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  • Writer's pictureKate Bek


Clothing choice is an important aspect of creating a successful family portrait. And it's an easy step to manage in advance. Here are a few favorites of advice: my top 3 dos and 3 Don'ts for dressing for family photo success.

If you’re like me, you may still come face to face with that old family photo boasting several generations in white shirts and khakis. Or maybe your parents also went for the same "siblings-in-plaid-prairie-pinafores" theme as mine did. In this collection of advice, we’re shying away from our scars of childhood and dressing for lifestyle photography. It seems like an oxymoron, right? How do you deliberately choose clothing when the idea is to look like your most authentic selves? Because of that, I always suggest you wear what feels like “you.” …Only in this case, it’s a little more carefully planned out. Here, I’ve compiled my top tips for family photography clothing choices and prep. Ironically, it can take a little more effort to “look natural” but it doesn’t need to be difficult or intimidating:

3 Dos:


(1) Plan ahead. So you've found a photographer, picked a date, settled on a location and booked your session. Whew! A series of victories have been won, but we're not stopping there, superhero photo-session-booker-researcher-planner. Nope! Next up: "What do we wear?!" It's going to be fine, you say. We'll just wake up and "you do you" sort of thing...?

First and foremost, whether your family has two people or ten, make sure every outfit is chosen and accounted for in advance. That outfit you think will fit perfectly, or isn't at a best friend's house, or doesn't have a hairy wad of dog drool on it, could prove you wrong the day of the shoot. Trust me, you'll thank yourself for the stress-reduction favor, and your photos will show it.

TIPS: If you’re already staring blankly into a closet, Pinterest is my favorite shameless, worm-hole of a great way to kickstart ideas and inspiration. For kids who love to be involved, you can ask them to make suggestions and modify their choices a little as needed. An if you're in the mood to let someone else do the thinking for you, head to your favorite clothing store that offers collections.

(2) Stick to the same color scheme. Match your colors, but don’t be matchy. You don’t have to have matching outfits, but tops and bottoms and accessories should all be of the same color wheelhouse. It might be easiest to identify the overall style you’d like to shine through in your session, and go from there with your color choices. For example: Soft & Elegant: Choose neutral colors with soft, flowing fabrics. Think creams, soft pastels, oatmeals, light browns, tans, grays, and slate blues. Fun & Spunky: Interesting styles and bold accents. Select coordinating colors with bold accent colors, such as blues and grays with yellow or bright red accents. Cool & Traditional: Classic styles and classic colors. Match your surroundings and season. Depending on where your shoot is, think navy, dark green, browns, denim, reds with white or ivory accents. Hip & Urban: Alternative styles. Industrial, muted colors work well in the city. Denim, slates, mauves, muted greens and grays work well. Lighten it up with light grays, whites or ivory. TIPS: No matter what your color scheme, don’t choose complicated cuts. Traditional types of clothing that fit well will give your photographs a timeless feel.

(3) But still...You do you. In my family photo shoots, it’s crucial that everyone is at ease. I want the whole family to feel like themselves; and the best way to do that is to start by being comfortable. Stylistically, no one should feel awkward or misrepresented. Everyone should also be physically comfortable - able to move freely and dressed appropriately for the weather. And remember, sometimes that unicorn hat works perfectly.

3 Don’ts: __________________________

(1) Don’t go big. Keep in mind that bold prints and accessories are very powerful – they distract the eye and draw attention away from everything else in the image. While it may be tempting to let your personality shine through via your favorite Hawaiian shirt or your new statement ring, keep in mind a family portrait is about how you work together as a whole. For adults, I rarely suggest a pattern other than plaid, stripes or a delicate floral. For kids, bolder patterns can be a little easier, but try to keep them balanced with solids. (And like that unicorn hat...sometimes bear sneaks ftw.)

(2) Don’t wear short shorts with short sleeves. This may sound like an odd one, but it's a bit of a euphemism. I'm just suggesting you stay balanced. You want to keep in mind alternating lengths, textures and clothing types among the family. It creates depth and warmth.

(3) Don’t under do it or over do it. Often in shoots I find people wishing they had cleaned their fingernails or possibly that Slayer t-shirt was a bad idea. Yes, clean fingernails are a good idea. And printed tees are difficult to make work. I suggest wearing what you would normally wear in that setting, but take it up just a notch and be thoughtful. Coordinate with others. Put on a belt if you have belt loops. Wear the solid tee, the nice socks, the right shoes. Brush your teeth. Shave. Comb your hair. Trim your beard. That sort of thing.


________________________ (If you’ve skipped this entire post just to get to the main point, here you go.)

Ultimately, your goal in family photo shoot clothing selection is not to be distracting, and not to make a fashion statement. You're paving the way for emotion, experience and love to easily win in this session.

Just have your outfits chosen well in advance, do your best to be thoughtful about them, and being clean never hurts. Oh, and (above all) make sure everyone is comfortable.

The Golden Rule:

Your photographer has valuable insight and suggestions. Don’t hesitate to send pictures of your outfit ideas and ask your photographer for advice.


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