What to Wear for Family Pictures

So you’ve cleared your calendar, made an appointment, and are ready to finally get a picture that will look better hanging on your wall than that cell phone picture a stranger shot for you on vacation last year. Good for you! Now you’re stuck at the next big question, what to wear for your family pictures.

Relax, it’s not that hard to come up with some ideas that are simple, stylish and won’t look out of date by next year. Knowing what to wear will make the day more comfortable for you, and easier on your photographer. After all, both of us want you to look your very best!

Plan Ahead

Don’t stress yourself by waiting until the last day (or the last week) to determine what you are going to wear for your family pictures. Plan ahead! And that doesn’t just mean collecting everything in time. You’ll also want to lay everything out the night before your shoot. If something needs to be ironed, or even laundered, you will want to know in plenty of time.

What to wear for a Family portrait in sunflower field
Matching your outfits to the location
creates a cohesive look.

Where Will the Pictures be Taken?

Consider the setting for your photo session. The beach, a forest, or an urban location all call for a different wardrobe. Suits and fancy dresses probably aren’t the best choice for images taken in a barn. And if you are going downtown, you probably want to leave the shorts at home.

Consider the season, as well. If you are having pictures taken in the woods in autumn, you will probably want to avoid short sleeves and summer dresses. Something about your dress should reflect a sense of the season.

However, unless you are taking pictures for a holiday card, wear clothing that is appropriate year round. I suggest that you begin a holiday shoot with a “normal” wardrobe, and then slip on that brightly color sweater, scarf or hat toward the end of the session.

Let’s Think About Color Choice

You’ll not only want to think about where you are going to take the picture, you will also want to consider where you are going to display it. What are the colors of the room where it will hang. Think of those colors as you decide what to wear for your family picture session. You don’t need to match them, but you will want them to coordinate with your overall color scheme.

Young couple family portrait
Matching, muted colors

You also don’t want to match one another. Develop a color palette around 2 or 3 principle tones. It’s best to start with neutral shades (think grays and tans) and then add coordinating colors. Beware of being too bold and showy. Muted tones are generally better, with a pop of a coordinated tone in an accessory or jewelry.

Finally, don’t forget to think about the colors in the background here. Shooting in a park in the summer time probably means a lot of green in the background. A complementary color (deep reds or even oranges) will help you stand out. Yellows and blues can also look good. You’ll want to stay away from browns and purple tones here.

In autumn, royal blues or tones that coordinate with fall foliage will look great. Avoid tan, pale yellows or anything else that will blend in with your surroundings.

Be Practical

Wear clothing that fits well, is comfortable (especially for smaller children) and allows the little ones the freedom to move. Be practical! Yes, you can dress up your pictures a bit with some fun accessories like hats, scarves and even bow ties, if you would like, but make sure that everyone feels good and can relax in what they are wearing.

Remember, if you are wearing something that makes you feel good, you will have greater confidence. And that will show up in the final images!

Start with Mom

Unless the “star” of the session is a new baby, or the recent graduate, you generally want to begin with Mom’s outfit when you are determining what to wear for family pictures. Maxi dresses are great! They are easy for seated poses, create nice long lines, and the fabric usually drapes well, flattering every figure. You might want to bring a jacket, not only to keep you warm, but to cover your arms.

Mom, you might want to consider your outfit as the anchor for everyone else. Don’t be afraid of a nice print (stay away from big, bold, distracting patterns that will take away from your face). The rest of the family can wear something more subtle.

As you add the pieces for the rest of the family, don’t forget to add textures, like knits, or tulle or lace. Scarfs, cardigans and blazers make it easy to add or subtract layers for more variety.

A few things to avoid

  • Shorts on men
  • Bright whites
  • Overly saturated colors
  • Low cut tops
  • Overly tight clothing
  • Visible diapers
  • Sleeveless tops (unless you want to show off your gym work!)
  • Transitional glasses

More questions?

Don’t hesitate to contact me with specific questions about your family’s session. I want you to feel comfortable so that you can look your best! In the end, my job is to help to present the best of your family to everyone who sees the final images. So be you! Use these simple guidelines to help you find what works best in your style as you choose what to wear for your family pictures.

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