What to Wear

Hey everyone! This post is dedicated to the most popular question when booking a session…

What do we wear?

Answer: Whatever your heart desires!! …. ok, no. That’s not entirely true.

What do I wear is probably the most frequently asked question when someone books a session. It’s stressful enough just to put on a decent outfit to start you day… but putting outfits on every member of your family, matching, (but not too much!), coordinating colors nicely, patterns, denim or skirts, hair accessories or hats, oh and shoes!… it’s enough to drive anyone crazy. I feel a slight headache coming on just thinking about it!… Don’t worry. This should lead you in somewhat of a right direction.

(side note: This is only meant to give a little direction to those who want it. If you want to do the exact opposite of what I write below, it’s perfectly okay! In the end, what is most important is the people in your photo being together, smiling and preserving that time in your life to hang on your wall and cherish. I’m certainly not a style expert, so these are only meant to be suggestions. Please, do whatever works best for you and your family.)

1.) Pick a color scheme- Gone are the days of matching white polo shirts. Color is in! This is not to say that wearing white doesn’t have it’s time and place. I have done large family portraits on the beach where everyone one was wearing white and it looked fantastic. They mixed it up with their clothing choices and it came together nicely (see #2)… If you choose for everyone to wear white, it’s fine! If you asked me though (and most photographers), I would say color is the way to go. No, you don’t have to get out a color wheel and make it perfect. Think about where you are going to hang you portraits in your home. If you have a living room that is a warm country feel like mine is, then wearing bright blues and greens might not be your greatest choice. Some people don’t care about this and that’s fine. This is just a suggestion. It’s easy to google colors that compliment each other nicely. Then raid your closets, or even more fun, go shopping!

2.) Try to match… a little bit-  Going back to the beach session I mentioned in #1, the family of 50 (yes, FIFTY!!) all wore white. However, they didn’t 100% match. Some girls wore dresses, some had jeans or denim skirts with white tank tops or short sleeves . The guys had a variety of polo’s, long and short sleeved button up shirts. For that particular beach session, the white worked and it was a good choice for everyone to mix up the style of clothing. For the standard family photo though,  I say to mix different kinds of clothing AND colors for your family members. An example of this is shown below.


These 3 families did it perfectly. The family on the left mixed purples and grays. Dad wore a solid gray sweater with a striped textured pattern. The little guy closely matched dad with the same pattern, but a lighter gray and a zip up sweater. The youngest daughter wore and all purple dress with a pop of color on the bottom corner. Mom and the oldest daughter tied both colors together by wearing purple shirts with a gray sweater and fur vest (matching colors but different clothing styles) It came together beautifully!

The two families on the right did a fantastic job blending colors and clothing types with only 3 people in their family. The family in the top portrait chose orange and gray as their main colors with a pop of light green and gray for the little guy. The green is very subtle. The stripes and solid compliment each other very well. The family in the bottom portrait chose cranberry red and browns as their colors. Dad wore a solid brown sweater and mom wore a solid red shirt. The little guy has a checkered red shirt that matches dad’s red checkered collar. His khaki pants are a lighter brown. Their clothing matches without everyone wearing the same exact thing. Everything just flows nicely when you look at these portraits. Both families executed this perfectly!!


3.) Accessorize!– Most people have a love/hate relationship with this one. Accessories can either accent you portraits beautifully or turn them into a tacky mess that you bring out years from now and laugh at. (Kind of like 80’s hair styles… kidding!!…. sorta) There is a happy medium with accessorizing and so much to choose from: necklaces, earrings, bracelets, scarves, hair clips, head bands, belts, flower hair pieces… you can see how it would be easy to go overkill with the extras. Choosing one thing for each family member or just a few family members would be enough. Dad’s and sons typically don’t accessorize.  (hey, it works) Then other family members work from there. A necklace on mom, a flower in youngest sister’s hair, a chunky bracelet on older sister… just make sure you walk out the door feeling polished and not like a Christmas tree.

4.) Layers and patterns- This is an extention of #2. Layers and patterns give the photo some character.  Instead of solid color tee’s for everyone, mix it up. Throw on a vest or button up cardigan, pull in stripes and plaid, roll up sleeves and have another patterned shirt accent the cuffs… these are all great ways to take your photo from bland to alive. Don’t be afraid of patterns!! They can really liven up your photo and show your family’s personality. Again, the families in the photos above did a great job with incorporating patterns and layers. A time that layering may be a little difficult? Summertime… and that’s when patterns can really help! The family below is not afraid of patterns. Dad and son are wearing 2 different kinds of plaid and mom has a very patterned shirt. It looks great!

5.) Stay away from characters and words- Your son loves Scooby Doo, so what is wrong with letting him wear his favorite shirt with the whole Mystery Incorporated gang? Well, for family photos, I’d say pack the shirt away for another day. The focus of your family portrait is right in the title: FAMILY. You want the first thing people to look at and focus on is your 2 year old’s big bright eyes or your 7 year old’s missing-two-front-teeth smile… not Velma and her trendy glasses. Same with words: A giant NIKE on the front of a shirt will draw attention away from your loved ones. Want to capture your child’s individuality? Set up a session just for them and what they like to wear… (but still bring a nicer outfit for at least one photo that you and grandma might want for yourselves 😉 )

This certainly is not a family portrait. These are my girls and this photo demonstrates the whole “words on shirts” idea perfectly. I posted this on Facebook and many people said things like “LOVE the shirt!” It’s fine for this snapshot,  but not what you want people saying about your family portraits… Especially if your 8 month old is wearing AC DC.


6.) Make sure you are comfortable!!- There is nothing worse then being uncomfortable…. except, maybe LOOKING uncomfortable. (especially us moms!) Just because it looked cute and cozy on the manikin doesn’t mean you are going to feel and look like a million bucks when wearing it at your session. Beforehand, make sure you like what you a wearing. Are you unhappy with something specific about yourself, like your arms, for example? Then don’t wear a short capped sleeve shirt. It’s things like this that seem obvious, but when planning your session you might overlook or think it’s not a big deal. Be comfortable… be YOU.  You will be happier and your portraits will show it. Same goes with the rest of the family. Putting the 3 year old in the adorable, yet itchy wool dress because she looked like she stepped out of a Gap advertisement may seem great at first…. but I have a 3 year old and let’s just say, she would make sure I and everyone else at the park as well as anyone who looks at your pictures for years to come, know just how itchy that dress was. Choose wisely, friends. Comfort is more important than you think.


Well, there you have it. I hope this helps, even if it’s a little bit. Again, follow whatever advice you want from here or disregard everything and dress in clown suits….. In the end, you are going to have your whole family together in a portrait that you get to happily hang on your wall for everyone to see. Don’t stress over the details. It’s the people in your picture who matter most and the rest will fall into place…

Unless you wear clown suits. I was kidding. Don’t do that.


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