After photographing families for over 15 years, I am sharing my top family session outfit tips. I’m a mom and I get it. I’ve been on both sides of the chaos / camera. I desperately just want my kids to smile when prompted or at least be in a good mood for photos. You can’t predict your child’s behavior, but at the very least you can look good while bribing your kids with snacks.
When it comes to family sessions, I’ve learned that choosing the right outfits can make a huge impact on the final product. Although I’m a professional photographer, I don’t always remember to take professional photos of my own family. Years ago, I made it a priority to photograph my family at least once a year. It’s so much fun and I take a lot of pride in carefully curating our outfits. It’s a serious undertaking because it only happens once every 365 days.
Here are my 6 personal tips to help you select the best looks for your family sessions and how I apply them to my own family.
Revolve Everything Around Mom’s Outfit
Mom is the person who likely has the least amount of photos with the family where they look presentable. (This may not apply to everyone, so if this applies to Dad, revolve around him!)
Out of all my family session outfit tips, I start with this: my outfit reigns SUPREME. I literally have 100 tabs open on my internet browser to keep track of all the outfits I’m considering. How I decide is a balance of the next two tips.
Keep it Classic
Opt for timeless outfits that won’t go out of style. Avoid trendy or overly busy patterns that may distract from the focus on your family. Stick to neutral colors or soft pastels for a more elegant and classic feel.
I normally love soft neutrals as a safe, classic look. But there are times when I’m not finding any neutrals I like, or what I did find doesn’t fit right or look good. What do you do then?
Double down on my next tip.
It’s crucial that your family feels comfortable and at ease during the session. Avoid outfits that restrict movement or are too tight. Find a tailor you trust to help if necessary. Opt for breathable fabrics and consider the weather conditions. When everyone is comfortable, the confidence is obvious. This makes it easier to capture the candid and genuine expressions that make the images special.
When I begin curating our outfits, the top priority is just finding something I feel good in and makes me feel confident and beautiful. All year long I’m making mental notes about outfits and dresses I see. At this point I’m not thinking about a location or even a color. I focus on the cut / style of the outfit and choose something that will flatter my figure. I am very strict about this element. If the outfit makes me feel self-conscious at all, I move on and keep looking. When something REALLY catches my eye… I buy it, try it out, and save it for later.
Coordinated, Not Identical
Instead of dressing everyone in identical outfits, aim for a coordinated look. Choose a color palette that complements each other and adds visual interest. Consider incorporating different textures and layers to add depth to the photographs.
I never aim to have identical outfits. It’s tempting to have your kids be identical (OH how cute), but if you resist, your portraits will look more interesting. The goal is to complement each other using similar color tones or texture, but never ever identical. I did, however, buy them the same shoes. Last spring, I found the cutest blue outfits for my girls that used the same fabric and cute textured design. But they were completely different styles (thanks Janie & Jack). For dad, I thought it was perfect to have him wear a cool toned, light grey blazer and khaki pants that he already owned. Then, all we had to do was color coordinate his tie! I was SO excited to see our outfits all together and I was so happy and proud with how the images turned out.
Match Location Vibe
Think about the setting where the session will take place.
- If it’s a beach or park, consider lighter fabrics, laid back or casual dresses, and comfortable shoes (like cute sandals). Heels can look out of place at the beach unless they are basket weave wedges or similar.
- For a more formal indoor shoot, dress with elegant attire (heels, blazer, neck ties etc).
- Urban settings are great for taking creative fashion risks.
Adapting outfits to the location (or vice versa) can enhance the look and feel of the images.
Of course, most of my family session outfit tips work for those that like to plan ahead. If that’s you, let your outfit direct you on which location you choose. For our blue outfit session, the outfits dictated the location, which was a modern, minimal vibe. The fancier style worked perfectly. If you’re a procrastinator, then let the location be the inspiration for your outfit. Either way matching your location is a safe choice. Although I must say, sometimes purposely having an outfit that looks out of place… is kinda edgy and fun. If that goes with your family personality, then don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
Add A Pop Of Color
While classic colors are great, don’t be afraid to add a pop of color to your outfits. It can bring vibrancy and fun to the photos (great for an urban setting). Ensure the colors harmonize well and don’t overshadow the essence of the moment. This is particularly fitting if you’re going with a unique theme or want to make a bold statement. Use your own discretion and style with this in mind.
I LOVED how I felt in my dress from Morning Lavender last year, which translated to how I carried myself in it. It flattered and concealed in all the right places and had delicate blue floral details (somewhat neutral). It became the inspiration for everyone else’s outfits and the shade of blue was my favorite part –our pop of color.
If you’re still unsure about color selection, a good rule of thumb is to stick to all warm colors, or all cool colors. Earth tones go well together because they’re warm. We went with a cooler color palette, but pastels kept it soft. If someone is going to have a pattern, let it be mom so she can be unique. Everyone else can have solid colors, but with more dimension, like ruffles, layers, or textured fabric.
BONUS tip: Hire Professional Hair & Makeup
If it’s in the budget, go for it! The more polished and put together you look, the more confident you will feel. Confidence always looks great on camera.
Remember, the purpose of a family session is to capture the unique bond and joy shared among family members. Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers, only opinions and preferences. Follow these family session outfit tips and stay true to your family’s style, personality, and what makes you feel confident.
You deserve to have photos you are proud to share with others. I would love to capture those memories for you!
Scroll down to check out some examples of the outfits we wore in previous years.
Blue Coordinated Outfits
- Mom: Morning Lavender, Same style, different straps
- Girls: Janie & Jack (I’ve noticed they sell the same style outfits in different colors each year)
- Dad: tie from Nordstrom Rack