Updated: Oct 8
How to choose outfits that look great together for family photos during all seasons.
Whether it is for a holiday card, a special occasion/milestone, or simply to document the growth of your loved ones--selecting the right outfits is crucial to creating timeless and beautiful memories, as well as ensuring your session runs smoothly. As a family photographer for nearly a decade, I know that styling your family's session is often a big source of stress and even apprehension around booking family photos for most Mamas. Let that all be a thing of the past! In today's post, we'll walk through a step-by-step process to choose outfits that will prioritize function and comfort without compromising on aesthetics.
Step 1: Determine the Purpose of These Images and Location
Before diving into outfit choices, consider the purpose of your photo session and the location where it will be take place. Different occasions may call for varying levels of formality, and the setting can influence your clothing decisions. Keep in mind:
Holiday photos can be a good opportunity for a more formal or even themed look. Some examples are holiday glam for a studio or red truck session, holiday pajamas for Santa, or even ugly sweaters if you want to show off more personality.
Outdoor sessions might demand more practical options, especially relating to weather. Comfortable kids are happy (smiling) kids and we want to dress them for comfort.
Studio portraits can accommodate a wide range of styles. Since you get more of a "blank slate" in a weather-controlled studio, you generally have a bit more open-ended possibilities for looks.
Step 2: Set a Color Palette
Choosing a color palette is the most essential aspect for a cohesive and visually pleasing gallery of images that you will be obsessed with. Start by selecting a base color (or two) and a few complementary shades. Consider seasonal colors, your family's preferences, and the background of your photo location.
For a classic look, neutral tones like white, cream, beige, or black work well.
If you are in a location with lots of background color--for example green grass, avoid those tones in your outfits.
Earthy tones are the "new neutral." With any color you choose, consider a more earth-toned variation for styling ease! This also makes editing more seamless for photographers. Neon colors or bold tones like red, orange, and yellow can make skin tones look funny in images.
Once you decide on a palette, I like to style the pickiest family member first--usually Mom!
Step 3: Prioritize Comfort and Function
Comfort is key, especially when taking family photos. Uncomfortable outfits can lead to forced smiles, awkward poses, and sensory overload. Here's how to prioritize comfort and function:
Choose breathable fabrics: Opt for natural materials like cotton, linen, or blends that allow your skin to breathe. This is not just true for the kids, but parents too! You will be lifting kids, snuggling close, and have a lot going on physically during the photo session. Choosing comfortable fabrics is an easy way to set your session up for success.
Consider the weather: Dress appropriately for the season, layering when necessary. I am based in Colorado and layers are my secret ingredient to holiday mini sessions outside. I always recommend clients put extra layers under little ones' outfits anytime the forecast says below 50! Unless you want their winter coat in photos--plan accordingly!
Pick comfortable shoes: Ensure everyone has comfortable footwear suitable for the location and terrain. When I do my own family photos, I like to wear a pair of comfy slip-ons and then change once we walk to the exact photo spot.
Step 4: Match but Don't Overmatch
Matching outfits can look fantastic in family photos, but avoid going too matchy-matchy unless you want the comical effect. Coordinate rather than duplicate outfits. Some ideas include:
Matching colors or patterns in a subtle way (e.g., if Mom's dress is a pattern, kids can have outfits with shades that tie into that pattern.)
Keep any parent preferences in mind. If a certain kiddo LOVES one parent, try to make sure they are not wearing too similar of colors.
Step 5: Get Everyone on Board
Every family is unique, and it's essential to consider everyone's preferences and needs, especially for families with diverse dynamics or individuals with disabilities:
Discuss clothing options with each family member, ensuring everyone feels comfortable and confident in their choices.
Accommodate any special needs or disabilities with adaptive clothing or accessories that prioritize comfort and ease of wear. Most commonly, longer dresses/pants for people who may be sitting in wheelchairs or on a blanket in photos.
Step 6: Accessorize Thoughtfully
Accessories can elevate your family's photo outfits, but choose them carefully:
Keep accessories simple and complementary to the overall color palette. Headbands or clips in girls' hair is an easy way to add a special touch without it being "too much."
Avoid large, distracting accessories that can draw attention away from the family members. If you have kiddos that will be held, they will likely want to grab your necklace or earrings--especially if those are not things you wear everyday.
Consider how your photographer may pose family members based on ability. For kiddos who need support or to be sitting, suspenders and vests can look bulky and require more adjusting than they are worth! Sweaters or button ups are good alternatives.
Step 7: Trial Run and Adjust
Before the actual photoshoot, have a dress rehearsal. Try on the selected outfits and make any necessary adjustments:
Ensure that clothing fits well and feels comfortable. This also will avoid any session day meltdowns before you even leave the house.
Test different poses and movements to make sure the outfits allow for ease of mobility. Make sure Dad can lift his arms without his torso showing, girls can sit in their dresses/skirts, and Mama can hold/support any kiddos without needing to constantly adjust sleeves or necklines.
To Wrap it Up:
Selecting the perfect outfits for a family photoshoot involves a balance between comfort, function, and aesthetics. Remember that family dynamics can vary, so it's essential to accommodate everyone's needs and preferences. By following these steps, you can create a memorable and visually stunning family photo that captures the essence of your unique and diverse family. I have included a few different color palettes along with the resulting images for inspiration!
Now that you are prepared to choose the best outfits for your family photos, all that is left to do is book your session! You can browse talented family photographers based all around the world on our free "Find a Photographer" directory HERE! These photographers are all members of The CapABLE Community, an organization that educates and empowers photographers on inclusivity and providing ALL families beautiful photos. Don't see a photographer near you? Comment your city and state below so we know where to grow!
All my best,