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Yes Please

Family photo outfits can be as challenging as finding the right photography or timing the session for peek fall colours.

These are images your clients will hang on their walls. They’ll cherish them for years to come or even send out as holiday cards.

You can’t get the family photo outfits wrong. But it can seem overwhelming for your clients to figure out what to wear for their family shoot.

This article is full of tips to help you help them pick out the perfect wardrobe.

A family of four posing outdoors in complimentary family photo outfits

Blue jeans and plaid are so classically fall. But by using complimentary whites and browns this family’s fall style is spot on.

1. Go for Co-ordinating Colors Not Outfits

Gone are the days where everyone in the family wore the same white t-shirt and blue jeans. I do love a good bargain but will draw the line on buying the same outfit for everyone in my family.

Instead, pick a couple of colors and choose clothes that will fit in this color scheme. Try to coordinate rather than matching everyone to the same color/outfit.

If you are having a hard time figuring out colors, try starting with one person. Most of my clients will start with mom and add other family photo outfits that match/compliment mom’s outfit.

It’s way easier to visualize the whole puzzle once you know what one piece looks like. 

Fluorescent shades tend to color cast on faces, necks and hair so it is best to avoid them altogether. 

A family of four posing outdoors in complimentary family photo outfits

The muted palette of grey and blue fit perfectly with the bright red of the trees. The little girl’s dress was the primary outfit color that drove all the other color choices. It all led to a cohesive color pallet for fall family photos.

A couple posing with their dog for a family photo shoot

The belt and shoes match the little pup while the scarf matches the grey sweater – the perfect color pallet for this sweet family.

 

2. Include the Home Decor

Do your clients like bright colors or neutrals? They’ll be hanging these photos in their house. You want to make sure the colors of their clothes go with the color scheme of their homes.

Plus this also gives an indication on the family’s style. The last thing you want are images that don’t speak to your clients as a family.

I try to limit my family photoshoots to one outfit only. Sometimes clients will want or insist on adding several outfit changes.

If the family is large, this adds more pressure and confusion. Trying to co-ordinate multiple outfits is not easy.

3. Use Accessories to Break Up the Color Palette

Accessories not only add to the outfit but they can be fun to use in photos. Necklaces, scarfs, hats, bangles all add some interest to the images.

Sometimes kids will want to bring their favorite toy or stuffed animal to the photoshoot. If that happens, take a few photos with and without so you have options.

Textures are also great in photos. Use textures from scarves or belts to add a little more to the image.

A couple pose with a young baby, family photo outfits ideas for photo sessions

Mom decided to match baby’s plaid shirt with a bright scarf. This pulled everything together to create this beautiful co-ordinated color scheme.

4. Limit Patterns in Outfits

Patterns can be distracting if everyone’s outfit has one. Especially if all the patterns are different.

I will ask clients to limit patterns in their clothing. If one person in the group has an outfit with a pattern, try to match with outfits in solid colors to balance out the pattern.

Another option is to use layers to break up the pattern. Also when placing people in poses, try to avoid patterns next to each other.

A family of five posing outdoors in complimentary family photo outfits

Even though there is some pattern in the dad’ shirt here, it is so well balanced with mom’s bright color. And mom was intentional in selecting a bold color. She wanted to stand out among a family full of boys!

5. Follow a Theme

When selecting outfits for a family photoshoot, make sure that everyone is following the same theme. If formal outfits are their jam, then go for it.

There is something to be said about little kids in a suit and bowtie. They look absolutely adorable.

If casual is more comfortable, then make sure everyone is following that theme.

The last thing you want is for dad to wear a suit while the kids are in jeans and sneaker. The family photos will look very disjointed.

A family photoshot on a wooden dock, wearing family photo outfits that compliment each other rather than match

One of my favorite family photoshoots. The entire family was so well co-ordinated but no one color stood out or clashed with one another.

6. Make Sure Your Clients Plan Ahead

Once your clients have booked a session, advise them to start thinking of the clothes right away. They may think certain clothes will fit their kids or that that one dress is clean.

But if they wait until the day of or day before the shoot, they may run into an issue of clothes not fitting. Or clothes might be dirty or need to be dry cleaned.

By planing ahead, they can avoid any last minute changes and get rid of any stress. The last thing you want them to do is get to the photoshoot agitated and upset that their outfits are not what they wanted.

