The 9 Best Tips To Plan Your Summer Family Photos and What to Wear

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The 9 Best Tips To Plan Your Summer Family Photos and What to Wear

Summer is the time of year that we begin to think about family portraits! Maybe you’re a photographer who needs some direction for your clients? Perhaps it’s time for summer family photos for your family or the whole extended family.

Either way, I’ve got you covered with this guide full of great ideas for summer family pictures.

Summer vacation is the perfect time for family photos and here’s why:

1.    Summer is less busy for professional photographers, who shoot the bulk of their sessions in the fall.

2.    School-aged children are much more readily available. You won’t have to work around a school schedule or school year sports and activities. Bedtime is a bit more fluid, making those golden hour shoots perfect!

3.    Young adult college students make their way home in the summer months, so no worries about scheduling around their weekend visits.

4.     The extended family reunion! The perfect time to schedule photos is when you’ve got grandma, grandpa, and all the generations gathered! Get the whole family involved!

5. Summer allows you to explore great places outside. Warmer weather allows you to choose from many fun ways to enjoy your family photo session.

Now let’s talk about choosing your family photographer.

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1 – Choose Your Family Photographer

My first and most important recommendation is to hire a professional photographer. Why is hiring a professional photographer a good idea? Because these photos will be with you for a lifetime.

Now is not the time to scrimp on a bargain-basement photographer. Remember that a professional will be able to provide you with high-quality photos and will know how to work with your entire family, from youngest to oldest, happiest to grumpiest, to get the best shots.

She will also know how to capture the perfect lighting and has likely spent hours and hours learning her craft. Click HERE for the best reasons to hire a pro and not just a friend with a fancy camera! 

Do your research and check out local professional photographers in your area. Check their portfolios to see what their images look like and read their reviews. Ask around and see who your friends and family have used. When asked, most people are excited to share a good experience, and many local professional photographers prefer to work with referrals.

A family photo with parents and two boys with a wooded background

2 – Choose Your Date Well in Advance

Plan ahead when choosing your date. You want to have plenty of time to choose your family’s wardrobe and coordinate with the extended family if they will be in your photos.

Now is the perfect time to point out this less obvious note. Don’t plan any adventurous activities the week before your photo shoot.

This warning may seem silly, but it will do you well to consider it. You don’t want a broken arm, a scratch on a forehead, or stitches showing in your images if you can help it. Of course, if it does happen, check in with your photographer and have a chat about it before the scheduled shoot.

Your photographer may offer a reschedule. Or she may be able to retouch those stitches if you choose not to reschedule. Do not worry either way. A big ole bruise will add to the memory of life at this stage.

3 – Choose the Right Place for Your Photoshoot

Another part of the process for making your appointment is to choose a location. A professional photographer will likely have a few favorite places to choose from to fit your family’s needs.

In West Michigan, where I live, beach sessions are very popular for a summer photo shoot because of the many lakes and beaches available.  You could also consider an urban setting or a park. I’ve even seen creative family sessions in the local Target!

Talk to your photographer and share your ideas. She will be happy to make suggestions and consider your thoughts before settling on a location.

Mom, dad, and daughter holding hands walking along the beach

4 – Choose Your Appointment Time

Once you’ve settled on a location, you’ll need to pick the perfect time and de. As your photographer what she recommends for family sessions. She will be able to advise you, considering the time of day that works best for your family.

In my experience photographing families, the golden hour makes the best lighting, so don’t be surprised if that comes up for you.

Click HERE to see some amazing prompted poses

What is Golden Hour?

Golden hour is the first hour in the morning after sunrise and the last hour before sunset in the evening. Light at those times of day is of a golden tone and very soft and flattering. Of course, if you are working around small children and bedtime, the evening may be tricky.

Late afternoon is my second choice for families with small kids if Golden Hour doesn’t work for you in the morning or evening. They will be fresh from naptime and full of energy and good spirits. The afternoon is also an excellent time for natural light as the sun is not so high in the sky and casting harsh shadows.

A professional photographer will be able to work with your needs even while considering natural light conditions. Together you can decide on a time and location that provides shade if necessary.

5 – Let Mom Set the Mood

I will talk directly to the mom here, so listen up, mom!

Experience as both a mom and a photographer has taught me that the husband and family will follow your lead. If you feel great and are ready to have fun, your family will follow suit.

If you are stressed, then the family will also be stressed. So, the most critical point to remember while getting yourself ready is to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the day. There is no better time to practice 5-minute self-care than now. 

Take this great tip and run with it! You can and should treat yourself to a little pre-photo pampering. 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. Today is a fun day, and it should start with fun! If you look fabulous, you’ll feel fabulous. If you feel fabulous, then your family will, too.

Related: Is it Cool to Take Photos on the Train Tracks?

family photo from an autumn photoshootvwith gates and barn in the background
Portrait of happy family with small children standing on farm.

6 – Start Thinking About Family Photo Outfit Ideas

Now that you have the big date on the calendar, you can begin choosing your wardrobe! The choices you make for your family’s outfits should be comfortable and reflect your family’s style.

