What to Wear for your Photo Session
Updated: Apr 24, 2019
Ahh, the age-old question: "What in the world are we going to wear for our photo session?" You might also be asking things like: "How can I make this as painless as possible?" "How can I convince my kids-slash-husband to wear nice things for about two hours without tears?"
I get it. If you're like me, you finally took the plunge and scheduled your photo session, you're feeling all accomplished and awesome . . . and then approximately ten seconds later it hits you--you have absolutely no idea how to make everyone look cohesive and stylish and yet still manage to look like, um, YOURSELVES. The pressure is on, and you've just forked over all this money on the photography session and now it feels like you're gonna have to spend a fortune and sooo much time getting you all to look nice!! AmIright??
All right, deep breaths, it's really not so bad, I promise. In fact, I recommend you start by taking a few of the tips below and actually go shopping in your own closets at home! Chances are, you can create an awesome look with many things you've already got on hand. And bonus points for closet shopping because everyone should feel pretty comfortable that way! You just need to think through the clothing selection a little and be intentional with what you pick out!
These wardrobe choices are casual, stylish, cohesive and full of their personalities! Notice the pops of color and pattern, layering and accessories!
So here's my number one tip: Color. Choose a cohesive color scheme. But listen, looong gone are the days of family uniforms in photos (White polo shirts, khakis and matching Birkenstock sandals--c'mon, admit it, your family is as guilty as mine, circa 1996.). Today's family portraits are not so matchy-matchy, and instead show off a whole lotta colors that play well together. Choose to combine colors within the same color palette--you don't want to mix pastels with neon or jewel tones (okay, let's all just maybe leave the neon at home--more on that later). No need to dress everyone in the same teal color or put everyone in various shades of red. Instead, you want some contrast in your wardrobes! Contrasting colors create a great color story and provide some visual interest in your photos. Just google a color wheel and pick some opposite colors, like blue + orange! Another option would be to pick just one or two contrasting colors to sprinkle throughout your wardrobes with more neutral colors like grey, navy or tan as your base. Your pops of color don't have to be just in your actual clothing--fun necklaces, suspenders, or shoes are awesome ways to bring in great color, too! Last tip on your color choices--Keep in mind the season and location of your session. If you've got lots of green or brown in your background, you'll want to steer away from those colors on your bodies.
Check out the contrasting colors here! Combined with the mix of patterns (even a wisely chosen, yet bold TWO patterns on their oldest son works well here!), you can see how everyone is cohesive and this photo is just so darn visually interesting.
Let's talk patterns next. Guys, here's where it gets even more fun! You do need some pattern and texture to your clothes to bring some interest to your look! But choose wisely, and use sparingly. Maybe your three-year old can wear the bold, striped dress while everyone else is in solid colors. Choose one person or one article of clothing to be your wild card and have everyone else play off of that! Tiny, subtle patterns are usually okay to mix and match a little--think pinstripes, little polka dots, or subtle plaids.
Layers and colors and those bold, patterned leggings! Everything plays nicely together here without matching, and the whole family looks so put together!
Details matter. So accessorize! Layer! Wear those cute boots or heels you've been saving for a special occasion! Splurge on that cute little bowtie or fedora for your son, and let your daughter wear a fun scarf and her favorite jacket! The more thought you put in to the variety, layers, and textures of your outfits, the more put together you'll all look in your photos. And the great thing about layers and accessories is that after a few photos, we can take them off and you've got almost a whole new look! Vests, cardigans, necklaces, hats, boot socks, jewelry, suspenders--it's all eye candy for your photos.
Check out those suspenders, and how Dad's shirt compliments Mom's dress so well! And the small details of the tie at the bottom of mom's dress and both dudes' shirt cuffs are PERFECT!
Don't. forget. shoes!! Especially for your boys. I cannot tell you how many times I've put together my own family's photo outfits and realized at the last minute that my boys only own sneakers, and those dirty things are NOT going to vibe with the look I'd created! UGH. Maybe I'm the only one who forgets to think of boy shoes, but grabbing a cheap (And clean!!) pair of loafers somewhere like Payless (or heck, even Walmart!) can save the day.
The mix of neutrals, colors and pattern here are awesome.
Also, mom's shirt brings some fun texture and detail!
WHAT NOT TO WEAR: All right guys, here's a short list of wardrobe no-no's that make photographers cringe! Leave the logos and cartoon shirts at home. Logos on t-shirts are distracting and are just not going to stand the test of time--and you want your investment in these photos to be worth it years down the road. Also, steer away from skinny-strapped tank tops on older girls & women. They aren't going to do well in photos to hide bra straps, and aren't very flattering in photos, anyway. If you're going sleeveless, wider straps are your best friend. Next on the no-fly zone are those neon colors. Bright colors often reflect and create a color cast on your face that's NOT flattering and hard to remove, even with our mad Photoshop skills! Even a coral colored shirt can have this effect, so just be careful what colors you put near your face. It sounds crazy, but pay attention to socks, too!! When sitting in photos, socks can show--so keep the dingy whites and the outfit-clashing ones at home, because they might just make an appearance on camera.
Sock and shoe game on point.
And now, throw everything I've said out the window. I mean it! Rules are meant to be broken, right?? And these aren't even rules! So grab that batman t-shirt, dress everyone in white, or throw lots of bold patterns into the mix! The most important part of deciding what to wear is that you've made sure it reflects your family and your style, and that you're comfortable. Find what you like and commit.
That sweet yellow headband just brings their whole look together!
Need more inspiration? Walk around your favorite store like Target or Macy's for a bit and see how their outfits are put together, or grab the exact pieces they've used on their models. Do some Pinterest stalking for family photos and find a color story you'd like for your own family. Online shops like Etsy and Zuilily seem to have reasonably-priced and fashionable clothing and accessories! Sometimes the easiest way to get started on your inspiration is to find a favorite piece of clothing you already own that tells a great color story--then start grabbing other items that compliment or contrast it well and before you know it, you're good to go!
I think mom picked the white floral dress as her starting point for the rest of her clothing choices. Color and pattern perfection right there, guys!
Still struggling? If you've got a good photographer, he or she will help you figure out what will work best. Don't be afraid to give them a call or text with questions or pictures of what you're putting together. Bring a few options to your session and take the first few minutes to put together something fantastic with your photographer! You're paying them to make you look your best, and that's all part of it, if you ask me (Want to ask me, literally? Here ya go: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Happy styling, guys!!!
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