I get it. One of the most stressful parts of family photos is just choosing what to wear! We think we have to get it perfect before we hire someone to capture this season in our family’s life and feel like we never quite get there, so it can even become the thing that makes us keep putting a photo session off. It’s happened to me too, but I’m here to encourage you not to let that be the reason you don’t take family pictures this year!
Your memories are too important, especially if you have young kiddos who are growing and changing so much with every season. Buy them the new pants, even though you know they’ll grow out of them in a few months, and get the photos - it’s one thing I promise you won’t regret.
That being said, here are 10 tips for planning out your family photo outfits to help take the stress out of the process. There is also a bonus section if you keep reading with inspiration for where to shop!
1) Plan ahead and allow time to finalize the details
The number one tip for taking the stress out of planning is giving yourself enough time to pull everything together. If you wait until the week before your session, you might not have enough time to order that new dress you found online or find some accessories that will tie everything together.
2) Don’t be afraid to dress it up!
Elegant, timeless photos begin with your outfits. Think about that dress you love that you haven’t had any fancy enough events to wear it to or those colored pants he looks so good in. Maybe he prefers jeans on a day-to-day basis, but this is the perfect opportunity to make the most of capturing your most classy selves. In general, pants look best on men over shorts and flow dresses are very flattering on women (see tip #9 for more tips on flattering each person). This is me giving you permission to never feel like you are over-dressed!!
3) Coordinate, don’t match
What I mean by this is instead of having everyone wear as much as they can of a certain color, or everyone wear jeans and a certain color shirt, you choose a broader color pallet that gives some variety to the images and have everyone wear different types of outfits and layers that work well together.
Often, the easiest way to go about this is to choose one or two patterned pieces (often worn by the kiddos or perhaps a floral dress for mom) and then base the rest of your colors off of the ones incorporated in that pattern.
4) Think about the colors and style of your home
If you are hoping to frame some of these images for your walls, dressing in similar tones to your home decor can play a big part in tying everything together! Elegant outfits in your photos can really add to the overall ambiance of your interior design in this space where you spend so much time making memories with your loved ones.
5) Use the season to help inspire your color choices
Here are some ideas:
—Winter: baby blue, silver accents, forest green, maroon
—Spring: pastels, florals, blush, khaki, sage green, lavender
—Summer: florals, navy blue, muted pink, teal
—Fall: muted reds, oranges, yellows, tans and light browns, olive green, gold accents (layers are especially perfect for this season!)
**Bonus family photo outfit color tips:
I am a huge fan of muted & lighter colors over any of the primary colors, I think they help images feel more natural and timeless
Cream typically looks better in photos than stark white, unless paired with a bright color
In general avoid outfits with too much white (can make your skin look washed out and can look overexposed on a sunny day) or too much black (can start to lost detail if everything gets too dark) when possible.
6) Avoid large logos & tiny pinstripe patterns
Large logos are the biggest thing to avoid if you are hoping for timeless images. They decrease the quality of the image simply because the viewer’s attention is drawn to the logo instead of the subject - your beautiful family! For some reason, cameras don’t like tiny pinstripe patterns, typically found on mens’ shirts. They can start to look oddly warped in photos so avoid these when possible as well.
7) Consider the location for the shoot
How “busy” will the background of your photos be? If you’re shooting in a wide open field or in front of buildings with very simple textures/colors, you can get away with a few more patterns and variety in your outfits. If you are shooting in the woods where there is a lot of underbrush or in a part of the city where there will be lots of lights and textures and colors going on in the background, you might want to consider sticking to more solid colors and a little less layering to balance that out.
8) Include accessories to add interest
A great way to add interest and variety to your images is through accessories! Bracelets, rings and visible earrings and necklaces can be fun and ties for men who are willing to wear them can really class up the whole look! As much as I love scarves, be a little wary of wearing anything that will hide your entire neck as the neck is one of women’s most flattering and elongating features :)
9) Think about what will flatter each person’s features
In my experience, everyone has an area of their body that they are self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is and choosing flattering outfits and colors that complement your favorite natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos.
Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms. You could also bring along a cute jacket, blazer, or cardigan to use in some or all the photos. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those when possible if this is your goal.
Heels elongate women’s legs and close-toed heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe.
Bring along a pair of flats or flip-flops to wear when moving from place to place between photos, especially if you have little ones to keep an eye on. Your feet will thank you later!
Long, fitted pants and close-toed shoes are the most flattering for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it on his handsome smile. Fitted dress pants or fitted colored pants work best and solid shades of gray or navy greatly complement most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns on men can be a bit distracting.
Layers are extremely flattering on men and can really add some class to the images overall. A blazer or v-neck sweater with a long-sleeved collared shirt is a great choice for timeless photos. Next time you walk by a clothing store, notice how many of the male mannequins are wearing several layers - it’s a great way to take them from casual to dapper in a matter of seconds!
While kiddos tend to look adorable in everything, their outfit choices can really make or break it if you’re hoping for elegant images. Avoiding logos, colors that are too overly bright, and too many crazy patterns can be a challenge, but you can definitely find classy options to keep everything seamless. Imagine little suspenders or baby bow ties and ribbons that tie in the colors from mom and dad’s outfits - the possibilities are endless!
10) Lay out all the outfits next to each other to see how they look
Bringing it back to tip #1, if you can do this well in advance it will help you to stress less about it during the week before photos and will give you enough time to find or order any additional clothing items or accessories to finish the look. Feel free to send me a photo if you need another opinion! I’m happy to give honest feedback and then you can refer back to the photo to jog your memory when it’s time to get ready for your session :)
I hope you are able to use these tips to help you plan your next photo session, but above all, be yourselves. Just don’t be afraid to dress up a little more than normal!
Inspiration for where to buy clothes for your photo session:
WOMEN & TEEN+ GIRLS
These first three are my favorite and they have super flattering knee length and full length dresses, which has been so helpful for me since I’m 6’ tall :) Instagram is my recent favorite way to shop because I can see so many examples all in one place.
Journey Five - keep an eye on their “Deal of the Day” section
Wren & Ivory - extra great for classy maternity clothes and dresses for tall women
Amazon has also surprised me… the quality may not be as good as some of the smaller boutiques, but if you’re trying to find something cute just for this shoot, it’s a great place to check!
J. Crew - layers, colored pants, etc. - yes please
Target - surprisingly awesome options for pants (chinos and dress)!
Target - because who needs to spend oodles of money on something they will just grow out of next week?