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How to Choose Perfect Family Photo Outfits

Last updated: January 18, 2024 - 16 min read
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What’s one detail that gets left to the last possible moment in family photos? What family photo outfits to wear! So here is our guide on what to wear for family pictures that won’t leave you cringing years later.

Family photography is a great way to capture a meaningful moment in time or a snapshot of the year. They are a commemoration of the love shared by the whole family.

But setting up a family photoshoot can be a burden. You must do everything… from picking out a great location to ensuring the children are well-behaved (or behaved enough for a picture or two!).

There are a lot of variables to factor into a successful shoot for family pictures. And a family’s outfits are an important factor!

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Depositphotos Stock Photos
Looking for inspiration for your family photo outfits? Check out our vast collection of high-quality images on our stock photo Store.

Family Photo Outfits for Photoshoots

Photographers are not stylists or fashion designers by trade. But it still falls on our shoulders to direct our clients to success. We can even learn a bit from the work of fashion photographers.

If this means consulting on attire and what looks best in the family photos, so be it. It is one area where people genuinely appreciate the expertise of a photographer.

Not all clothes are created equal. Some fabrics and colors look better than others in front of our lenses. And there are some general rules about the types of clothes that work best.

This is because light hits color and fabric in unique ways. And some are more flattering than others. Color works differently for different people.

Put me in yellow, and it looks like a post-mortem photo. But my friend Mandy never looks more alive than when she’s in yellow. So if you’re planning color-themed family photo outfits, ensure they work for everyone!

Many clothes hanging on a clothes rack

10 Best Ideas for Outfits for Family Pictures

Here are ten outfit ideas I have for a family photoshoot. Choosing family photo outfits can be difficult. So we hope each idea provides helpful tips you can use.

10. Use Different Fabrics to Off-Set Single Colors

For example, all black is a common choice for family pictures. But if all your fabric textures are matte, your subjects can blend into the background. The risk is they will end up looking like floating heads.

Father with daughters in black winter jackets on white isolated background

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose black. It just means you should try to mix up the fabrics. Maybe choose shiny black pants mixed with a matte shirt or a black jean vest. All these various fabrics catch the light differently in the images. They give your family pictures some separation.

9. Create Engaging Photos with Textured Clothing

Remember that images are static. They don’t feature any real movement. You don’t want your family pictures to look too fixed. We can generate more interest by including eye-catching elements. That makes a shot look “alive.”

Family posing by a wooden fence in autumn

Look for clothing that has a texture and vibrancy in its makeup. Some examples might be fluffy or furry items. Mix and match smooth and rough, chunky, and fine. That way, your family pictures will have interesting details!

8. Embrace Patterns to Provide Separation

These may seem too jarring to go out in, but patterns look good in family pictures. Again, we are adding a movement to a static image. Do be aware of moire patterns, though. Also, unless these are Christmas family photos, avoid reindeer jumpers!

Family wearing colorful patterns and posing on a couch for Diwali festival

What’s one advantage of patterns? They provide separation, both from the background and between family members. You might need to play around with who stands where. You want separation. But you don’t want clashes. Plus, you want to avoid distracting patterns with a large group of people.

7. Use Stripes to Flatter Family Member Figures

Believe it or not, there is academic debate over this. Conventional wisdom says that horizontal stripes can make a figure look wider when photographed. And it is said that vertical lines make one look slender and tend to follow the curves of a body. But some academics have challenged this idea.

Two women wearing striped yellow and black dresses

The best bet for family pictures is to get your subjects to try a range of outfits. Then help them choose the ones that flatter them most. And you need to keep the group as a whole in mind. Nobody wants their family photos to look like an interference pattern or a television test card.

The same can be said for choosing flattering maternity outfits. The key for family maternity photoshoots is flattering clothing that emphasizes the bump! Light, flowing dresses are always a great choice.

6. Wear Solid Colors to Keep the Focus on People

Sometimes family photos have an important location. It might be the family home. Or a special place for everyone. Often the location is just there as a backdrop. In that case, you can make the focus all about the people.

A family sitting on a couch wearing bold colors

Solid colors can help the viewer focus on the features of the subject. But remember to keep point ten in mind. Bold, bright colors are also a good look for family pictures.

5. Find Flattering Necklines to Suit Individuals

The neckline is how designers cut the clothing for the neck. A V-shape or a scoop neck tends to look best on most people. Fashions change, of course. And on some people, a crew neck or turtleneck looks great.
A family in neutral-color clothing sitting on a couch

Think Sean Connery or Brad Pitt. (Bad example—they’d look good dressed in a sack!) But you get my point. Family pictures are a blend of unity and individuality. Use the style that suits the subjects.

4. Encourage Fitted Clothing to Affirm Body Types

If your subjects are “plus-size” or not comfortable with their body type, they might be tempted to wear oversized clothes. Obviously, the choice is theirs. This is for their family pictures, after all. But oversized clothes can distort their proportions far too much in photographs.

