As a mom, I know that getting everyone dressed and out the door can be a struggle even on your average, uneventful day. So when you’re planning a family photo session, choosing outfits that make everyone look just right can add to the stress.
To avoid the uncertainty of deciding what clothing to wear for family photos, I recommend planning ahead. Make sure you have plenty of time to pick out or purchase, wash, and iron attire for every family member. Also, if you’re ordering clothing online, don’t forget to leave enough time for shipping. When each person is wearing an outfit that makes them feel great, smiles come a little more naturally, shoulders loosen up, and everything comes together more easily.
After working with hundreds of families over the years, I’ve honed my advice to these simple tips for dressing your crew. Keep these ideas in mind when you’re deciding what to wear for your next family photo session!
5 Clothing Tips for Family Photos
Tip #1 – Do a little scheming.
Choosing a color palette of 3 or 4 colors and selecting outfits within that palette is an excellent way to keep a cohesive look. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be wearing the same color shirt and pants. Resist the urge to be too matchy-matchy. Find color scheme inspiration on Pinterest and then translate your palette into everyone’s wardrobe. Try to include some bold colors on top and some on the bottom, which will help the photo achieve a sense of balance. Also consider echoing tones through bold necklaces, shoes, shorts, hair clips, or other accessories.
Tip # 2 – Aim for 3D.
Layers and accessories add dimension to family portraits, but also give you the flexibility to incorporate a variety of color tones and fabric textures. Aim to have everyone’s outfit incorporate a minimum of 3 elements, which could be a skirt-cardigan-belt, or a jean-shirt-vest combo, for example. An ensemble made of 3 elements always looks just a little bit more complete, while allowing each family member to have their own slightly unique look.
Tip # 3 – Strike out beyond the Sunday best.
Looking dapper is great, but if your kids (or you!) are terrified of wrinkles in newly pressed pants, chances are their (and your) discomfort will ring through in the photos. If your child has a favorite piece of clothing or you have a favorite piece of jewelry, working that touch of uniqueness into the photo. Looking back years from now, remembering their favorite pair of pink converse will be sweeter than even the slickest suit and tie. If you have a special piece in mind, make it the priority and coordinate other colors around it.
Tip #4 – Know where your family portraits will hang out.
Making your photo session worth the investment means getting your images out of some forgotten computer file and onto the wall where they can be enjoyed and admired. If it is destined to be displayed on the wall or mantel, consider how the coordinated outfits in your family photo will work with the decor in the room. If walls are cream, mocha, or beige, consider some vibrant lively tones to make the images truly pop.
Tip #5 – Do a trial run & bring a backup.
Once you’ve narrowed down your looks, lay them out on the floor and snap a picture to see how you like the overall effect of your handiwork. You might notice that you’ve accidentally put everyone in solid colors, or that all the kids are wearing the same navy blue pants. Don’t panic. Just rearrange, adjust accessories, or send me a snapshot of your clothes so I can help!
With the right clothing, family photos can be stress-free and a lot of fun. Let me help you create the perfect look for your photo shoot with my expert tips for picking outfits for the whole family.
For more tips about what to wear in your family photos, check out these others articles I’ve written:
About the Photographer and Author:
Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!