What [NOT] to Wear in Family Photos!

What to wear, what to wear…

This can certainly be one of the most time consuming and difficult parts of a family photo shoot. Believe me, I know from personal experience. A few years back when I switched taking pictures with a fellow photographer, I put off getting our pictures done for MONTHS mainly because I just couldn’t get the outfits together! Sad, I know.

But with some guidance (and a little but of hand holding) determining what everyone will wear can be a breeze! That’s my goal for you. I want to take you step by step so you don’t get overwhelmed along the way.

So here are some Do’s and Don’t of clothing choices… (Let it be known that this is MY opinion. I do not think that I’m better than anyone else. This is just a list of suggestions.)


1| match! Gone are the days of everyone wearing kacki pants and a white shirt. ugh. It’s boring, it’s not flattering and it’s so 90’s.

2| have everyone wear one exact color. Especially RED. (again, it’s a little too 90’s)

3| have the boys wear a stuffy suit and tie and the girls wear fluffy frilly uncomfortable dresses. If the person is uncomfortable, it will show up in the photo. Also, if everyone is looking formal with their clothing, the pictures won’t come across as natural.

4| wear shirts with logo’s or distracting pictures on them. (i.e. shirts that say “GAP”, “OLD NAVY”, has a comic book character, or a popular kids character) This is just distracting in a photo. It also takes away from that “timeless” look.

5| wear sneakers! ugh. When a family neglects their choice of shoes, it throws the whole picture off. Rightly said by Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid Love, “Are you in a fraternity? Are you Steve Jobs, the billionaire CEO of Apple? No? Then you have no reason to wear New Balance shoes. Ever!”

For those visual learners I created a little “What NOT to wear” illustration for you…


1| coordinate pop’s of color. Establish a base color, like grey, and then accent with 1 or 2 splashes of color, like yellow or turquoise. Not everyone needs to wear the accent color. For example, the Dad and son might just be wearing grey and black while the girls in the family bring in the color splashes in their outfits.

2| layer your clothing. During the summer months this may be difficult but doing it in the other seasons brings more visual appeal and interest to your photo’s. Start with a plain shirt then add a sweater or jacket. For a guy, wear a long sleeve shirt under a button up with the sleeves rolled up.

3| combine colors and patterns. Another way to gain more visual appeal is to throw in some patterns that coordinate with your color splashes. For example, a cool plaid shirt on a guy or a pattern t-shirt under a jacket or sweater for a girl.

4| bring your own personality in with accessories…hat’s, leg warmers (for little girls), scarves, necklaces, etc. Adding these trinkets helps to bring in your own family style and personality.

5| wear something that is flattering on you. I know this may sound like a “given” but I’m surprised to hear a lot of Mom’s who come to their family photo shoot and complain about how they “hate” their arms but yet are wearing a short cropped sleeve that draws attention their arms! So if you are self-conscious about your arms, wear a long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve or if you aren’t a fan of your toosh, wear a long jacket. The fact is, if you feel comfortable, you will look comfortable in the photo’s.

Here are some visual examples of some good coordinating outfits…


And last, I found this great advice from Corina Neilsen, an incredibly talented photographer:

If I were building outfits for my family this is how I would do it:

1. Keeping your location and season in mind, start with one person. Don’t try and think of everyone at the same time. I find that mom or a little girl makes the most sense since they would typically be the ones wearing a print. So mom will be wearing a floral print dress (small pretty pattern that is).

2. Now move on to the next person. You will be pulling colors from mom’s dress so begin to think about who in the family would look good in what colors. Dad doesn’t look so good in XYZ since it tends to drown out the tone in his skin. Let’s pick ABC for him instead. And so on.

3. Then start to come up with ideas to personalize the session. A little boy may have a security blanket or teddy bear he never parts with…. be sure to bring that with you. The little girl may like crafting so have her make a cute matching headband or clip for her hair. Mom loves tulips… on your way to the session pick some up. Make thoughtful choices and be sure to discuss the ideas with your photographer! Believe me, most are full of ideas however, it’s always nice when the family helps and truly ensures a “custom” session.

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