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Outfit Selection

Deciding what to wear in family photos can be a daunting task!  These are photos you are going to hang on your walls and cherish for years to come.  It can seem overwhelming when considering what to wear but it doesn’t need to be.  Use these tips to help you pick out the perfect wardrobe for you and your family.

Coordinating colors not matching outfits (most times)

Now this doesn’t mean everyone has to 100% match with khaki pants or jeans and a white shirt!  You want to complement each other’s outfits by choosing colors that work well together.  I find that if everyone is wearing the same clothing, people will all tend to blend in together and there won’t be too much pop and life to the images.  

Look at your home décor

Do you like bright colors?  Neutrals?  Since you will be hanging these photos in your house, you want to make sure the colors of your clothes go with the color scheme of your home.

Limit colors & patterns

Personally, I enjoy having an outfit in the mix that has all the colors in it.  However, not everyone in the photo should wear patterns as it may distract the final image.  When picking patterns, choose smaller ones that won’t distract attention away from the main subject/s.  Use patterns sparingly…. if one person is wearing a print, try to avoid putting someone else in a competing pattern.   When thinking about texture, choose different ones that will give photos some interest such as lace, corduroy, denim, etc.   Avoid large logos, emblems and graphics like “GAP” and “Old Navy” because again, these will typically distract attention away from the subject.  We want your faces and emotion to show, not promote the clothing company you purchased from!  


Be timeless


For some fashionistas, this may be a difficult concept; however you are going to want these images to stand the test of time.   Pick outfits that aren’t t considered too trendy, but will be able to be enjoyed and displayed for many years to come.  One example of something that is timeless is jeans… classic look and style yet you can still incorporate your own flair into the outfit with your tops and accessories.  Still be YOU, never forget that!

Let your personalities SHINE


The purpose of these photos is to hopefully capture each individual as they truly are, to capture the family, the relationships, and people in the photos just as THEY are.  Forcing children to wear outfits that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar to them may cause some anxiety and stress to them which in turn will inhibit really capturing their personalities during the session.  Same goes for adults.  Wear clothing that YOU feel good in and the pictures will emanate those feelings.  If your child wears a pair of rain boots everywhere he goes, it makes the most sense to have him wear them for pictures as well.  Remember, you want to capture everyone as they are NOW.  Capture these moments as they are!

Dress for the season & location


Obviously you want your images to make sense.  One typically wouldn’t be wearing jeans, boots, and a jacket to the beach in the summer so why would you for pictures?  Dress the part and be aware of your location.   You will want to make sure that everyone is on the same page and coordinates in both colors AND styles.  




​One of my favorite “tips” for clothing choices!  In the summer months, this may be more difficult to pull off but during all of the other seasons, definitely layer your outfits.  Not only will it provide more visual interest in each photo but it will also allow a lot more variety in your shots and poses.  Have a ton of images of yourself in just your dress or cute top and jeans?  Throw on a little sweater or jacket and a hat and you have entirely different look. 


Personalize It


​These are YOUR images and of course you want them to speak volumes about you and your family.  Discuss things your family enjoys doing together and bring “props” and accessories that will help compliment who you are.  If your family enjoys playing music together, bring your instruments to your session.  If your family enjoys boating, suggest doing your session on a boat or at the very least near the water.  Bring along items that will represent who each individual is AND who your family is collectively.

​​​Plan ahead


Make sure you have given yourself enough time to think about all of the details of your session.  Plan ahead so that #1 you can truly think about your photos and everything you want out of the session, #2 you aren’t rushing and stressing out right before your session, and #3 if you have decided to go for a new look for your session or someone gets a bad haircut, you still have time to fix things if you need to.

​​Keep make up natural, but still have some on

​You will want to avoid using very heavy makeup, but a bit of color on your lips, eyes, and cheeks will help bring you to life in photos.  Be sure to bring some lip gloss with you as well.



Hats, scarves, jackets are all great options and give extra interest to your images. 


Ladies & their shoes


I’m all for a sassy pair of shoes, however they may make for a very long and painful session.  If you plan on wearing heels, be sure to bring a pair of flats or flip flops that can help you get from point A to point B without any pain.  You can just swap them out as you need to.

​If I were building outfits for my family this is how I would do it:


​1.      Keeping your location and season in mind, start with one person.  Don’t try and think of everyone at the same time.  I find that mom or a little girl makes the most sense since they would typically be the ones wearing a print.  So mom will be wearing a floral print dress (small pretty pattern that is).


