When it comes to family portraits people tend to freak out a little bit about what to wear. The question I get the most from clients before their session is what to wear for family portraits? It’s usually asked in a rather panicked tone. And believe me, I get the panic a photo session can induce! I have lived through that same anxiety!

When my son was a baby I was shopping for our first family portrait session as a family of four and had a total emotional meltdown in the middle of Nordstrom when I realized I’d somehow managed to pick out argyle sweaters for ALL OF US.  I was putting SO much pressure on my little family (and myself) to make our delightfully imperfect life somehow look perfect. After having a little cry I put all the clothes I’d picked out back (no matchy-matchy for me thank you very much), went home and picked the clothes for our shoot out of what we had.  And you know what, it freaking turned out great!  Everyone was comfortable and happy and it shows in the photos.  If the thought of a family portrait session spins you out – don’t worry!  You’re not alone!  But you also don’t have to make it a big deal.  Here are some tips for making getting dressed for your family portrait session a snap instead of a panic attack.

what to wear for family portraits

1: Just Be YOU!

We live in a HIGHLY visual age where we are bombarded with pictures.  We’ve seen all our pals family portraits flooding our social media feeds and MAN ALIVE some of them look like they are right out of a magazine!  Flowing skirts, designer everything, flower crowns – I have seen it all and I’m sure you have too.  But what’s most important to me when I’m photographing a family isn’t what clothes they’re wearing, it’s how it feels to be around them and capturing  the love they have for each other.  So, don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.  YOU DO YOU!  If you’ve got a totally awesome style all your own, the last thing I want to do is alter that.  But often we second guess our style when we’re about to be photographed.  DON’T!  BE YOU!!  Your images will be so much better if you aren’t afraid of being yourself.

2: Dress the Grownups First!

My children are exactly 0% worried about what they are wearing in family photos.  As the story above so elegantly illustrates, clearly I care A LOT about what we are wearing.  You probably care a lot too. Get yourself and your partner dressed before you worry about the kids.  Make sure you feel confident and comfortable in your outfit.  It doesn’t need to be fancy and formal.  It just needs to be you!  Once you’ve decided on your attire, move on to the kids wardrobe. I highly suggest shopping your closet before you actually go shopping at a store.  What is something you already own that makes you feel like a million bucks?  Wear that!  Don’t stress yourself out running around a store – you’ll probably end up accidentally picking out all the same sweaters.  Trust me on this.

3: Keep It Simple

Stick to a color palette of 3 or 4 complimentary colors without being matchy matchy. For the love of all that is good and holy, DO NOT all wear exactly matching clothes.  It’s a travesty! Instead, be true to the individuals in your family while pulling together a cohesive look.

At the end of the day, neutrals with pops of color usually work best.   Layers are so flattering, and a great way to show personality. Add a colorful scarf, one person in colored jeans or a fun textured sweater. Don’t be afraid of patterns! Plaids, polka dots, stripes and small florals are awesome when used as an accent. That said, I’ve never met a soft solid I didn’t love.  Don’t over think this! Just find a color story you all look good in and run with it.

4: Lay It Out

Once you have the outfits picked out lay them all out together to make sure you like how everything looks all next to each other.  This is often where you will see something that doesn’t fit or how you could switch something up just a little to make the whole thing come together.  And if you’re still unsure about how everything looks, take a picture with your phone and send it to your best friend or to me, your family portrait photographer, and get our opinions.  Your bestie might remind you that you look like you have jaundice when you wear yellow, and I may veto everyone in white shirts.  But chances are you’re going to have totally nailed it and just make me that much more excited for your shoot!

5: Steer Clear

There, of course, are a few things we want to avoid to create the best outcome for your portraits.  As previously mentioned, no exact matching.  Just. NO!  Also, avoid athletic wear (including athletic shoes) and team jerseys.  I get that you love the Giant’s, but wearing a jersey or graphic tee often detracts from your final images.  For the little’s, no character tees or branded clothing.  Also, avoid Crocs as they are so bulky and bright they often distract from a photos.  Be careful of all black or all white outfits as they can make your skin look weird.  Avoid large amounts of Kelly green, true red or bright blue as these colors in large amount can mess with the overall color of your photos. Additionally, PLEASE no white socks.  Please.  Avoiding these things will make the over all look of your finished portraits much more polished.

The only thing left now is to get your portraits taken! Seriously, I promise you it’s all gonna be okay.  What really matters is the incredible bond you share as a family – not what clothes you’re wearing. Focusing on each other and your love is what’s going to make your photos so special.  No matter what you’re wearing, your love makes you beautiful.  You’re gonna rock this!

Contact me to get your family portrait session booked so we can make some low-stress, fun-filled memories together.



Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.