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Outfits for Family Photoshoot: How to Choose and Coordinate?

If your home is anything like mine there are photos of you and your family dotted all over it. There’s something heartwarming about looking at the different moments in time and reliving them. Remembering how you felt, the smells, tastes and sounds of the day.

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It’s no wonder that year after year families just like yours and mine enlist the help of professional photographers to help capture your love and bond. But once you’ve booked your photographer then sets in the panic of what to wear and how to coordinate without little Johnny having a tantrum because he’s not allowed to wear his spiderman outfit.

While most photographers are not wardrobe stylists, I’m going to lay out a few top tips and strategies for helping you find the perfect outfits for all the family without making everyone wear the exact same thing.

If you’re anything like me choosing an outfit for yourself on a regular day when you haven’t got a professional photographer following you around can be a nightmare. So, figuring out what you are going to wear and how it’s going to coordinate with everyone else in the photo, the background plus not look out of place when the photo is hung in your home – well that can feel like a mammoth task right?

It doesn’t have to be though. You don’t all have to wear the exact same outfit or colors and you might not even have to go out and buy new clothes (although to be honest that’s part of the fun of getting professional photos taken right?).

So, take a deep breath, grab a pen and paper and let’s dive into the simple rules to ensure everyone is coordinated, happy and you get the perfect family photo you were after. I mean, the last thing you want is to look back at the photo and just remember all the chaos, arguments, and stress that it took to take capture that one perfect looking image, right? What we would really like to remember is the fun, the smiles and laughter of the day.

The Big Picture

Before you even think about clothes it’s important to take a moment to consider the big picture. There’s no point deciding to coordinate everyone’s outfits with certain key colors if they aren’t going to complement both the place where your photograph is being taken and the place where it will be hung in your home.

You may already know exactly where your photo will be displayed but if not, take a moment to walk around your home and see where it might fit best. Will it be surrounded by bright colors, neutral colors, patterns etc.? Knowing this can help you blend your new family photo with what you already have in your home.

Knowing where you’re having your photographs taken can also help. For example, if you know that you will be surrounded by leafy greens in a forest or field you may want to steer clear of green clothes in the outfits you choose in case you get lost in the background.

How to Coordinate Your Outfits for Your Family Photoshoots?

The good news is that the days are long past when it is recommended and expected that everyone must wear the same exact outfit. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a complete free for all and everyone can wear whatever they want. As it’s a family photoshoot we still want it to be clear that you all belong together. You want to show there is a bond between you all.

The easiest way to do that is through coordination. The idea is that you choose 2-4 colors that complement each other, and everyone plans their outfits around them. You could even go so far as picking one of the colors and saying that each person’s outfit has a slice of that color.

For example, say you picked yellow. One person could have a yellow top, one yellow trousers, another a yellow hairband or hat, another a scarf, another could have yellow shoes or a bracelet etc. That way there is this one color that ties you all together but isn’t overwhelming to the eye.

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If you’re stuck with where to start you could simply pick out your favorite piece of clothing and go from there. Alternatively, you could visit a shop such as Target that often create collections of clothes. All the clothes from one collection are usually designed to coordinate with each other and often include male, female and kids’ styles making is super easy to find all your outfits!

Oh, and don’t forget about the shoes! Last thing you want is to draw attention to your shoes because you’re wearing a pair that don’t match your outfit or just look plain old and scraggly. Remember your outfit covers you from head to toe!

What Colors Work Best for Family Photoshoots?

The colors that you choose to go with will depend on where you are shooting the photo, where the photo will be displayed in your home and often the season in which you are doing the family photoshoot. However, it is my firm opinion that despite all these things the colors (and types of clothes) that you choose to wear shouldn’t be something that the person doesn’t feel comfortable in.

The whole idea of the family photograph is to show off everyone’s personalities and the love you have for each other. If someone feels uncomfortable and self-conscious because they are wearing a color that they wouldn’t normally then perhaps its time for a rethink.