Here are some tips for when you’re ready to pick out clothing for the big day!

1 – Start with Mom

A great place to begin when choosing outfits is to start with mom. As we talked about, mom sets the tone, so mom should feel GREAT on picture day. Mom is usually the style setter in the family anyway and sometimes the trickiest to outfit.

Be sure to pick clothing that allows you to move freely and makes you feel amazing! You simply must be comfortable in the outfit you choose. Wonder if it’s true? Click HERE to read some of the science behind how wearing comfy clothes will manage your anxiety.

Don’t set yourself up to be frustrated with an outfit that needs constant adjustment. You will want clothing that allows you to interact freely with your kids without worrying that your neckline is too low or your top shows too many bumps or rolls as you move.

Once you’ve decided on what mom’s going to wear, you can move on to the rest of the family.

2 – Choose Clothing that Your Family Feels Great in, too!

It’s so much easier to BE comfortable in front of the camera when you FEEL comfortable! Little kiddos (and sometimes spouses) in stiff and tight clothing make for stiff and tight smiles.

For your husband and boys, consider shirts that can be untucked and offer freedom of movement. Think about the men in your photo also. Look at different textures of clothing, and decide if you want them in long pants or shorts. Beware the hairy legs that may be a distraction! 

Your job is to have everyone camera-ready for the big day. Once you arrive, your job is done. Your photographer now gets the job of capturing the joy of your family having fun. It makes everyone’s job more manageable if you and your loved ones wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

A note about shoes: Great shoes are a great choice, but if you plan to wear high heels or tricky shoes, please throw in a pair of comfies that you can slip on to get from place to place. Another fun idea for a summer shoot, especially at the beach, is to have everyone skip the shoes and show off those bare toes!

3 – Coordinate Colors but Don’t Match!

Now that you’ve selected your mom outfit, choose a couple of main colors from your look. Now coordinate everyone’s family photo outfit from those colors. You can get quirky here if you like. Flip flops and swimsuits or matching sun hats may not be a classic look, but they can certainly make a fun photo!

Another fun family idea is to work with a specific color for the ladies and a different color for the gents. A mom with her little girl in coordinating colors and dad and the little boy in their own coordinated duds can be darling! 

A great way to get some inspiration is to create a Pinterest board full of ideas. Seeing some examples of color schemes and style ideas is a great way to organize your thoughts about what look you’d like for your summer family portrait.

A family photo with an urban backdrop and child holding toy camera

4 – A Special Note for Extended Family Photoshoots

If you are including extended family in your photoshoot, blue jeans are a great option with one or two main colors. Encourage solid colors for a classic look. Too many conflicting patterns can make a large family photo busy and take the focus off of the people included.

Another great read: Self Care Bingo – One of the Very Best Self Caring Games for Personal Growth

5 – Coordinate With Your Home Decor

Take a cue from your home decor to style your outfits and even the location for your photoshoot. If you live in a woodsy area surrounded by forest, and your home is decorated to match the setting, you may not want an urban scene as your backdrop when you hang your portrait on the wall.

Go for color schemes and a style that will look great with your décor and coordinate with your home’s colors. Bright colors at home? Throw in a pop of color with dad’s tie or mom’s jewelry. Pick a funky cityscape for your setting.

Subtle, earthy shades in neutral tones? Stick to the theme with a neutral color palette and classic outfits. Perhaps a wooded scene filled with neutral colors will best suit your décor. Warm colors in your home? Then go ahead and choose different shades of warm colors for your outfits. Perhaps the warm colors of a sunset at the beach or in a field will best complement your decor.

Coordinated outfits for family portraits

6 – Patterns and Plaids, Oh My!

Let’s talk about how patterns fit in with your outfit choices. Patterns are great fun in limited doses. If one person is wearing something busy, get busy picking out something a little more pattern-less for the rest of the family. Solid colors are your friend!

If you choose a printed piece for a family member, opt for a small print over a large print. Small prints are less distracting and won’t take the viewer’s eye away from the focus of your portrait, the people!

On a side note, this is a great place to mention how you might want to avoid the latest Star Wars-themed shirt or Paw Patrol tee.

Quirky or super trendy clothes can be fun and look great, but consider how this photo might make you feel when you look back on it when your kids are grown. If you can’t live without a trendy touch, then accessories are your friend!

7 – Accessorize Yourselves!

Consider bringing along a trendy hat or a popular printed scarf to mix your look and show your family members individual personalities. You may not use them in every shot, but it is lovely to capture a moment with you feeling free and fun. These are the memories that you will cherish.

Layers are another way to add some variety to your images without the complications of bringing a whole second outfit along. An extra layer such as a cardigan or shawl will be welcome on a cooler evening and can easily be used or set aside.

A family of 4, all wearing plain shirts

8 – A Word About 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 everyone wearing all solid blacks and whites if you can. Bits of black and white in accessories such as a tie or a scarf are okay. Even a white shirt can look lovely if accessorized with a pop of color.

