Family Portraits: What to Wear

It's the number one question clients have when preparing for their portrait session: "What should we wear?"

Should the kids match?

Should we be dressed up or casual?

How much makeup should I wear?

And ultimately, the answer is different for everyone! If your family is gearing up for photos and you're feeling a little overwhelmed by this decision (and let's face it, it's a big one!), you've come to the right place. Here are three easy steps to choosing picture-perfect outfits for the whole fam!


1. Decide how you will use your portraits.

Where will you be hanging your wall art in your house? Is it in a cozy and casual family room or a more formal living room? Do you want to coordinate with other portraits already displayed? What color schemes are already in play in that room?

What type of photo album do you want? And again, where will you display it? Will it be a cute and fun memory keepsake, or a sweet and sincere storybook that makes you cry each time you look back on it? Hint: the answer can be "both!"

Are you using these images for holiday cards? How do you like your season's greetings? Consider how you decorate your Christmas tree... Are you a neutral-tone merry-maker? Do you spread glittery gold cheer? Do you love a good classic red?

Let's say I decide this bedroom wall is where I want to hang a portrait...


Well it's kinda cute and crafty, nothing fancy. I definitely don't want to wear a sparkly cocktail dress on this wall. Keep reading, and I'll show you what I might actually hang here!

Deciding where and how you will use your images will give you an instant direction on the style you are hoping to achieve. I meet with every single client in their home before their session. I get a sense of the client's style and provide guidance on how to best display their portraits, and I photograph the walls so I can show clients exactly what their images will look like on display in their home.


2. Pick a color palette.

Once you know where your images will be on display, you know the style you're aiming to achieve. Next, you need to choose a color palette that fits that style. Your photographer should be able to make some suggestions, so when in doubt, ask! You may choose light and airy neutrals with pops of color in a bright, open room, or a pastel or jewel tone palette for a whimsical and carefree photo album. Again, this is totally dependent on your final products. Think big picture here!

This is the bedding in the room where I want to hang my wall art: 


These colors clearly work well in this room, so I'll pick something to wear with a color palette from these pretty pillows.

Pull from your color palette to make sure everyone is coordinating. Note, I did not say matching. Everyone should be wearing clothes in the style that you determined in step one, in colors pulled from your chosen color palette. Don't stress that your coral is too orange-y, or your emerald is too forest-y. Just make sure to draw from the neutrals and the colors to create a cohesive look amongst everyone.


3. Add some variety.

So now you know your style, and you know your colors. You just need a few extra touches to really bring depth into your photos. This is the fun part! Patterns, jewelry, makeup, accessories... The possibilities are endless!

Bring a pattern in for every third person* in the session. You do want to add something interesting, but you don't want to overwhelm. Stick to your color palette, though, even with your pattern. And avoid thin stripes at all costs!

*My exceptions are portraits with two people and with five people. I do like when couples have one person in a pattern and when families of five have two people in a pattern - one child and one adult.

For the makeup-wearing members of the family, I suggest you go a little heavier than your everyday routine, but nothing you wouldn't wear out to dinner with your family. Keep it simple. You want to look like yourself in your portraits!

Accessorize! Whether you like simple pieces or statement jewelry, wear it. If the kids want headbands or hats, bring them. If it's cold enough for a scarf or a jacket, layer it up. The beautiful thing about accessories is that they are completely customizable. If it's too much or too little, your photographer can advise you on how to adjust. All the fun little extras give such depth and personality to your portraits. Use them!


These are my go-to pieces for just about everything! My wedding rings are gold, so I reach for these any time I need to dress up an outfit. Everyone's taste is unique. Whatever you choose to wear, let your own personal style shine through.

Room - Screen Grab.jpg

And just because I promised, here is an idea of what I might want to put on this wall. I said I didn't want to wear a sparkly cocktail dress, but I never said anything about a wedding dress! The yellow and orange in the sky, the deep teal in the water, and of course, the creamy white from the dress... Ugh this canvas print would look so good in this room. Plus, that was the best day ever, and I love to remember it.

Because I photograph my clients' walls before our session, I can display their images for them just like this so they know exactly what their images will look like in their homes. So cool, right?!

So there you have it... My three steps for deciding what to wear for your portrait session. What do you think? Will you use this method next time you're deciding on family portrait outfits? What else helps you choose? Should I order that canvas print for this wall? Let me know!

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