The question I get asked the most by my clients is, “what do you suggest we wear for our photos.” Unfortunately, the answer to this questions isn't a quick one, so I decided to write a little post outlining some of my top tips. Planning for a family photo session can be outright dreadful, but that's why you hired me! I love working one-on-one with every client to provide guidance every step of the way.
So here are my top six tips when it comes to styling your next family photo session. Hopefully this helps provide some general direction when you start thinking about selecting your wardrobe for your session.
Tip #1. Location Matters
A family having photos taken on the beach won’t necessarily wear the same thing as a family having photos taken downtown in a more urban setting. So before you start shopping for your family’s wardrobe, consider the setting. Now, of course there's always the element of surprise. For instance, I love a super formal look in a rustic tree-farm or a casual, boho look in downtown Baltimore, but in general, think about where you are having your photos taken first before selecting your outfits. If your photographer has suggested a location you’ve never been to before, ask to see images of the setting, so you can get an idea as to what it looks like! If you are dead-set on a specific "look," let the photographer know so he or she can choose a location that best suits that look. You also want to keep in mind the overall color at the location. For instance, you probably want to steer clear from a lot of solid greens if doing a shoot on a wooded trail during the spring. And just one more quick (semi-related) tip... consider the season. Bright pink is most definitely going to clash with the rustic tones of Fall and red and green will look a tad "off" on the beach.
Let's look at some examples.... I recently worked with a client on an engagement session. She was very specific that she wanted a rustic setting, so once we selected the location, I worked with her one-on-one to select an outfit that would compliment it. I mean, a rustic barn just screams for some subtle feminine flare and of course cowboy boots!
Here's another example. I did a family session for a client last fall on a gorgeous tree-lined trail in Forest Hill, MD. Instead of sticking with traditional "fall colors," she opted for a unique color palate of plum, teal and rust brown that coordinated so nicely with the changing leaves, but didn't blend in. I love how they pop off this picturesque background.
This family's session was at a local mansion in Bel Air, MD, The Liriodendron, so their look was a little dressier. The little girls wore dresses, the grandfather wore a sport coat and the ladies wore heeled booties. Styling a larger group is also quite tricky, and I think they did a flawless job!
Tip #2. Choose One Outfit First
When styling a family (or even my own family’s photos), I ALWAYS select one outfit first. For me, it’s usually either my daughter’s or mine, because honestly, I just love dressing little girls (and I have a little bit of a fashion fetish myself). Once you select one outfit, you can then coordinate everyone else’s outfits around that one.
Let’s test this technique out! This week, I had a chance to pop into one of my favorite local Bel Air boutiques, Tiny Toes, to do a little style session of my own. All of the kid’s outfits I feature in this post are from Tiny Toes.
I’ve been shopping at Tiny Toes since I was pregnant with my daughter, Scarlett. Tiny Toes carries the cutest mix of children’s clothing – brands like Hatley, Mayoral, Appaman, and Pink Chicken fill their racks. They also stock sizes from newborn to pre-teen so it’s the perfect one-stop-shop for all the kiddos in the family. Their selection makes it super easy to coordinate outfits, and the staff is always so helpful, too! Supporting a small, local business is an added bonus.
So let’s get started… Let’s first assume the family in this example is having summer photos taken outdoors in mid-July.
I started with this adorable red floral dress by Appaman. Floral is a huge trend this season, and I love the idea of the little girl being the star of the show. Now, what if you're styling a family with no little girls? Mom could totally rock a bold floral dress just like this!
Tip #3. Avoid Look-a-Likes
When putting together a look, I like to avoid being too “matchy-matchy.” Instead, I suggest choosing two or three coordinating colors and creating unique outfits with those parameters in mind.
So, let’s keep going with styling around the dress above. I decided to select navy as my second color choice in order to pick up some of the navy accents in the floral dress. Assuming we’re styling a family like mine with a little boy and a little girl, I chose a simple, blue Appaman Polo for the little boy. Since the polo was pretty plain, I went with a fun palm-print short.
Now that the kiddos are done, I went across the street to another Main Street favorite of mine, Tiger Lily to find a little something for mom to wear for the session. My own closet is filled with so many finds from Tiger Lily. Their eclectic mix of classic and boho pieces is always on-trend.
I thought this navy poncho worn under a simple classic tee would be the perfect compliment to the kid’s outfit selections. Finish mom off with a cute pair of white or denim skinny jeans and a fun pendant necklace and she’s all set! I’d wrap this family's look up with a white or gray collared linen shirt for dad (like the one from Old Navy shown below) paired with a pair of jeans or khakis.