Encourage well-fitted clothing, including plus-size family photo outfits. It might be a question of confidence. And maybe your role is to reassure family members that they look great. In the end, affirm their choice of clothing.

A woman and children dressed up and sitting outside with trees in the background

Establishing a relationship with the clients is vital. Do this both before and during the family photoshoot. Clients who trust you are more likely to trust your opinion on their outfits.

3. Choose Clothing That Fits the Location

If you’re in a studio, something sheen or shiny can catch the lighting well. But remember, it can also bounce light around. So try to avoid material that’s too reflective. If you’re outdoors, a sheer dress or skirt can flow beautifully in the air.

You need to consider comfort too. Getting everyone to wear tweed for summer family photos is not good. And light, diaphanous wispy clothes in winter are also not good.

Photo of family in winter with matching family outfits

What if it rains? What if it’s windy? No one wants family photos to look like an audition for Marilyn Monroe cosplay. Pick clothing style and material that best fits the environment and make a plan. This might mean having a backup plan for the family outfits.

2. Allow Individual Style for Comfort and Smiles

Remember, it’s not the Kardashians! If you’ve ever watched the “Family Portrait” episode of “Modern Family,” you’ll know this. Don’t let the pursuit of Instagram perfection erase individuality. Sometimes you might need to gently persuade the lead family member of this.A young family dressed in white against a white background

There are many golden rules here about making the subjects feel comfortable. A grumpy teen or a cantankerous Grandpa won’t thank you if you make them wear something that’s not their style. Smiles in family pictures should not be forced. So make people are comfortable with their outfit ideas

1. Outfits Should Make People Feel Their Best

Ultimately, the most important thing is that family members feel comfortable. These aren’t professional models who can pose and smile wearing awkward and outlandish clothes.

A mother and daughter preparing food with the father looking on in the background
The best family photo clothing is what they feel comfortable, confident, and remarkable in. Feeling good is an essential part of family pictures. It lets you capture families looking their best in the most authentic way possible.

Family Photo Color Schemes: What to Consider

There are some clothing colors you’ll likely want families to avoid if they ask for your advice. Of course, this also depends on your skillset as a photographer and photo retoucher. The location of this photo extravaganza is important. Keep that in mind when reading this section.

Using White and How to Expose It Properly

White, as a color, is a pain. It can be super easy to overexpose when trying to properly expose for skin tones. If you must choose a light color, off-white is so much better! But if you can’t persuade the client, there are some ways around the problem.

If your camera has good ISO invariance, underexpose ISO and shoot in RAW. This means you catch detail in the shadows without blowing out the highlights.

Make sure you use your camera’s histogram. It’s really important. It tells you if your highlights are overexposed. You can’t do much if you blow out your highlights.

And to be extra safe, you can bracket the exposures by two-thirds of a stop. A decent continuous shooting speed helps with bracketing.

A summer family photo on the beach with parents and kids holding hands

Tips for Colors and Backgrounds

Dark colors in a busy or dark location are a disaster. It’s a struggle to create good subject separation from the background. It’s a challenge outdoors, but lighting can help.

Aim lights at either side of your client from a back angle to create a rim. But the best way to solve a problem is to avoid it in the first place. Matching clothing colors to the location is the same problem as wearing dark colors in a dark place.

Avoid forest green when shooting in the woods or orange when doing a fall session! Unless a family member is determined to be Robin Hood and lurk in the foliage, try to keep them and the background separate.

A family of four running in a park with their dog

Color Scheme Tips

Try to keep the color scheme in the same hue. For instance, ensure no one wears magenta (pink) that doesn’t match someone else’s red hue. You don’t want to sit in the editing room making avoidable color corrections. Remember, the best editing happens before you press the shutter release.

For large families, you want everyone to keep their individualism. But you still want them to have a coordinated style. This is where color cohesion is so important! Pick a handful of colors for the family members to use. They can then choose their most flattering outfit based on these color choices.

And, maybe you can’t leave your pets out of the family portrait? Organizing outfit ideas around your pet’s coat color scheme can be fun. But bear in mind all our advice about blending colors.

Colorful Family Photo Outfits for All Seasons

A seasonal family photo session dictates the best colors for family outfits. Summer and fall scream warm colors. Winter and spring suggest more cool colors. But don’t discount a complementary color scheme.

Summer family photos should be beachy and warm. Neutral colors like white work. But bold, bright colors like blues and yellows are also excellent for summer family pictures. Embrace the sunny weather with sundresses and shorts galore!

Take advantage of the warm fall colors and the colder weather. Choose family photo outfits with long sleeves and fall accessories. Thy can be a complementary color palette.

A family sitting in a fall forest with a woman holding a dog
An autumn complementary color scheme of blue and orange

Winter is crisp and magical. It’s a great idea to do family photo outfits with cool colors that are pale and look light and airy.

Finally, spring is colorful, vibrant, and lovely. For spring family photos, pick a color scheme that emphasizes the bloom. Avoid too many greens or colors that may blend in with your surroundings.

