What to Wear // For Family Portraits

When kids begin school again and you notice the word, “pumpkin”, on the Starbucks menu, we know that fall is coming… Fall changes the pace of our daily lives a little, doesn’t it? The fresh, cooler air makes us stop and just breathe it in… it even smells different! We like the slower pace of fall and winter, the coziness, the soups, the hot chocolates, the fairs, funnel cakes… We all gear up for the holidays as we begin to reflect on how we spent our year.

As photographers, fall also means family portraits season! We love taking annual fall portraits for families. It’s like our yearly tradition with some families. Some clients have been with us since the beginning, so this year will make it their 7th or 8th session with us! And EVERY time they inquire us, we are truly grateful for our loyal clients. They’re not just loyal… they’re encouraging, kind and just our cheerleaders! How blessed are we to have people like that as clients?? It’s so good catching up with them, seeing their kids grow up. It’s almost like documenting the growth of their families… I look forward to seeing them every year, and I can’t wait for that to begin very soon!

Well, we too take family portraits every year. Actually, we take them 2-3 times a year. LOL! I know… we probably have more pictures than 100 families combined, but hey, we LOVE it and can’t get enough of it! Ideas run through our minds and we actually don’t even do everything that we think of. We try to do as many as we can, but we have to come to our senses that we just can’t do it all. Hehe 😉

Anyways… one of the services we provide our clients is helping them pick out outfits. Family portraits don’t just end after buying a portrait package from your photographer. That’s just the beginning and it can sometimes get very stressful when you think about putting outfits together for your family.   And the mamas said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”, right?? 😉 We know this so well… We have three kids of our own! Getting three munchkins ready while looking good yourself just isn’t easy. So! We thought this would be the most perfect time of the year to share with you in how we prepare for our outfits. Now, we do not claim to be fashionistas nor do we try to be. (Give us a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and we are good to go!) However, in front of the camera, we do know what looks good. Real life looks and camera looks are totally different and that’s the first thing you need to know when preparing outfits for your shoot! First, here are a few tips and then the steps we take.


  1. Darker, the slimmer.

      It’s not a myth.. you will look a lot slimmer in solid, dark clothes than bright, patterned clothes.

  2. Simpler, the better.

    Family portraits are about you, not your clothes. It’s about capturing emotions, not a fashion statement. Outfits of course matter in the overall view of your images, but it’s not the most important thing, so don’t make it too complicated. (Unless you’re going for a certain theme or style, don’t sweat it!)

  3. Don’t wear tight clothes.

    The tighter your clothes look, the less flattering you will look in camera. A bit too snug? Go a size bigger! Don’t make size determine how you think about yourself.  Wear what looks best on you!

Now, with those tips in mind, here are the steps that we take for our family:

1. Begin with a neutral color.  

What’s neutral? Colors that pretty much go with anything… Black, beige/tan, gray (my fav), white, brown… some colors such as navy blue can even act as a neutral color depending on the other colors, but we won’t make this too complicated as our tips state above.  So, pick a simple neutral color.  (Below is one that we did where we chose to go neutral on neutral… This was the intention.  We wanted a very simple, clean, ad looking studio style with different shades of gray/black.)

2. Choose a pop of color. 

Don’t like colors? It’s ok! Go all neutral! We have done this before too intentionally and it turned out amazing! (Look at the example pic above.) But, I love a pop of color most of the time and especially in the fall, a pop of red, orange or yellow look great! Burgundy, green, coral, purple… try them! But! For me, I stick with one, max of two. Again, the simpler, the better because we want the attention to go to you, not your clothes. (This is one of my fav family portrait taken by David Schumann a couple of years ago.  Neutrals in this one is obviously gray with Craig’s beige blazer, and the pop of color is coral.  We have different images only from this shoot in our living room and the decor in that room go along with these colors as well!)

3. Mix and match. 

What I mean by this is if the dad is wearing a pair of jeans, don’t make everyone wear jeans… pick out a dress for the mom, shorts for the boy (if weather allows), skirt for one girl, etc… If the dad is wearing all neutral (jeans and gray shirt), then add the pop of color to the mom.  (In one of our summer portraits below, see how we mixed and matched the different colors… neutral was white, the colors were turquoise and pink.  Everything from this shoot was straight from what we had in our closets.  No purchase was necessary other than the balloons.)

4. Pick a pattern for just one family member.

Our younger daughter usually is the one that ends up wearing the patterned outfit.  She just looks so cute in anything!  Multiple patterns make it too “busy” looking. (Below is a portrait we did at Santa Rosa Beach couple of years ago.  Neutral was white, turquoise was the pop of color and Elli wore the pattern.  Can you tell that I started to fall in love with turquoise?  That is still true and our home is slowly but surely turning into a turquoise home. hehe)

5. Hair and makeup! 

Many of our clients get their hair and makeup done professionally… I understand that all these things add up! If you’re on a budget, I would totally at least get makeup done. And remember, the bolder your makeup, the better in camera!  (Below is my fav pic of us!  This was taken for our 6th year anniversary.  I love it; however, if I had redder lips and some darker lashes… trust me, it would have looked a lot better.  I always encourage our ladies to not be afraid of makeup and emphasize the lips and eyes.  It’s like stage makeup.  If you don’t ‘highlight’ them, you can’t see it in camera.  Now, if you’re going for the “natural” look, by all means, go for it!)

6. Final touches – Accessories time!

For fall, scarves are GREAT! Scarves can be the pop of color for one family member. Add on the necklaces, the bracelets, earrings, and hats, hats, hats! Don’t wear them for every single shot, but for a few shots, hats can add so much! And yes of course, the shoes! Show off your boots and heels!  (This is a special shoot we did earlier this spring focusing just on our kids, and I focused on the accessories!  Went all over town looking for flower crowns and Claire’s had the exact ones that I needed… Neutral is ivory/gray in this one, pop of color was the soft blush, Ethan wore the pattern this time on his shirt and then of course the flower crowns and Ethan’s hat as the accessories… Doing flowers again for our fall portraits this year, and I can’t wait to show you guys very soon what we will be wearing once I get the shopping done.  haha)

Hope this has been helpful especially to moms out there who are usually the ones that have to get all these things put together. 😉 Bottom line… we want you to ENJOY and have fun! Family portraits are a time to build memories and cry over the images when you receive them and then treasuring them forever to share with generations to come. We want this to be a time of pleasure, not added stress to life. Again, thx for reading, and we can’t wait to see you all this fall!

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