9 – A Few final notes on clothing choices!

Don’t wait until the last minute to try on your chosen clothing. You will want plenty of time to make adjustments if something isn’t working right. Stand in front of the mirror and test your look to see how it performs while holding the baby or bending down. Your photographer can make some slight adjustments, but you won’t want a bra strap showing in every image or an inch of your hubby’s hairy belly hanging out on picture day because that size L isn’t quite as large as you thought it should be.

To sum it all up, choose simple, classic styles that reflect your tastes and color choices, and then add some pizazz with an accessory or two. Or three.

Click HERE for a peek at what goes into editing your family portraits.

Family photo with parents giving kids piggyback rides

7 – The Day of the Shoot

Now that you’ve done all of your hard work in putting together the perfect family photo outfits, it’s time to relax and have a great time at your photoshoot. Remember that this day is all about making happy memories with the people you love the most.

You won’t want to remember bickering with your husband or your kids every time you look at your photo. You want to look at that photo and remember how much fun you had together as a family. Truly relax and let the photographer guide you through the session.

If the kids aren’t smiling perfectly or someone’s hair is not parted quite right, remember that it makes unique memories and captures your family’s spirit exactly how it is. Your family is unique and special, and you don’t want perfection. You want joy!

Treat yourself to a fun way to enjoy your self-care with this printable self-care Bingo game.

8 – What to Bring

Now that you’re dressed and ready to head out the door for your fun day, be sure to throw in the bag with a few essentials that you may need behind the scenes!

1 – Don’t forget the props! Don’t be afraid to throw in a few special prop items that will mean something to your family. A well-loved picnic blanket makes the perfect accessory for your family to sit on either on the beach or in the grass.

Go ahead and pack your child’s favorite blankie or stuffie for the occasion. You will love to look back on your sweet little one with her favorite doll or that silly hat she won’t ever take off. Allowing your child to bring a special toy helps them feel involved in the fun of prepping for photos as well!

2 – Remember some snacks! Pack a few items to stave off any hunger or thirst emergencies. A water bottle and some pretzels make a speedy, low-mess snack. A bonus might be a few Smarties, which are also low-mess and can be dished out one or two at a time for restless kiddos who may need a little incentive to get just one more shot!

3 – Pack a few grooming essentials. Don’t forget to bring along a few items that will help keep everyone looking tip-top. A pack of baby wipes is perfect for an on-the-go cleanup, a hairbrush or comb, and a small mirror will handle any last-minute hair emergencies, and even a little hairspray can come in handy.

4 – Pack a helper if you can. This may sound silly, but trust me when I tell you that an extra set of hands could be the perfect add-on to make the day smooth. Consider hiring a babysitter to come along and help entertain the kids while you snap a few photos of you and dad. Or maybe grandma or an in-law would be willing to come along to give you a hand. You can always bribe them with an ice cream stop on the way home!

a family with a child on dad's shoulders and mom holding a picnic basket

9 – What NOT to Bring

I would be remiss in not giving you a few ideas of what not to bring or do for photo day, so here you go! Leave these items or attitudes behind.

1 – The expectation of perfect performance. Your family will not perform exactly how you expect or want them to, and that’s okay! Leave the thought of perfection behind!

2 – Messy treats like chocolates. Even baby wipes can’t conquer a slimy melted chocolate mess!

3 – Transitional Lenses. If you wear glasses all the time and need them in your photos, then the best thing you can do for yourself and your photographer is to wear a spare pair to get you to the location and have your optician temporarily pop the lenses out of the pair you want in the photos. A pro photographer can work around clear lenses, but transitional lenses are almost impossible to deal with in the summer sun. Most Optical Retailers can pop your lenses out for you and put them back in after so you don’t risk scratching them.

4 – Baggy, oversized clothing. They won’t flatter you. Trust me.

5 – Tank Tops or strapless tops. If you love your arms and have worked hard to show off those guns, then disregard this tip. Otherwise, trust me on this one. 

6 – Shiny fabrics. Shimmering, shiny, quick-dry fabrics can all cause glare in images. To avoid this effect, go for cotton, linen, or another natural fabric.

7 – Soggy diapers. Bring a fresh diaper so baby can have a clean, dry bottom. A great idea is to use a diaper cover, which is way cuter than seeing a disposable diaper peeking out from baby’s clothing.

Wrapping it all up!

Whew! That feels like a lot of information, but don’t worry. You will be ready and prepared for your big family photo event with these tips and great examples! Prepare your family members for a fun and rewarding day of making memories. Did I miss any summer family photo ideas?

I hope you are inspired to begin planning your family photoshoot! If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or join my Facebook group HERE.

PIN image for Summer Family Photo Ideas showing the title and a family in tall grass




2 thoughts on “The 9 Best Tips To Plan Your Summer Family Photos and What to Wear”

    • Thank you, Jennifer! You’re welcome! So glad you found them helpful. And thanks for the hair compliment. I don’t know if I’ll ever not have pink hair again! 🙂

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