What To Wear For A Family Photo Shoot

You’ve got the session booked but you have no idea what to wear for a family photo shoot!?

“What should we wear” is the most common question I hear from my clients. 

It’s important, but it doesn’t have to be all that difficult. 

Just use these basic guidelines and your whole family will look great. 

Family wearing various variations of blue clothes on Point Pleasant Beach, NJ with a dramatic sunset sky for a family portrait by LaGregor Photography

Think About It Ahead of Time

A family portrait is an investment. You are investing your time and money to create a lasting piece of artwork that will hopefully be hanging on your wall for years to come. Don’t wait until the night before to pick out some clothes for everyone in the family. 

For more tips about preparing for your upcoming family photo, check out 5 Ways To Prepare For Your Family Photo.

Talk to Your Photographer

Your photographer is a great resource. Don’t forget to use them. I am not an expert on fashion, but I can tell you what colors look great together in photos, what patterns look weird, and whether the outfit you picked seems to be a good fit for the type of portrait you had in mind. Some of my clients even send me photos of potential outfits they have chosen for their kids or themselves. I am always happy to take a look and offer some insight. In fact, it almost always turns out that the discussion makes the portrait better overall. Even if I don’t suggest any changes to the clothes, it helps me know the kind of look the client is going for and I can plan accordingly. 

Good communication always produces better results and the same is true when choosing what to wear.

Show Off Your Family’s Style

Your family or individual portrait is about you and/or your family. Make sure the results reflect that. Many of my clients give great consideration to the location, making sure its a place that means something to them, but they forget to do the same with their attire. If your family personality is jeans and hooded sweatshirts, then go for it! There is no rule that a portrait has to be formal. In fact, choosing clothes that reflect who you are will result in better photos that have more meaning to you. 

family on Point Pleasant, NJ beach under a palm tree in jeans and hooded sweatshirts or hoodies for a family portrait by LaGregor Photography

Try To Coordinate Instead of Match

Everyone in the family does not have to have matching shirts. They don’t even have to be wearing the same color, although that can work really well. However, it is important that the colors and styles go together. This is one specific area where your photographer can help. Selecting colors that go well together is something every good photographer should be well versed in. If you want to learn more about how different colors blend together, do a web search for “color theory in photography.” It can be a little technical, which is why its helpful to ask your photographer, but just a little knowledge on the subject can go a long way.

You also want the styles of clothing to go together. Don’t dress the children in more formal clothing and then have the adults in jeans and a t-shirt. Again, this doesn’t mean everyone should be wearing the same thing, just that you should give some consideration to whether or not they belong in a photo together.

Be Comfortable

You can’t look your best if you are uncomfortable. Especially with young kids, you may want to rethink the elaborate and potentially uncomfortable outfits and go with something that the kids will want to wear for more than 15 minutes. Also, keep in mind that the best photos of children usually happen when they are unaware of the camera and just playing and being themselves. Uncomfortable clothes prevent that from happening.  

Avoid Crazy Colors

Have a neon green shirt that you love? Maybe leave it out of the family portrait. Ok, so its not the 80s anymore and the chances of a family showing up to a portrait session completely decked out in neon colors is pretty slim, BUT I feel like I should mention it. Even if it isn’t neon, some really bold colors just don’t work all that great on camera.

If you plan to go with some really bold colors, let your photographer know. I would never tell a client that can’t wear colors that they want, but if I know ahead of time, there are certain things I can do to (mostly with the way I will light the shots) to make sure the photos turn out the way you want them to.

Keep The Designs Simple

Keep it simple! Your family or individual portrait should be about you, not about the clothes. Crazy patterns or huge logos turn it into a photo of the outfit rather than a photo of the person. This might be great if you’re modeling for a fashion designer, but not really what you want for the family photo canvas on your wall.  

Get Clothes that Fit

This goes without saying for the adults, but it is also important to keep this in mind for the kids too. It’s  pretty common to buy clothes a little oversized so that your children can grow into them. Try to avoid that when choosing kids’ clothes for the portrait. You don’t want big baggy clothes on the kids for that canvas that will be hanging over the fireplace for the next 10 years. Too small is no good either, but that is usually more obvious. 

The Location

When choosing the clothes, remember to take into consideration where the shoot will be taking place.  Shorts and t-shirts may look great on the beach, but not so much in a park with the leaves changing colors. Similarly, jeans and sweaters look out of place on the beach, even if you are shooting at the Jersey Shore in November.

You also want to consider the colors in the location you are shooting. A beach, for example, is mostly neutral colors like beige sand and light blue water and sky, so you can add some bold colors to your wardrobe and it will look great. But add those same bold accents to a fall shoot with orange, red, and yellow leaves and you will have the opposite effect. Your goal should be to make the people in the photo stand out against the background.

If you need some help finding a great location in Monmouth County, check out my Top 10 Portrait Spots.

Add Accents

Bold colors are great and can really add a dynamic look to a portrait. But too much of a bold color can dominate a photo and take the attention away from the people in it. This is why I always encourage my clients to pick neutral colors to wear and add bold colored accents such as a scarf for women, a shirt that is covered by a blazer or jacket for men, or a bold pair of shorts with a more subdued shirt. There are probably hundreds more options that you can think of. Feel free to add a comment below to share your ideas.  

I hope this helps you plan for your next family portrait. You can learn more about my portrait sessions HERE

If you think there is something I can add to this list or you have any questions, let me know in the comments below. 

If you found this helpful or know someone that would, use the buttons at the bottom to share this post. Thanks!  

