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Never Go Against the Family, Part 2: What to Wear

Author: Libby

what to wear for family portraits printique

Family Portraits: What to Wear

by Jessie Parker
It can be a big project to choose outfits for a portrait session of the entire family, particularly if your family includes a wide range of ages and sizes. Plenty of clients already have a plan and I never get involved in this stage, but I think it’s a good idea to have an answer, should you be asked. Much of the decision can come down to where and when the photos are taking place, but there are other factors to consider as well.
Here are some criteria I suggest you consider when making wardrobe choices:

1. Where Are You Doing Your Photos?

I think this is a good place to start because you just decided where to have the session, so all the factors that went into that decision are fresh in your mind. There are really two basic schools of thought for this- do you want to match or contrast the environment in style? For example, if your location is a rustic barn, you could match the tone of the place and wear jeans, plaid shirts, and boots OR you could contrast it by wearing formal wear like gowns and tuxedos. Either is a good look, but once you know which direction you want to take, it narrows down the choices a lot!
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2. When is the Appointment?

What time of year is it? What will the temperature be like? Being too hot or too cold can really limit what you can accomplish with children and even adults, so keep that in mind when dressing them. It’s a great idea to take holiday photos in the fall, but trying to dress in winter clothes when it’s still shorts weather isn’t a good plan. The time of day is an important factor too. Dark clothes tend to be more flattering but might blend too closely with your background as light fades.
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3.Comfort is Key.

This is especially true with regard to small children. Avoid anything itchy or binding. Also, excessive accessories like hats, ties, and vests can make anyone uncomfortable, and keeping anything like that on a reluctant toddler is nearly impossible. The stress and distraction of dealing with cute, but unnecessary clothing takes time away from the session itself.
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4. Size Matters.

Choose something that you can easily find in the right size for every member of the family. Maybe that shirt looks great on mom, but will you be able to find the same thing for your 3-year-old?
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5. Color Coordinate.

Instead of trying to create a perfectly uniform (and possibly very boring) look, choose three or four colors and make sure each family member’s outfit exhibits at least two of them. For example, tan, white, blue, and red. Mom could wear a blue dress, a red scarf, and tan shoes, dad khaki pants and a light blue shirt, the oldest daughter a white dress, blue cardigan, and red shoes, and the baby blue jeans and a red shirt. It doesn’t all match perfectly, but it blends.
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If all this is just too much and you still can’t decide, don’t be afraid to go pure white. It’s a classic for a reason- it’s easy to get clothes that are all the same shade of white, unlike other colors. Yes, it’s “matchy, matchy,” but everyone can choose their own outfit that reflects their own style as long as it’s white.
Ultimately the outfits matter so much less than who is actually in the photo, so try to focus on that. If the pictures are great, no one will even notice whether you match or not.
Still unsure of what to wear? No problem, check out our Pinterest Board for more inspiration! If you want more ideas for planning a family portrait session, click HERE.