You want the day to be fun right? And that’s not going to happen if you’ve got a sulky teenage girl who stood all stiff and awkward because you’ve made her wear pink when she feels far more herself in darker, earthier tones.

Things to Avoid

While choosing your colors is ultimately your decision, most photographers will agree that avoiding all white or black clothing is a sensible option. This is because all white clothing makes it really easy to overexpose the photo meaning that you’ll lose the detail of the clothing. Whereas all black clothing can easily lose its depth and details meaning that you can look like a floating head.

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I would also suggest opting for solid colors rather than patterns. While patterns can be great, they can take the focus away from a persons face and personality which should really be the focus of the photo. However, patterned clothing can be used to help show off personalities, but I would keep it to a minimum of one or two pieces.

A further option to consider avoiding is character clothing. These are usually t-shirts and jumpers with characters from tv shows or films on them. While great for everyday they can again draw the eye away from faces and personalities.

Slimming Outfits for Family Photos

You may find that either you or a member of your family is anxious about what they will look like in front of the camera because they feel like they are carrying an extra bit of weight or perhaps just aren’t that confident in their body. Obviously, nobody wants a photo of them hanging in their home where they feel like they look really big or frumpy.

The good news is you can strategically pick out clothes that will not only flatter your body’s natural curves but also help you look and feel slimmer because the secret to a great photograph is confidence. When you feel confident and good about yourself its easy to make you look great in a photo.

Here’s Whippycake’s top tips

For example, it is well known that black is a very slimming color. Although as I discussed earlier it may not be ideal to have your whole outfit in black. Instead, you could mix it up with a pop of color for either your top of bottom half or even your shoes!

The number one secret for dressing slim though, is to mind your proportions. If you wear clothes that are full, round shapes please don’t be shocked if you look full and round. Instead, you should be looking to highlight the areas of your figure that you like thereby taking away from the areas that you would rather hide away.

For example, if you want to show off your legs with a mini skirt then wearing a longer top with a slightly higher neckline would balance it nicely. Or if you want to hide your belly away wearing a more loosely fitted top or one that is snugger around the bust but then floats down along with a more fitted pair of trousers is the way to go.

Another great tip is to grab a hip-length jacket with tailored lines for women or hip length well fitted jacket for men. These styles of jacket always look classy and the lines that they cut will help you look and feel slimmer.

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And finally take note of where your top meets your pants. The easiest way to add pounds to how you look is to wear an outfit where they meet at your waist. Instead aim for them to meet just below your waist for a slimmer and more flatting shape.

What Not to Wear for Your Family Photoshoot

Sometimes there’s so much to think about and so many options when it comes to planning your family photoshoot outfits that it becomes a little overwhelming. If that’s the case I though I’d simplify everything and just give you a list of things that you should definitely avoid wearing. In essence everything else is optional.

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Matching outfits

Remember that photo that your mom has of you and your siblings all dressed in the exact same outfit. Do you like it? Exactly, save your kids and everyone else for the matter the embarrassment and say no to matching outfits. After all we are all classier than that right?

White shirts

I know they look nice and clean and sharp but help your photographer out and leave them in the wardrobe. Not only does it make it easier to overexpose the image you also lose all the lovely detail and end up with a sub-par image. Not really the kind of photo you want hung above the mantel piece.

Clothes you don’t feel comfortable in

If you’re not comfortable in the clothes you are wearing you won’t feel confident and your personality won’t shine through. So, save the argument for another day and let your 5-year-old wear the thing they want to, not necessarily what you want them to wear.

Characters on clothes

However, try to avoid those t-shirts and jumpers with characters from tv, film and toys on them to give your photo a more timeless feel and not distract from everyone’s personalities.

Going  pattern crazy

Keep patterns to a minimum. Not only do clashing patterns on different pieces of clothes not look great but it also distracts the eye from people’s faces.

Dating yourself

Opting for the latest trends in fashion isn’t always the best option as this can easily date you and the photo. Instead lean towards more classic and timeless cuts that you will find every year.

