It is the first question every family asks once they’ve booked their family portrait session. What to wear in their family photos. I can almost hear the stress in mom’s voice as she asks. It can be a bit stressful, I get it!
I’ve learned a lot over the years of helping my families simplify choosing outfits and looking picture perfect. And I want to share 10 tips for what to wear in family photos with you!
1. START WITH THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND
It may sound simple, but this is one that can easily be over looked. Some colors look great together and some… well, not so much. Before thinking about what to wear in your family photos or what color scheme to choose for your outfits, start by thinking about where you plan to display your portraits. And where your portraits will be taken. If the wall where you plan to hang your family portrait is brightly colored, you may want to avoid brightly colored outfits so the colors don’t compete. Instead opt for soft neutrals or muted tones. On the other hand, if your walls are neutral, pops of color in your outfits would look great!
The location you choose will also impact the colors you choose to dress your family in. Think about the overall colors of your location. If it is mid summer there may be lots of green in your portraits.
2. COORDINATE OUTFITS INSTEAD OF MATCHING
Gone are the days of everyone wearing white t-shirts and blue jeans. Today’s family pictures are more about coordinating than matching. Cue a sigh of relief! Ahhh! Everyone doesn’t have to wear the same color. Or dress in the same style! Each person in your family can dress in a way that fits their own personality. And you can still look pulled together in your family pictures.
I’m sure you’re wondering, How do we pull that off? And still look coordinated? Below are a few general tips. Be sure to ask your photographer too. They usually have lots of experience in helping families decide what to wear in family photos.
4 Steps to Perfectly Coordinated Outfits
- Start by selecting a color palette. This is usually 2-3 coordinating colors.
- I usually recommend that mom picks her outfit out first. Pick something in your color palette that you fall in love with and makes you feel amazing. When you feel amazing, it will show! And you will look amazing in your family portraits.
- Select outfits for the rest of your family based on your color scheme.
- Use accessories to pull your look together and help each member of the family coordinate with others. For example, in this navy and coral family outfit, mom wore a navy belt and navy statement necklace to coordinate with her husband’s navy shirt and daughter’s navy dress. The daughter wore coral shoes and a coral headband to coordinate with mom’s dress and brother’s plaid shirt.
3. GO FOR CLASSICS
Your family pictures will be enjoyed for many years to come. Hopefully they will be passed down to your children and grand children someday. Crazy to think about it that way, right? To avoid having your family portrait look outdated when next season’s fashion and color trends change, lean toward more classic styles.
4. MOM FIRST
This may be a first in a long time. And may not happen again for a long time. But mom, you get to go first! Pick an outfit that you feel amazing in! Let’s celebrate the fact that you will be in these pictures. You will get to love on and play with your family and create amazing memories. As a mom myself, I know that opportunity is rare. I am usually the one snapping away pictures. I am rarely in them. And… if I am, they may not ever see the light of day. I’m usually covered in baby spit up or have my hair up in a bun so my little one can’t yank anymore hair out of my head.
So moms, I get it. This family session is special and important for so many reasons. And one of those is that you get to be in them! As a family photographer, I want to make sure you not only love your portraits, but also love the way you look in them. And one way to make that happen is to make sure you feel fabulous in what you are wearing. When you feel amazing, it really does show in pictures. So, just this once, you get to go first! Go shopping! Find something that you love. Something that makes you feel amazing! And enjoy!
5. DON’T CHOP YOUR PICTURE IN HALF
You will see that I often use dresses in my inspiration boards for what to wear in your family photos. There are two reasons. Dresses tend to be flattering on women and in photos. Second, using dresses helps to add variation to the overall image and avoid a strong horizontal line in your image. Imagine if everyone in your family wore a light colored top and dark pants. If I took a picture of your family standing up, there would be a visual line at your waist separating the top half of the portrait (light colored shirts) and bottom half of the photograph (dark pants). By having different colors on tops and bottoms as well as using a variety of styles (skirts, dresses, pants and shirts) you can avoid this dreaded horizontal line and create a much more interesting family portrait.
6. SAVE THE LOGOS AND GRAPHIC TEES FOR LATER
There are a few items of clothing that are best to avoid all together. Graphic tees or clothing with large logos can look great in casual everyday wear. But in pictures, they tend to steal all the attention. So it is best to save them for another occasion. The same is true of any neon colors.
7. IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
So far we have focused only on the clothes. But it is the little details that can truly make or break a picture. Take a moment to pick out shoes to match each person’s outfit so an old pair of sneakers or flip flops don’t get thrown on last minute on your way out the door. You can also use your choice of shoes to add a pop of color to your outfit or to help pull two outfits together. This outfit inspiration uses a pair of yellow shoes to not only add a pop to mom’s outfit but to also pull the yellow from her daughter’s dress into hers.
Dressing in layers will add dimension and depth to your portrait. This is one of the biggest differences between sessions that look good and sessions that have that wow factor. During the cooler months, you may choose to add a tailored cardigan or jacket over a dress. This is the perfect opportunity to also add a layer of texture for even greater visual interest. For mom, this may be a light an airy lace shrug in the spring. Or a wide cable knit cardigan for the fall. The trick to pulling off layers is to keep them tailored so they look sophisticated rather than bulky. For little girls, textured tights under a layered skirt, paired with a top and a little denim jacket always looks polished and pulled together.
9. THINK ABOUT FAMILY GROUPINGS
Up until now, we have been looking at your family’s wardrobe as a whole. But if you plan to have a picture taken of just your children together, or a mommy daughter picture, be sure to consider how those outfits look together as well. If your daughter has a flowered dress on and you son is also wearing a heavy pattern, it may be a bit too much when they are the only two in the picture. If this is the case, you could select a different outfit for one of them. Or you could choose to add a solid sweater, jacket or cardigan to one of the outfits when they are paired together for a photo.
This outfit inspiration board is a great example of how a family’s outfits work well together as a whole, while looking equally thought out if mom and daughter or the siblings have their photo taken together.
10. SNAP A CELL PHONE PIC OF IT ALL TOGETHER
Lastly, when you think you have your outfits selected and ready to go, lay them all out together and take a quick cell phone picture of it. When you look at the picture, do you love it? Do you see anything that needs to change? It’s funny how a picture can often show us little issues. Maybe there is too much of one color. Or one little splash of yellow that needs to be tied into other outfits. This allows you to make small tweaks or changes before your big day!
Want more tips and tricks? Be sure to grab our FREE What to Wear Guide to help you start planning your perfect family session.
If you are looking for more inspiration boards about what to wear in your next family photos, I’ve linked to a few of my favorites below. They are grouped by season and color to help you find exactly what you are looking for.