This is the first question nearly every family asks once they’ve booked their family portrait session. What to wear in their family photos. Dressing myself and my husband and looking pulled together can be challenging enough, I can’t even imagine the thought it takes into dressing an entire family! I’ve learned a lot over the years of helping my families with suggestions and from striving to keeping up to date with current trends. And I want to share my favorite tips for what to wear in family photos with you!
1. START WITH WHERE YOU PLAN TO DISPLAY YOUR PHOTOS
You probably wouldn’t have guessed that, right? 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! Really, anything looks nice on neutral walls. If the room is mostly warm tones, choose colors to match. If you have a lot of gray in the room, choose a color pallet that compliments gray.
In the photo at the top, I absolutely LOVE the color pallet this mom chose for her photos. She wanted to compliment the fall season while adding a pop of yellow to match her decor.
2. AVOID MATCHING – COORDINATE YOUR OUTFITS INSTEAD
If you want your photos to have a late 80’s early 90’s feel, all you have to do is have everyone wear white t-shirts and blue jeans. No! Don’t do that! Well, unless you are looking to create an awkward family photo haha! 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 know that this can sound intimidating so here are a few general tips to get you started. Pinterest is another great medium you can use to find even more ideas.
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.
3. DON’T CHOP YOUR PICTURE IN HALF
Dresses really help prevent this from happening. 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. However, if you HATE dresses, don’t wear one!
4. SKIP THE LOGOS AND GRAPHIC TEES
There are a few items of clothing that are best to avoid altogether. 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.
5. AVOID NEON AND SUPER BRIGHT COLORS
Unfortunately, hot pink, neon green, bright red, and other vibrant colors don’t photograph very well. Our skin is reflective, and bright colors tend to add strange, not-so-attractive hues to our faces and any exposed skin in photos.
If you aren’t sure if a color is too bright, look in a mirror in a well-lit room and hold the piece of clothing under your chin. If you can see a hint of the color on your skin, you should consider a different outfit.
6. THE DETAILS ARE EVERYTHING
So far we have focussed 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.
Accessories and jewelry can have the same impact. A statement necklace can add a ton of visual interest, a pop of color, and can help tie a mom’s solid dress into her daughter or son’s outfit. Such a small accessory can really accomplish a lot for an outfit.
7. LAYERS & TEXTURES
Dressing in layers and choosing textures 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 and 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.
8. 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 your 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.
9. 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!
10. STYLING TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
The cooler weather of the winter season allows for some great accessories for your family photos. Think scarves, beanies and coats! Sweaters are very appealing clothing options for holiday family photos. Have the boys wear collared shirts with a sweater over while the girls wear matching cable knits. For a cute holiday twist wear matching pajamas in some of the shots. Add a pop of color to your outfit with a bright red lipstick perfect for the holidays.
Holiday Color Schemes:
- Navy and Crimson
- Glitter and White
- Crimson, Tan, Denim
- Red, Grey, Black
Thanks so much for considering me for your family portraits. I hope this has helped to answer any questions you might have regarding what to wear for your family photos with Kristen Herber Photography. If you would like pricing for family sessions, please click here. We also have a great post on some of our favorite places to take photos near St Paul Minnesota If you have any more questions or would like to talk to me about scheduling a session, send me an email to Kristen@Herber.com
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Kristen Herber Photography is located in Oakdale, Minnesota on the Eastside of Saint Paul and serves new families in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding areas.