Transitional lenses

If you usually wear glasses then you should wear them for the shoot, however when shooting outdoors transitional lenses often turn dark which can cover your eyes. If you can I would recommend taking them off so that the photographer is able to capture your full face including your eyes.

Strapless and sleeveless tops

These kinds of tops obviously don’t cover your arms so unless you absolutely love your arms, I would suggest wearing a top with sleeves as they are generally more flattering on everyone.

What to Wear for Family Pictures Outdoors?

Family photoshoots outdoors are a great way to really capture the essence of your family in a more natural way. While free from the elements studios can often be a drain on the imagination and feel more artificial. However, being outdoors obviously brings its own challenges especially when it comes to the weather.

Dress for Your Environment

OK so this may seem obvious but if you’re going to be doing a photoshoot in fall the chances are, you’re going to need a coat and some  shoes, that strappy top and sandals probably won’t cut it. Plus, the last thing you want to do is look out of place.

If you turn up to a beach day photoshoot all dressed in jumpers and wooly hats the photo is just going to look like someone dropped the wrong greenscreen backdrop in and I’m fairly sure you don’t want that.

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Dress Everyone for The Same Occasion

Again, this may seem obvious, but I know if I don’t mention it then you’ll end up with one family member who turns up dressed for a wedding when everyone is dressed for a casual stroll in the park. This all comes down to the planning before the shoot and making sure that everyone is on board and knows the theme of the shoot.

Match Your Colors to The Season

When you’re capturing your family photograph outdoors its really hard to ignore what season it is. Not only is it going to be difficult to pull off a winter themed shoot on a beach in July but also the colors just won’t match.

With the changing season, the sunlight changes, the colors in the environment change and taking note of that will really help create that perfect image. While I’ll go into more detail below about which colors are best for which season, if you’re stuck you can always take inspiration from what’s in the stores. Quite often the colors of clothes that are available in the shops match those of the season.

Layers and Texture Are Your Friends

The great thing about shooting outdoors is that you get to play around with layers. First of all, it’s an easy way to create costume changes without actually having costume changes because who wants to change their clothes outside in a public place? It also helps you to easily identify what season it is, not to mention it can help keep you warm and dry!

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Textures on the other hand can bring a different dimension to the photo and can help show off someone’s personality. Just think of the edge of a scarf floating in the wind or trailing after a running child. Or perhaps a hat or gloves that show someone’s interests.

Summer Family Photo Outfits

Different seasons bring with them different challenges and opportunities. For example, a summer family photoshoot would be an ideal time to head to the beach whereas during Fall you may be tempted to indulge in the fiery tones of the forest.

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Summer colors

When choosing your outfit for a summer photoshoot its best to go for lighter more “summery” colors. A great choice is to go down the pastel route. You could pick one pastel color as your key color such as blue for example, or you could just say everyone needs to where pastels, but it doesn’t really matter which color.

Choosing Pastels as a color tone scheme works especially well during summer as these tones tend to be light and bright just like the season. They also help evoke feelings of long hot summers and holidays away.

Keep your family photos looking classy and opt for more neutral colors such as tan, cream, navy or brown. These colors work especially well when photographing in front of greenery or mixed in with green pieces of clothing.

Other great colors that work great in the warm summer sun include warm pinks, yellows, sky blues, mint greens and aqua blue. You could also glam your outfits up a little with champagne, rose gold and ivory shades too!

Don’t Forget Textures!

Layers are usually the easiest way to add texture to your photos. However, in the summer it can often be too warm to wear layers even in the evening. You may be able to find light, loose cover ups which shade you from the sun but also keep you cool.  However, during the hot summer months you can find alternative ways to add texture.

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This can be done by adding lace, fringe or beading to your outfit. You could even introduce accessories that help with this such as headbands, necklaces and bracelets to give that little added touch.