If they’re purchasing new clothes for the photoshoot, ask them to buy clothes that fit. And fit well.

I know we all have a hard time buying clothes for our kids that don’t leave a lot of room for growth, especially when they grow so fast. But when it comes to pictures, too large of a polo shirt, ill-fitting jeans or a jacket that’s falling off the shoulders will look sloppy.

If they are purchasing outfits specifically for pictures, tell them to choose something that fits perfectly, or even just a little bit snug. Make it look almost tailored. Go a size smaller in jackets, cardigans or blazers.

A too-big jean jacket will not compliment shape. It hides hips and waist for moms. If something is a little snug in the shoulders, it should lay nicely around your hips and waist, creating a tailored look.

But at the end of the day, make sure they know the most important thing is to feel comfortable for the duration of the photoshoot.

A playful family shoot of a mother and son, wearing complimentary but not matching family outfits

Ponchos, cardigans and stoles act as good coverups so use them as you see fit.

7. Avoid Dating Family Photos With Too Modern Outfits

Kids grow up and their tastes change. That cute Batman shirt with the cape might not be so cute three years from now when the child is into monster trucks.

Skip any clothing choices that represent characters to avoid dating images to a particular year or season. Just like patterns, these can be very distracting and lead the eye of the viewer to just that in the whole frame.

Avoid any graphic clothes with symbols and sayings. They might not fit in the theme unless everyone is wearing the same thing and we already know that matching outfits is outdated.

family portrait of a mother and two kids in casual clothes

Family photos with little kids can be a little challenging in terms of patterns and characters. Here we limited it to shoes for the boy. They were his favorite. But by cropping the final image without the shoes, I was able to eliminate dating this image.

8. How to Match Outfits to the Background

If you are taking photos in front of a backdrop, consider what your clients are wearing. If you are outdoors, greenery is a beautiful backdrop but you will need to think about outfit colors so that they match that greenery.

Pastels and muted tones look great against bright green grass or trees. Sometimes foliage also gives a color cast to images so keep that in mind when selecting outfits colors.

If your clients are wearing an all white shirt then it is very easy to blow out parts of their shirt causing it to lose its detail. Same can be said with all black. It’s easy to have clipping on black clothing and the detail is lost.

Consider the background as one color in the color wheel and try to use complimentary colors for outfit choices.

A family portrait of 7 people wearing grey, black and white casual clothes

The color of the water and the cityscape made for the perfect choice for this family’s black, grey and white outfit color pallet.

9. How to Dress for the Weather

If you’re from any state in the Midwest, you know that it can be 50 and cloudy one day, 75 and sunny 12 hours later. So, be prepared to be flexible with wardrobe, in case you have to switch it up last minute.

I always start watching the weather a couple of days before the planned photoshoot and go over the details with my clients. Encourage them to dress appropriately for the weather that day, even if it doesn’t go with their original plan.

If their child is sweating profusely in a sweater during his shoot, he won’t be happy. And on the same token, if the child is wearing a sleeveless shirt and the weather dips too much in the evening, she’ll be unhappy.

And we all know that unhappy kids equals irritated parents.

A family group photo wearing bright, summer clothes

Right after this photo, we suddenly had a quick rain shower pass overheard and had to duck under a bridge for cover because I did not want photos in the rain!

Conclusion

I hope these tips help you help your clients with their outfit choices for family photos. At the end of the day, it’s important to choose family photo outfits and colors that compliment their family.

Comfort and personality are more important than style.

If they aren’t comfortable in what they’ve chosen for pictures, it will show. If they can’t find a dress they feel good in, but rock a good pair of skinny jeans, they should do that.

If they can barely walk in heels, there’s no harm in doing cute and comfy flat boots or pretty sandals. A wedge is also a great alternative.

Once your clients get back the photos, they should feel happy and proud of the images. Not upset and dejected that the outfits don’t represent their family.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Karthika Gupta

Karthika Gupta is a lifestyle, wedding, and travel photographer based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural. She strives to capture authentic emotions and interactions among her clients and emotive imagery in her commercial work. She also leads Travel and culture tours to India, her home country to help you experience India with a local. She has a Free Travel Photography Demystified E-Course a 5-Day video series to help you improve your travel photography.

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