What to Wear Guide - Family Edition

I have a special section about what to wear for your session in each of my welcome guides, but in this article I'll have room for plenty of examples and more detailed suggestions for those of you who want additional guidance in selecting outfits for your family photo shoot.

(By the way, I have put together a Pinterest board with tons of color and style inspiration, and I'm always adding to it when something catches my eye.)  

So... what should you wear for your family pictures?  How do you go about choosing outfits?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are some things to consider and some pointers to get you started.


General advice


My style is simple and clean with rich color, so most of my clients choose outfits that go along with that aesthetic in one way or another.  I would not call my style fashion-forward or fashion-dependent!  In my opinion your family pictures are images of you - not of your clothes.  But all the same, what you and your family wear is important to the overall look of your photos, and can be an opportunity to express yourselves.

The first thing I tell people is to coordinate, rather than match.  How do you do that?  Well, one way is to pick one outfit for color inspiration and then build from there.  Limit your patterns to one or two - try one large, one small, and the rest solids.  Another option is to go with three key colors, all in the same intensity - all pastels, or all bolder colors, or all neutrals.  That makes it cohesive.

Avoid neon colors - they oversaturate in digital photography and also, they create color casts (reflections) onto skin.  They are just too much.  I love rich, deep colors, though - try those instead of the fluorescents, if you love color.

Untitled photo

Opt for cream instead of white - a solid white shirt or dress is difficult to work with in digital photography, and it also tends to wash you out.  White is fine as an accent piece, but too much is... well, too much!  Cream is a lovely neutral alternative that always looks nice in almost any setting.



Add layers for interest and texture.  A scarf, a vest, a great-fitting sweater or jacket, a belt... and don't forget about your feet!  Shoes or boots that work with the style of your outfit will complete your look. And bare feet are sweet in the home, studio, or in the summer.

Fit and style

First of all, you should feel great in the clothes you wear for your family photo shoot.  If you are itchy, or your dress is too short or your jeans too tight, you won't look relaxed or happy in your images.  If you are a casual person, and plan to do some moving and sitting on the ground or floor, then a short, tight-fitting skirt might not be a good idea.  Ditto skinny jeans that restrict movement.

As far as sizing and fit, I always tell my clients to choose clothing that is close to the body - don't wear something loose, boxy or baggy.  Don't put your kids in something with "room to grow."  If you are in-between sizes, pick the smaller one.  If your clothes are big, YOU will look big.  The most flattering clothing is that which skims the body and flatters your shape.  Skin tight, no - but well-fitting - YES!

Color palette options


I love the simplicity of neutral (non) colors like cream, gray, and tan, especially in a warm field or in the studio.  The lack of bold color really brings the eye to the subjects - their emotions, expressions, and connections.

  • family-photographers-minneapolis-senior-photographers-minneapolis-st-paul-twin-cities-mn-photographers-1B
  • family-photographers-minneapolis-senior-photographers-minneapolis-st-paul-twin-cities-mn-photographers-3B
  • best photographers in minneapolis st  paul, portrait photography twin cities minnesota, senior photography minneapolis st  paul twin cities, child photography mn, family photography minneapolis st paul-Z6
  • family-photographers-minneapolis-senior-photographers-minneapolis-st-paul-twin-cities-mn-photographers-2


Again, keeping everything in the same color intensity keeps your whole look cohesive.  A pastel color scheme evokes softness and sweetness.


Complementary colors and analogous colors

If you are a huge color nerd like I am, you probably love the color wheel, too!   Complementary colors are colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel, like blue and orange, green and red, and purple and yellow.  If we have a predictable color in our background, we can choose a complementary color to really make you and your family stand out!  Or you can work with complementary colors within your overall color scheme.   Or both!

Blue and orange:


Red and green:


Or we can choose adjacent colors to each other on the color wheel (an analogous color scheme) for a harmonious look.

Shades of blues and greens:


Rich and colorful

This family chose richer colors that were all in the same intensity and I love how it turned out.  Not too bright - just right!  They looked great both indoors and out.

  • family-photographers-minneapolis-senior-photographers-minneapolis-st-paul-twin-cities-mn-photographers-7
  • family-photographers-minneapolis-senior-photographers-minneapolis-st-paul-twin-cities-mn-photographers-8

Here is another colorful look I loved.  This family really showed off their amazing sense of style!  Mom put this whole look together and was brilliant with the colors, layers, and patterns she combined.



Here is a more formal look with grays and hints of pink - note that Mom's dress fits her perfectly!  I love how cohesive and elegant this is:



Fall and Christmas time in particular, are wonderful (and popular!) times for photo shoots, and seasonal looks are so fun and easy to put together.  Remember that red and green are complimentary colors, and so are purples/maroons and fall yellows, as well as blue and fall orange.

  • Family Photographers Minneapolis-00024
  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo
  • family-photographers-minneapolis-senior-photographers-minneapolis-st-paul-twin-cities-mn-photographers-13
child family senior photographer minneapolis-007

Consider the setting:

Another thing to think about, naturally, is the setting where your session will take place.  I love this whole look for an upscale urban environment in the fall (and did you notice the analogous color scheme?):


In-home lifestyle

I love the ultra-simple for an in-home lifestyle session.   A simple tank or cami leaving the arms bare conveys intimacy and closeness, which is perfect for a newborn session.   If you aren't comfortable going sleeveless, then a simple long-sleeved knit top would look perfect as well.  And neutral tones keep the visual clutter at bay and put the focus squarely on you and your loved ones.


When all else fails, go timeless!

Timeless looks like smocked dresses, cable-knit sweaters, and suspenders will always look good - just about anywhere. 


I hope that helps you with your photo shoot planning and makes the process more fun. 

Remember, this is just a guide, based on my experience and my own personal tastes.  If there's something you love that makes you feel fantastic, then you should wear it.  No matter what!  In your pictures you should look like YOU (...you on your very best day)! 

  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In