Family wearing bold colors with the mom wearing a bright orange scarf as an accent on Long Branch, NJ beach for a family portrait by LaGregor Photography

5 Ways to Prepare For Your Family Photo

A family photo can be a great experience for everyone that results in memories and prints that will become family heirlooms OR it can end in tears, yelling, mediocre photos, and utter disappointment.  Choosing a good photographer is a step in the right direction towards achieving the former, but here are some additional things you can do to make sure everything turns out the way you want.  

1. Talk To Your Photographer

This is by far the most important advice I can give to help you prepare for a family photo shoot.  If you have any expectations for how you want the shoot to go or how you want the photos to look, then let your photographer know your expectations!  A good photographer will take the time to talk to you about what you want to get out of the portrait session and also what you can expect from them during the shoot.  These rest of the tips in this article won’t mean anything if you aren’t on the same page as your photographer.  

Family portrait wall art from a Fall shoot in New Jersey

I talk to my clients at least a week before the shoot because I want to know more about them and what they are looking for from their family photo session.  Is your family looking for more serious, formally posed, portrait?  Maybe you want one posed portrait but then want a more laid back and fun atmosphere to come through in the remaining photos.  Are these photos for your Christmas card?  Even if you are taking them in the middle of May, there are things that you and your photographer can do to make them more “holiday looking.”  Did you have a certain style or feel in mind for your family photo?  Perhaps you want a more rural county feel?  Your photographer may know the perfect location for that, but you would never know if you don’t communicate that to them.  Talk to your photographer ahead of time and you will get what you want, your photographer’s job will be easier, everyone will have more fun, and the photos will be all the better because of it.  

2. Know Your Goal

The first thing I ask any of my clients is, “what is your objective for this photo session?”  This one kind of goes with tip number 1.  Before you talk to your photographer, you have to know what you want.  your goal can take many forms.  It can be a goal for the content of the family photo.  

You can plan what print products you ultimately want on your walls.  Your goal can even just be to have a fun and enjoyable experience with your family.  Do you want to document your children at this age?  Do you want to memorialize a milestone reached by one of your family members?  Do you want a bunch of fun shots to share on Facebook?  

Do you want a large framed or canvas portrait for a specific wall that has been empty since you moved in?  Your answer may be one or more of these or something completely different.  There is no wrong answer, but it is important that you know that ahead of time and communicate that to your photographer.  

I would recommend making a short list of any thoughts you have about the shoot, narrowing it down to the important ones, and then discussing them with photographer.  This can help you organize your thoughts and make it easier to discuss them.  It can also help you realize which goals are important and also whether any of the things you had in mind tend to conflict with each other.  

You can put as much or as little time into this part of the planning phase as you think you need, but having some type of goal or goals in mind will typically make the session more productive and result in your family photo being more representative of your family’s style and personality.  

3. Dress For Success

Individual portrait taken in Hamilton, NJ
A classic look never goes out of style.

One of the most common questions I always get is, “What should we wear?”  Well, like a lot of other questions, the answer is, “it depends.”  You have to think about the weather, the location, the overall feel of the photos, and of course making sure they all go together.  

First things first…dress for the weather.  Unless you want to try and make a November day on the beach look like a summer vacation, make sure you are comfortable.  Comfortable people tend to look better in photos.  This goes doubly for children.  

Now while I try not to do outdoor shoots when it’s freezing out, sometimes it can be a little colder than expected in the spring and fall and sometimes it can be downright brutally hot in the summer.  So do a little planning ahead, know the weather, and start your wardrobe planning from there.  

Next, where is it you’ll be shooting and what kind of look will you be going for?  Jeans and flannel on the beach look weird…as do bathing suits and tank tops in the woods.  That is why I put location and “look” together…because they go together.  The location and the clothes should also match the overall theme or feel you want for the photos.  The last consideration is the color and styles of the clothes themselves.  

While of course, this should reflect your personal style and your goals for the shoot, there are some basic guidelines that can be helpful.  Solid colors always look better in a photo.  I love a crazy Hawaiian shirt as much as the next guy, but when you hang your family portrait on the wall, do you want the center of attention to someone’s shirt or your family members?  I also suggest avoiding “trendy” styles in favor of a more classic look.  

No one wants to cringe every time they pass their family photo on the wall because of an outdated style.  Finally, give some consideration to the location as far as colors as well.  You want colors that stand out from the location.  In other words, avoid green clothes in a park or beige clothes on the beach.  You want the people to be the focus of the photo, not sink into the background.  

4. Carefully Consider Any Props

I don’t bring props to a family’s photo shoot.  Why?  Because I would be doing a disservice to my clients if all their photos had the same standard props.  I do, however, encourage my clients to bring their own props.  But I don’t want them to bring just anything.  I want their photos to be meaningful to them.  Everyone has seen the empty picture frame photo.  If you like that, awesome, let’s do it, but how would you feel if I kept an empty picture frame in my trunk and every single family I photographed used that same frame?  

Find some things that have significance or meaning to you.  Perhaps you are taking photos to commemorate the coming addition of a new family member!  You could have one of your kids holding his own baby shoes and wearing a “future big brother” t-shirt or you could use a toy you already have ready for the new baby.  

Perhaps one of your children loves Captain America.  Let him or her bring his star-spangled shield and pose like a superhero!  That will keep them involved in the shoot and will, without a doubt, be their favorite photo!  The possibilities are endless when it comes to your family’s personality and certainly better than whatever I could fit in my trunk.    

5. Relax and Have Fun

I know I said Number 1 was the most important, but when it comes time for the shoot to actually happen, this is the most important.  Of course, I want to get some of the more formal posed shots with everyone looking at the camera, but the best photos (especially when it comes to younger children) tend to come when they are allowed to play and have fun.  It also tends to keep them more interested in the posed shots as well!

Do you have any tips for someone getting ready for a family photo?  Let me know in the comments below.  

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Individual portrait from a Fall session in Hamilton, NJ
The best photos are never posed.