As a mom, I know that getting everyone dressed and out the door can be a struggle.  So when it comes time to take family portraits it can be a scramble to find and choose the right ensembles to get everyone looking just right.

To avoid the nerve-wracking stress of deciding what to wear for your family portrait, I recommend planning one week in advance.  This gives you plenty of time to wash, iron, and purchase the pieces you’ll use. When every family member is wearing an outfit that makes him or her feel great, suddenly the smiles comes a little more naturally, shoulders loosen up, and everything comes together in a way you never thought possible.

Thankfully, after working with hundreds of families over the years, I’ve picked up on a few simple tips for dressing your crew. Keep them in mind when you’re preparing for this year’s family portraits!

5 Styling Tips for Family Portraits:

Washington DC family photography by Julie Kubal in Mount Pleasant

Tip #1 – Do a little scheming.

Choosing a color palette to coordinate your family 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 or Design Seeds 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, and barrettes.

custom family photos by Julie Kubal

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.

Washington DC family photograph

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 children have a favorite piece of clothing, jewelry, or family heirloom consider 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.

photograph of family with sisters in Chevy Chase, MD by Julie Kubal

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 your family portraits are destined for the wall or mantel, consider what how your outfits will work with the interior decorating. 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!

Professional Washington DC Photographer Julie KubalAbout the 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!