How to Dress Your Family for Timeless Photos

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Getting family portraits taken can be stressful!  I mean – all of the pressure to pick the perfect clothing and have everyone dressed and looking their best is super overwhelming.  Let’s see if we can reduce your stress a little here!  Once you have scheduled your session and have the big date on the calendar, you can get to work choosing your wardrobe.  Follow these great tips when you’re ready to start picking your family’s outfits for the big day!

What to Wear family photo

Mom Sets the Mood!

I’m addressing mom here, so if you’re not the mom and you’re reading this, bear with me.  In my experience of taking portraits and working with couples and families, I have seen over and over again that the husband and family will follow the lead of the mom. If you feel great and are ready to have fun, your family will follow suit. If you are stressed out, then your family will also be. It’s just the truth. So an essential point to remember while getting yourself ready for your portraits is to take a breath, relax, and enjoy the day.  It’s a fun day, right?

Here is my best tip!  You can (and should) treat yourself to a little pre-portrait pampering session.  Go ahead and make that appointment to have your hair fluffed by your trusted stylist, or, to save a buck, have a sister or BFF get in on the action and do your hair and makeup with you.  This is a fun day, and it should start with fun!  When you look fabulous, you’ll feel fabulous.  If you feel fabulous, then your family will, too.

Choose clothing that you feel great in!

It’s so much easier to be comfortable in front of the camera when you’re feeling comfortable!  Little kiddos (and spouses, if we’re honest) in clothing that is stiff and uncomfortable make for stiff and uncomfortable smiles.  Everyone prefers portraits with natural happy expressions, right?  It is my job to capture those natural expressions.  It is your job to have everyone ready to have a great time.  It makes everyone’s job that much easier if you’re all wearing comfortable clothing and shoes.

A note about shoes...

Great shoes are a great idea, but if you plan to wear high heels or tricky shoes, be sure and throw in a pair of comfies that you can slip on to get from place to place.

Coordinate But Don't Match!

Remember the ’80s and ‘90s when everyone in the family wore a matching outfit with matching colored pants and tops?  I do!  My family wore jeans, khaki, and pink for our portraits.  I was quite proud of those matching outfits at the time.  Those days are quite past now, so it’s time to put them in the past where they belong!  For today’s family portraits, it looks best to pick a couple of colors and coordinate everyone’s clothing around those.

Family photo with coordinating outfits for what to wear

Now there are exceptions to every rule.  You can get quirky here if you like.  Coordinated jammies are a whole bucketload of fun, especially during the holidays!  There are websites and stores that carry coordinating outfits for everyone in the family from baby to mom and dad.  Check Target or PatPat for some great options!  Here is one of my favorite holiday fun photos – my five kiddos in matching jammies on Christmas Eve.  They were such good sports about it.  This photo hangs on my wall all year round.  It’s unique because it is the last time I photographed all five of them together on Christmas Eve before they began moving out and launching their own adult lives.

Patterns and Plaids, Oh My!

Patterns are great fun…  in limited doses.  If one person’s gonna be in something busy, get busy picking out something a little more pattern-less for the rest of the family.  If you do choose a printed ensemble for a member of the family, opt for a small print.  Small prints are less distracting and won’t take the viewer’s eye away from the main focus of your portrait, the people!

Coordinated outfits for family portraits

On a side note, this is a great place to mention how you might want to avoid the latest Star Wars themed shirt or Spongebob.  Unless you’re going for that quirky look.  BUT!  That leads me to….

Accessorize Yourselves!

I love being creative!  Feel free to bring along a trendy hat or a favorite stuffy (even if it is Spongebob).  We may not use them in every shot, but it is lovely to capture a moment with your sweet little one with her favorite doll or hat.  These are the memories that you will cherish.

Avoid All White or All Black Clothing!

Solid blacks only work for Johnny Cash.  And solid whites tend to look a bit angelic and are pretty hard to work with from a photographer’s standpoint, so avoid them if ya can.  Bits of black and white in accessories such as a tie or a scarf are just fine, though.

One more thing to avoid...

Please avoid anything neon.  Those neon shades were so popular in the ’80s, and I know the ’80s are coming back.  But for technical reasons, neon colors are really tricky for the photographer to work with.  Simply put, neon colors will reflect onto the faces and skin of the person wearing them or sitting nearby.  When editing your photos for color, that neon reflection can create what we in the business call a “color cast,” and it is not always easy to fix and make skin look, well, skin-colored.  So to be on the safe side, nix the neons!

For a peek at what goes into editing your family portraits, read Surprisingly Simple Ways Pros Make Their Photos Pop!

Finally - Keep it Classic!

To sum it all up, choose simple, classic styles that reflect your tastes and color choices, and then add some pizzazz with an accessory or two.  Or three.  Beautiful portraits, here you come!

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