Steps to Picking the Perfect Family Photo Outfits

Here is a step-by-step guide for picking out family outfits for family photos. It is all about planning. Talk with the family and ensure family members are on the same page. Have them talk and listen to each other about the family photos.

Make a planning meeting part of your routine. As you see from our list, there are a lot of details to consider. Part of the decision-making process is compiling a shot list.

A family photo with members lying on the ground on top of each other

If they have gone to the effort to get everyone together, then make the most of it. There’s no point in just having a big group randomly standing together.

It’s always worth thinking about whether clothing changes are possible. If you’re at the family’s home, this should be easy. Other locations might present problems. But it’s good to be able to make subtle changes.

You don’t need a changing room to swap sweaters or add scarves or vests. These should all be part of the shot list and planning session.

Close-up of folded knitted garments
Having accessories like scarves on hand can add color and texture

Step 1: Choose a Shoot Location to Determine Outfits

Are you taking photos in the woods, in a studio, or on the street? What family photo outfits make sense for these locations? Is it hot, is it cold, or is it snowing? Are you taking summer family photos on the beach?

You want everyone to look good and be comfortable at the same time. You also want the outfits to complement the location. Of course, remember to prevent people from blending into the background too much.

Step 2: Agree on a Primary Outfit as a Basis for Others

Organizing the clothing for everyone in family photos can be daunting. Good planning and a good working relationship are vital. To get things going, we need a starting point.

We recommend chatting with the organizer of the photoshoot to discuss their outfit idea first. This is very important. You and the primary family member need to agree on the base clothing style. Once you have that starting point, everyone else’s outfit will fall into place.

A family posing in pastel- and gray-colored clothing against a white background

If you’re reading this as a client, pick your outfit first. Then organize your family’s outfits around this look. Again, your outfit acts as a baseline. Obviously, these are your family photos, so you get to choose. But also listen to the photographer, who can give impartial advice.

Are you having trouble figuring out the first outfit? Look around your home! Interior decor speaks volumes about personal fashion styles. This is especially relevant if you want beautiful family prints to decorate the walls. Choose an outfit that complements the interior style.

Or you can look back at recent photos. They don’t even have to be family photos. Find ones where you loved the way your outfit looked. That can also be your starting point.

Step 3: Choose a Color Palette to Coordinate Outfits

After establishing the first outfit, the next step is choosing outfits with the best colors that go with it. Try not to be too jarring with different colors. Too much differentiation may make the family photos too disorganized. As a family, you want to be cohesive and look like you belong together!

It’s best to pick a handful of colors. This allows family members to choose what they like best from their wardrobe. It also gives you room to dress each family member in something that is most flattering for them.

A family of three outdoors in a park with a man holding a child

Generally, muted colors (not black or white) are the best. Navy blue, light greens, and pastel reds are all popular choices. But try to avoid clothing with bold characters and text. And don’t use prints that are too loud. These can all be too distracting.

The most stress-free method is to pick outfits from the same clothing brand. And you can also pick a corresponding collection within that brand. But this can be pricey, depending on the brand.

Step 4: Tell a Story with Family Outfits

Pick a story to tell with family outfits. This creates a unique image that the family can connect with. A holiday story equals holiday outfits and colors! A beach vacation story can include summer accessories like sunglasses and seaside colors. And adding an activity can help tell a story as well.

A family dressed in white painting together on floor with paint on their faces
Use fun household activities like painting and casual clothes you don’t mind getting dirty

Step 5: Double-Check Details to Avoid a Lot of Editing

Photoshop and Lightroom open up whole new worlds of post-production possibilities. But to avoid a lot of editing work, ensure family outfits photograph well.

Picking out colors that blend into one another too much can be a problem. Over-accessorizing can be distracting. And scarves or bulky items may look disproportionate, too.

Plus, pay attention to the details! Ensure people remove the tags on clothes, snip threads, and take hair bands off their wrists. These may seem minor inconveniences until you find yourself editing all these nuisances out of photographs.

Conclusion

Advising on outfit ideas is an excellent opportunity for A+ customer service. Clear, friendly, and informative communication is key to success and client loyalty. Working through an idea as crucial as family photo outfits is a great way to build lasting working relationships.

One challenge for a professional photographer is juggling responsibilities. Helping to choose outfits for family pictures might seem like an extra burden. But this has one purpose—to produce family photos the clients love.

View from above of family lying on the floor and looking up at the camera

That way, they’ll come back again. And they’ll tell their friends! So outfit ideas might seem like one more detail to worry about. But it’s about supplying the best-looking family photos for your client.

Keep the advice in this article in mind next time you chat with your clients about their family photos! Now that you have some tips for family photo outfits check out our post on family photo ideas next!

Images in this article were provided by DepositPhotos.

Visual Inspiration
Depositphotos Stock Photos
Depositphotos Stock Photos
Looking for inspiration for your family photo outfits? Check out our vast collection of high-quality images on our stock photo Store.