What to Wear

What to Wear to your Family Portrait Session

 I love this question, it comes up nine out of ten inquiries. On a regular Monday we know how to dress, we know what we’re comfortable in and what is most flattering on our figure, but the moment a camera comes out its easy to put too much pressure on our outfit. It feels set in stone, engraved for many years to come and overwhelming on the annual holiday card. But picking your outfit should be fun not stressful. Here are the tips I give clients.


How to Match without being cheesy

  • Pick a theme or a color palate and stick to it.

  • For example tell everyone in the group to wear Summer Blues, Fall Tones, Warm Spring Tones or Layered Grey and Greens. The more specific you are with your theme the better. The larger the group the more specific you should be as well.

  • Don’t go with exact same color or clothing item. Putting all the men in the exact same grey polo will be noticeable and create blandness in your photographs.

  • If there are multiple micro families involved, have each family pick out their own outfits and don’t worry about coordinating all seven grandkids.

  • Don’t be afraid of layers and patterns, photos love texture and a well placed pattern will only enhance your session

  • Within each micro family pick two to three patterns and don’t be afraid of layers. For example if mom loves dresses, wear a cream dress, patterned green summer scarf and jean jacket, then have dad wear a solid blue button up with dark jeans and put son in a plaid button up and khaki shorts and daughter in a light blue lace dress. The patterns don’t have to match they just need to be in the same theme.

  • Layers are great. Jackets, scarves, a shall, whatever you love, go with it. Your layers give depth to the photograph.

Things not to wear

  • Black and solid white can be elegant in the right setting but in the normal family photo I would stick away from those tones unless they are layered over the top of. These two tones tend to flatten in photographs.

  • Logos and characters on shirts. Your son may only be happy in his favorite superman t-shirt but it will be noticeable in every photograph.

  • Skip the hats, sunglasses and things in your pockets. These things create shadows, distraction to the eye and often just end up on the ground in the dirt. You may not be able to avoid bringing your car keys with you but don’t put them in your husband’s front pocket, instead stick them in a bag that can easily be tossed on the ground out of sight.

  • I rarely do a family session that heals are comfortable or necessary. Most of my sessions are outside and involve a little walking. If you want some height go with a cute wedge, but flats are best and if your family is adventurous and wants to walk around the site make sure your toes are happy.

  • Match the temperature. Being cold or over heating will shorten your session and make everyone grumpy. If its cold outside remember that matching puffy jackets are cute but will look like matching puffy jackets in your photos. So, I recommend layers and hidden warmth like hand warmers in the pockets, a hot thermos of tea in between photos and under layers not seen by the camera. If it’s hot bring water, wear light cottons and don’t be afraid of a nice short or skirt. Kids especially will participate a lot longer in a session if they are comfortable.

  • Also match the weather, if its storming outside and you still want to do your session, bring a cute umbrella. Or if we’re headed to the river, don’t forget sunblock and bug spray. I’ve had my fair share of mosquito bites in my life and most have come from me forgetting bug spray at a photoshoot. Standing still and smiling is a great way to get a sunburn on your neck or seventy five mosquito bites on your back (true story).

  • The most important rule is comfort. If you hate dresses, don’t wear a dress. If your husband is self-conscious of his mid-section, make sure he has an awesome canvas jacket to throw on over his v-neck. If your daughter will only wear her too small purple tights with holes in the knees but the group agreed on blue tones, put a long jean dress over the top and let her wear her tights. Remember that these photographs are a snapshot of a moment in time and no matter what you are wearing you will look back fondly at that time in your life. You’ll laugh about the purple tights or remember the longest four-hour trip to the mall trying to find the perfect canvas jacket he would actually wear. No one regrets a good family photo.