What to Wear in Family Photos

Our photographer, Lynda of Patton Photography, is constantly bombarded with questions of what to wear in family photos and I always see posts on Facebook asking for advice on what to wear – so we thought it would be very appropriate to touch on this subject today, right before the holidays creep up on us! If you follow these steps and advice, you’ll be sure to have the most perfectly styled little family on your social media feed – trust me.

1. Choose a location. This will inherently affect the clothing choices you make, so you need to nail this down before you do anything else. Since I was styling this shoot for our Christmas card – it only made sense to be photographed at our local Christmas Tree Farm.

  • Keep in mind what you choose as your photo “backdrop”, whether it be an actual location or a paper backdrop at a photography studio, plays a HUGE part in what you wear.  Examples:  If you choose a bright, flower laced meadow as your backdrop, you’re not going to want a lot of loud patterns in your clothing.  And if you choose a more plain or neutral setting (like the tree farm in these photos), you have more options to use bolder patterns because you aren’t fighting for attention with your surroundings.

2. Pick your main character. Choose one person to wear a pattern with a few different colors. In a family photo, I suggest this person be one of the parents. Parents are typically larger in stature and will create a larger canvas to play off of when choosing the complimentary items. I found this plaid button up in red, blue and silver for myself – Perfect Christmas color scheme, right? Choosing one person to take on the pattern allows you to mix up a few different colors in the other family member’s outfits.

3. Complete the ensemble. Start adding the colors represented in the main pattern into other family members outfits, being cognizant of how groups within the family will be photographed. For example, in this photo I knew I would want some of only my children – so I made sure they each had a different color on so they would both stand out individually. I had the same decision process when choosing what my husband would wear, knowing we didn’t want to blend in with each other.

  • Tip – I think adding clothing with texture creates a more robust dynamic within the photo. Add sweaters with buttons (like in our son’s sweater) and maybe a little zip up pullover like my hubby’s. Also try to mix up textures within the entire look – add in lace, wool, flannel, etc. whenever possible. This gives the look a little more dimension, which ultimately leads to a better overall style.
  • Adding layers when possible also makes the group look more put together.  Both the boys in our family added a tiny pop of red under their sweaters to tie into the main scheme and it really turned out great!
  • Also – DON’T NEGLECT THE SHOES! Make sure everyone’s shoes match the scheme of your photo and are clean and not too worn.  This can throw off the entire vibe of the photo instantly.  In our case, we wanted to give off the effect that we were actually going to trample through the trees – so we all wore our winter boots.

4.  Some key do’s and dont’s:

  • DON’T all wear the exact color shirt and pants.  You’re better than that!  It screams 1990’s and really dates the people in the photo.  If you’re forced into a situation where it’s a large family photo and you’re being asked to wear a specific color – add texture, layers and accessories to make yourself stand out and be a little less stuffy.
  • DO wear comfortable, realistic clothing.  Don’t force your children into big poufy dresses and put your boys into a tie.  The kids will be uncomfortable, which will most definitely translate in the actual photo so we want them feeling as happy as possible!
  • DON’T wear graphic or slogan shirts.  This is super distracting and is sending a message you likely don’t want to last years years. These items usually don’t stand the test of time and you don’t want to look back ten years down the road at your FRIENDS t-shirt and cringe.
  • DO think about the purpose of these photos.  Have an empty space in your hallway that needs a family portrait?  Think of what colors would match the paint and accessories in that area and make sure what you’re choosing coordinates properly.

Patton Photography

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