Tip #4. Accessorize
Accessories totally make the look! I love adding a few special pieces to finish things off, especially if the color palate is simple. It’s all about the details, so add a cute necklace, a bow, a hat or even a fun shoe to complete the look!
I added this cute JuniorBead red beaded necklace and a simple navy bow to complete my little girl’s look and a pair of sunglasses and a cute fedora to complete my little boy’s look. Keep in mind, accessories can always be taken off or swapped out really quick during a session. This will allow you to get some shots that all don’t look identical.
Here’s another example of a similar color palette.
Tip #5. Color, Patterns & Layers
Sure, in the example above, I chose a pretty classic color combo – good ‘ole red and navy, but let’s talk about stepping outside of the classic color combos. Here is a quick reference guide for some general direction when it comes to color.
Let's look at a not-so-common color combo really quick. Again, I started with one piece (the little girl’s dress in this case) first and built on the other outfit selections. I also accessorized and threw this adorable neutral leather jacket over this fun printed Pink Chicken dress. I thought mom would look super cute in this coordinating floral from Tiger Lily and the plaid check collared shirt from J. Crew Factory was a spot-on match with the little boys polo.
If mom isn't a dress-wearing gal, check out this more casual look for mom and dad. The pops of color in this cute beaded tassel necklace from Tiger Lily help add a pop of color over this simple gray tee (also from Tiger Lily) and this salmon check collared shirt from Dillard’s finishes this look for dad.
Here is another fun color combination. This one is much more vibrant and would look beautiful for a summer session on the beach. Mom’s look is from Tiger Lily, and I found this gray check shirt by Burberry, but you could find a similar one at J. Crew Factory for sure (with a more affordable price tag, too).
Mint green is super trendy right now and it's easy to coordinate with a pastel pallate. For this look, I paired this mint green Tea Collection dress with a gorgeous peach color and threw a pop of the blue into the mix with this adorable mermaid tail necklace (also from Tiny Toes). This look, too, would look stunning with a beach background. The peachy tones would coordinate beautifully with a sun-kissed sky.
If you really want to stick to a more monochrome color palate, consider a combination like this. I just love the subtle use of color; the blush is carried throughout, but the looks are varied enough that the whole group of siblings won’t look like one giant person. I also love all of the textures combined here - the slinky blush shift, the tweed shorts, and the tulle skirt on the dress play off one another beautifully.
I love adding texture with layers, too. Throwing a sweater over a collared shirt or a jean jacket over a dress can really complete a look! Like I mentioned earlier, you can easily strip layers to create several different looks during a session.
And little girls don't always need to be in dresses (I'm partial though, can you tell?). A cute pair of white leggings or skinny jeans are perfect for a spring or summer session.
Don’t be afraid to mix patterns either! Just try to balance them out. Make sure at least two patterns and two textures are represented. Think patterns like polka dots and stripes, or floral and plaid.
Certainly solids can be thrown in the mix, too. Consider varying textures as well, like denim, lace, tulle and silk. With more variety, your photos will generate more interest.
Tip #6. Stay True to You
I wrote this post as a way to provide some general guidelines to help you capture some gorgeous, frame-worthy snaps. A family photo should be a representation of YOUR family. You will look back on these pictures for years to come and remember that exact time in your family’s life. Sure, you want to look incredible, but not at the cost of not looking like YOU. If you’re a jeans and t-shirts kind of family, don’t feel like you need to look like you all stepped out of an Anthropolgie ad. We can work together to create a look that best suits your family and still looks magnificent.
So what if you don’t want to break the bank and buy all new outfits for your session? No, problem! I love buying one new outfit (again, usually for my daughter) and working with pieces from our closets! Here’s an example. I picked up that adorable blue-striped romper by Hatley (shown above) for my daughter while I was at Tiny Toes. I think it will be perfect for the 4th of July! My son already had this chambray button-up and those navy plaid shorts. I found an old red and blue plaid shirt for my hubby and this blue and white striped dress that I bought years ago (both from J. Crew Factory). And voila! Done!
And if you’re not sure where to start, consider the colors in your home. Afterall, these photos will ultimately be hanging on your walls, so why not pick a color palate that coordinates!
I hope that these tips help you prepare for your family's next session! To find more family photoshoot inspiration, head on over to my Family Styling Pinterest Board.
Be sure to comment below if you have any specific questions! I can't wait to hear from you!