things are so hectic on shoot day that they may also miss them before the shoot. Try to keep those things in mind for your family.

I hope this was helpful and allows for you to get the most from your next family photo session! If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please comment below!

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