​2.      Now move on to the next person.  You will be pulling colors from mom’s dress so begin to think about whom in the family would look good in what colors.  Dad doesn’t look so good in XYZ since it tends to drown out the tone in his skin.  Let’s pick ABC for him instead.  And so on.


​3.      Then start to come up with ideas to personalize the session.  A little boy may have a security blanket or teddy bear he never parts with…. be sure to bring that with you.  The little girl may like crafting so have her make a cute matching headband or clip for her hair.  Mom loves tulips… on your way to the session pick some up.  Make thoughtful choices and be sure to discuss the ideas with your photographer!  Believe me, most are full of ideas however, it’s always nice when the family helps and truly ensures a “custom” session.


Some more tips to keep in mind:


  • Choose 1-3 colors for your group portrait, ones with similar tones that go nicely together and have everyone work within that color palette. For example: dark green, navy, and burgundy – all dark jewel tones.  OR tan, a lighter olive green, and denims – all lighter, softer tones.  By doing this, we see the people first and your portrait looks stunning. Wedding group photos look so good because they’re all wearing the same colors and the people stand out!​

  • Choose a top with sleeves at least to the elbow because your arms take up more skin area than your face and will draw attention and it may also make your arms look larger.

  • Choose long pants for men/ladies or a skirt below the knee for ladies so that your legs don’t take attention from your faces, and you will be able to sit and bend without showing too much leg.

  • Choose dark socks and footwear (unless it’s a barefoot photo) because white just sticks out like a sore thumb and that’s all you’ll notice in your portrait.

  • Keep jewelry simple and minimalistic because too much draws attention from your face.

  • Do your hair the way you’d normally do it while wearing these clothes – no fancy up dos with jeans, no pony tails with evening gowns, etc.  Your portrait will be more timeless and represent more closely who you are, not just what you look like.”

  • If getting a haircut or new hairdo, make your appointment at least 2 weeks prior to your portrait session.  Fresh hair cuts rarely look their best the same or next day. Ladies need time to practice working it, men need it to grow out just a little. Allow some time to live with your new look before your portrait session.


I've put together a Pinterest board with some outfit color ideas for fall and winter sessions here.

Location selection

​I believe a portrait should be about showcasing the subject – especially their eyes, expression, and body language. Everything else – the clothing, props & location, are all secondary.

​That being said, everything else CAN have a big impact on your photos. So here are some things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about the perfect location for your session…

​1.      Think about where and how will you be displaying your images. If you’ll be hanging a portrait on your wall – think of the colors and style of the rooms that need new portraits.

​2.      Think about the day and time of your session. Will the locations you’re considering be crowded during this time? I like locations that aren’t too crowded for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t want to have to be waiting around while another person or family is using the “popular” picture spot. Second, you don’t want to have to worry about other visitors being in the background of your portrait. And third, if you’re not comfortable being the center of attention, you might want to choose a space that we’ll have mostly to ourselves.


​3.      Ideally our location will have areas where we can get OUT of the open sun if we need to. Bright direct sunlight creates harsh shadows and makes squinted eyes! So I’ll be looking for buildings, overhangs, trees, or any other structures in the area that can provide a little shade.

​4.      Try to think of somewhere personal or meaningful to you. Your photos will mean so much more (especially in 10 or 20 years!) if they are taken in a place that you enjoy being. And if you’re relaxed and feel “at home”, that will enhance your mood & expression!

​The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to location options. Here are some thoughts to get you started….

  • A downtown area that has lots of variety. The structure and texture of buildings will work perfectly, whether tall and sleek with glass windows, or historic and weathered with moss-infested brick walls. Also, alleys usually aren’t crowded, offer lots of shade, and will be something a little different! Even parking garages can be used.  

  • A park that has beautiful trees, buildings and structures.  Many state and local parks have great natural areas that photograph beautifully.

  • A farm, old barn, abandoned building, or run-down shed where there is worn wood and peeling paint. These old buildings can range in style from cute and country, to and dark and mysterious. Either way, it’ll add character and interest to your portraits.  

  • A natural area with overgrown brush, fallen down trees, stone walls, a small creek running through. A field of sunflowers or wheat.  An apple or cherry orchard. Natural areas are one of my favorite places to shoot! They make for very casual, carefree, and romantic portrait sessions! 

  • A simple dirt road with trees lining the edges works wonderfully as well, and gives great dimension to your photo.​

  • A local business that you like to frequent. Most business owners would be thrilled to allow you to use their store or restaurant for your portrait session. And most people wouldn’t ever consider this – so you’re sure to have unique images if we do part of your photo session there!

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