Things to Remember

It can often get quite warm during the summer so it may be wise to ditch the long pants and jumpers in favor of shorts and t-shirts or even a flowy summer dress for the girls. Remember if you’re doing and taking outdoor photos  you’re probably going to need sunscreen and while hats may look great if they darken your face, it may be best to leave them behind.

Fall Family Photo Outfits

Fall is easily the most popular season for family photoshoots. With the warm, fiery, and earthy tones found outdoors and abundance of different layering options for clothes its easy to let your imagination run wild and create some amazing photos.

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Think About the Weather

If you’re taking your family pictures outside during Fall at the top of your list should be the weather. It’s likely to be a little cooler so jumpers or even coats will be needed. Not to mention a closed pair of shoes. The last thing you want to be doing is getting muddy toes because you insisted on wearing sandals!

It’s also worth checking with your photographer what the wet weather plan is and if you will postpone the shoot for a drier day or just whack on some raincoats, grab your umbrellas, and roll with it.

Picking Your Fall Colors

The great news for Fall photoshoots is that there is a wide array of colors that work great although it is important to note where you are taking your photos. If, for example, you are going to be rolling around in a bunch of crispy, newly fallen leaves then perhaps its best to avoid oranges in your outfits.

In general, though, earthy colors and tones are the best colors to opt for when shooting in Fall. You don’t have to just stop at oranges, greens, and browns though. There are far more colors around during fall so be adventurous.

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For example, reds and purples work great as pops of colors. Rustic shades of blues and oranges that remind you of log cabins and fireplaces are also a great go to. For a more feminine touch you can mix in some peaches and creams too. Basically, if your color selection makes you feel all warm and cozy, you’re on for a winner.

Layers and Textures

Fall is the easiest time to add in some layers. From a simple jacket to scarves and hats you can quickly add a new dynamic to an image. Plus, with patterned knits, fringed scarves and faux fur jackets texture isn’t far behind either!

However, while its fun to play around with texture, I would suggest using it sparingly to avoid distracting the eye and taking away from the image’s focus -you and your family’s bond.

Winter Family Photo Outfits

Winter Family Photoshoots can be so much fun especially if you’re lucky enough to be playing around in the snow! With Christmas falling right in the middle of the season it can be a great excuse to get those family photos taken. If everyone is already going to be in one place for Christmas, then why not take advantage?

While a festive themed photo complete with Christmas tree, Santa hats and Christmas jumpers might be your first option, remember to consider what you are going to do with the final image. Would a festive themed photo really look good all year round hung on your wall? Or is it simply for a holiday card that you are going to send to your friends and family?

Not wanting to go down the festive route. You’ve still got plenty of options. From playing in the snow, winter walks in the forest to dusk cityscape backdrops.

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Winter color schemes

If you’re going for a festive look then look no further Santa. Reds, greens, and creams are a perfect color combination to get that instant festive feel. Interestingly it is probably the only time of year where patterned clothing (I’m talking jumpers) look great.

Just want a winter to feel that’s not Christmas themed. Well, reds, especially berry shades, and creams are a great go to. Although if you are heading out to play in the snow, white and cream may leave you camouflaged. Other great color choices include.

  • Brown
  • Black
  • Medium to dark grey
  • Ruby red
  • Dark purple
  • Emerald green
  • Blue
  • Creams and white

All the Layers

As the coldest months of the year, winter is made for layering up. However, just be mindful of where you place those layers. The last thing you want to do is to have a big jumper on under your coat that makes you look bigger and rounder than you are.

Winter coats are a must for outdoor shoots and when styled with some great boots, scarves and gloves can really help capture the moment.

I hope this article gave you many ideas.

Trying to decide if you should hire a professional photographer for your family photographs? Click here to learn the pros and cons of hiring a professional family photographer.

Nicholas Mitchell

Nicholas is a staff writer at Photodoto. His interests include photography, collecting cameras old and new, video editing, and all things 3d. If a new gadget comes out on the market, he's sure to be the first to try it. He enjoys experimenting with low light photography, very long exposures and high speed filming.
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