What to wear for Family Pics

What to wear for family pictures:

Are you planning for family pictures?  Maybe dreading family pictures because you aren’t sure what to have everyone wear?  What to wear for family sessions is the number one question clients ask me about when considering getting their family portraits taken. In general, there are only a few things I would recommend. Consider these outfit ideas to allow your family to be the focal point of your portraits.

1) Plan your outfits in advance!

Sometimes it is easiest to start with one person and go from there. I usually start with mom or daughters then move to dad and sons, etc.


Matchy matchy seems like it would be a cute idea but let me just tell you….it’s NOT. The trick is to COMPLEMENT each other but not to MATCH each other.  Select a color scheme and use hues that complement each other. The days of everyone wearing a white t-shirt and khaki pants is long past.

3) Stick to ONE outfit.

Family portrait sessions are already pretty intense for most people and can be quite stressful for others. Why complicate things further by having to choose more than one outfit for each person AND have them find a place to change, fix hair, put shoes back on, etc. right in the middle of the session. It just makes everyone grumpy and want to be done prematurely. Then consider adding in young kids to the mix... You can see why sticking to one outfit is the best plan!

4) Consider your existing home décor.

Consider your existing home décor, style, color scheme, etc when deciding on outfits for family pictures. If you have neutral everything in your home it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to wear bright colors for your portrait session. You want the pictures you put on your wall to match your existing theme rather than detract from it.

5) Location, location, location!

Keep the location in mind.Think about where your pictures are going to be taken. Are you going to be at the beach where there is mostly neutral tones? Will you be surrounded by bright fall foliage? Select a color scheme that will complement the setting. Remember to pick outfits that will complement the background-not compete with it. Along with the location remember to PLAN ACCORDINGLY FOR THE WEATHER!  If you are planning a portrait session outdoors in the fall you probably don’t want to wear short sleeves and a short skirt. Look at the forecast before the shoot so you can bring coats, gloves, hats, boots, long socks, etc. I always say- layers, layers, layers. Even in the summer, you can ALWAYS take layers off.


Choose practical clothing items. If you feel good, you will look good. Choose clothing that is easy to move in, keeps you comfortable in the season, and doesn’t require a ton of maintenance during the session. If you make your kids wear uncomfortable clothes you can plan on them tugging at them, fussing about them, and even trying to take them off in some cases!

7) Add accessories and texture to your outfits.

Add some visual interest to your portraits by using unique fabrics. Lace, knit, twee, chambray, herringbone, faux fur, wool, etc. Don’t fear subtle patters. Patterns can work wonders in moderation. Try one or two statement pieces, and the rest subtler and simpler. For example- let baby girl wear a polka-dot dress or dad wear a striped tie. The fastest way to take your outfits from average to amazing is by using layers and accessories. Scarves, blazers, jackets, cardigans, belts, jewelry, socks, hats, etc. I was always taught the rule of three. If you aren’t wearing at least three accessories your outfit isn’t complete.  Last but definitely not least- stay away from trendy outfit choices and accessories. Trendy choices will date your portraits.

8) Select outfits that are appropriate year-round.

One of the most popular times for family sessions is in the fall and around the holidays. The holidays may seem like the perfect excuse to bring out the Santa hats, blinking light necklaces, or crazy socks for your Christmas card portraits. If you are specifically getting Christmas card portraits, then by all means have fun! However, if these are just normal family portraits being taken in the fall, then you’ll want to be able to display these all year round. Avoid purely seasonal accessories and props.

9) Limit distracting patterns, logos, neon colors, characters, all white or all black.

This includes clothing that has multiple patterns or large logos. Strong prints and abstract patterns can overpower your portraits. This goes for one single strong color as well. If everyone is wearing neutrals except one person popping with color the eye will be automatically drawn to that one person. It takes away from where you want the eye to be focusing- the family or group as a whole.  Neon colors are a big no no, period. There is never a reason to wear neon colors. All white or all black outfits seem like they might be cool but they are only good in the right setting-the studio. If you are wearing an all white shirt then it is very easy to blow out parts of your shirt causing it to lose its detail. The same can be said with all black, it’s easy to have clipping on black clothing and the detail is lost.

10) Lay it all out.

Lay each member of the family’s outfit out all together while planning so you can get a good idea how the outfits will look as a whole. This helps to see what works and what doesn’t.  This way you can make sure you’re not missing any essential clothing items.  Also- SHOES! Don’t forget that there is a good chance your shoes will make an appearance in your images. Don’t let them ruin the session by forgetting to include them in your planning.

11) Try it on.

Make sure to TRY YOUR OUTFITS ON well in advance of the session. It’s pretty often that people will put the outfits on for the first time right before they are leaving for their session only to realize that their kids pants are way too big and their shirt doesn’t button.

12) Create a timeless portrait.

If all else fails, when you look in your closet to find the perfect family portrait outfit think about keeping it classic. You’ll want your images to be timeless. Styles come and go but your photos will last forever. Again, stay away from trendy outfits-they date your images.

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