What to Wear for Family Photos

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What to Wear for Family Photos

It is that time of year again!  Everyone is scheduling their family photos before the holidays to make sure  their holiday cards are ready to go.  You have your date set, your venue is picked out, and now the big question…what to wear for family photos?  This is the most asked question I get from clients.   Coordinating outfits can be a daunting task, but it shouldn’t have to be.  Hopefully with these tips preparing for your family session will be smooth and painless, and you can focus on what really matters snuggling up with your loved ones!

Start with One Person

Starting with one person and working around their outfit helps tremendously.  It is typically easiest to start with moms outfit.  Once mom has her outfit picked out and she is happy and so much less stressed, she can then build the families outfits around hers.

Color Coordinate

You want to color coordinate but you do not want to be too matchy-matchy.  For example, you don’t want everyone wearing all white shirts or all black shirts.  Women’s and girls clothing tend to have more patterns, so you can pull colors from their outfits and have the men and/or boys wear a matching solid, while the girls have print and texture.

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Stay Away from Graphics and Logos

You want your images to be timeless.  Graphics, logos, and cartoons can be distracting and dating.  You also don’t want to draw the attention away from your families beautiful faces.

Compliment Your Home Decor

These are images that are going to hang on your walls for years to come.  You want your images to compliment your home and the rooms they will be displayed.  If you have a light airy feel to your home you probably do not want to choose a dark color scheme.  Instead choose pastels or neutrals.

Consider the Colors in your Environment

Also, keep in mind where your photo shoot is going to take place.  Are you taking family pictures on the beach, or in an open field?  For a beach session pastels, neutrals with a pop, and blues work really well.  In an open field you can have a little more fun with color choosing colors that make your family stand out.

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Layers and Textures

Layers and textures can add interest to your images. Vests are always a fun layer to add interest and look great on both adults and kids.


Have fun with accessories and add a favorite scarf, chunky necklace, or a hat.  Bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest.  Consider just one or two pieces that don’t compete for attention.

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Comfort Comes First

Make sure all your clothing and shoes fit comfortably.  Try everything on well in advance in case you need to make any adjustments.  If you are not comfortable or a child is not comfortable it will show, I promise!  There is no point in doing family photos if everyone is stiff and uncomfortable.  You want those true genuine smiles to come through.  If you will be walking a distance during your session and you are wearing high heels, consider bringing a pair of flip flops or comfortable slip on shoes to wear while you are walking.  If you feel good and beautiful you will photograph beautiful!

Tips for Her

There is no such thing as being too dressed up for pictures!  If you have that formal dress you have been dying to wear here is your chance!

For women, dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not many pantsuits! I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two instead.

Long, full-length, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially in settings with nature, like the desert, forest, plains or beach. Consider softer fabrics like chiffon or tulle which allow for beautiful movement in the images.

When considering the length of your dresses or skirts, it’s also a good idea to factor in whether or not there will be little ones in your photos. If you have smaller children, you will most likely be sitting or crouching on the ground and interacting up-close with them. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a floor-length dress or skirt, or perhaps a cute midi-skirt, will make moving around with your kids much easier, and look perfect on camera, too.

If you’re an expecting mother, I always recommend floor-length gowns or maxi dresses. These dresses create the best silhouettes to flatter your figure and really highlight your bump.  A lot of expecting moms like to incorporate kimono’s as well.

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Tips for Him

Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on his handsome face. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts and sandals at home, too, as well as any pants that are loose or baggy.   Fitted dress pants or fitted colored pants work best on camera. Of course, shorts will work fine for beach sessions.  Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong compliment to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. I recommend staying away from graphics and logos.  Make sure shirts are not too baggy, tighter fitting shirts photograph best on men.

Layered Looks

Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust me when we say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats enhance the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!

Mix It Up

Many of my clients love to mix a suit coat, blazer or sport coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest, and break up the color tones. I am a big fan of this fresh take on a timeless classic.

It’s All in the Details

Brown leather dress shoes compliment almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp compliments to any outfit for men and boys alike. If you bring two outfits to the session, you can start with a traditional necktie and belt, then switch to suspenders and a bow tie for your second look. If two looks are too stressful, no problem! One will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to compliment both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, it’s a win.

Color Coordinating Outfit Samples

Spring / Summer


what to wear for family photos spring summer outfit ideas

Fall/ Winter

what to wear for family photos fall winter outfit ideas

Favorite  Department Stores






Altar’d State


Free People




Shop James

Janie & Jack


Bailey’s Blossoms

Dollcake Vintage


Rylee and Cru

Fin and Vince

Velveteen Clothing




Nordstrom Rack




Banana Republic


J. Crew


Ask for Help!

Last, if you need help ask for it!  Many department stores offer styling for free so don’t be afraid to ask.  I love helping my clients choose their outfits.  They will text me or e-mail me their ideas and I can help them decide on what photographs best.  As your photographer, I want you to feel comfortable, beautiful, and confident because it will show in your images.

what to wear family pictures

Hopefully this helps and takes the stress away so you can focus on what is really important, creating those everlasting memories with your family! You can see more samples of outfits on my Pinterest page.  Maternity clients please inquire about my client wardrobe.  I have several gowns that maternity clients can borrow at no extra cost.

Happy shopping!


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