ETA September 15, 2019: This page was just updated with fresh clothing boards, so all of the clothing recommendations below are currently available in stores! These are affiliate links, meaning that I make a small commission if you choose to purchase (at no additional cost to you). Your clicks help me keep this blog running with fresh resources for you – thank you for your support! 🙂
More than any other question, clients always ask what they should wear to their family session. Coordinating your outfits can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! This post covers tons of tips to help you with styling.
To kick things off, here are some sample clothing boards and color palettes to jump-start you as you plan your family’s clothing. For fall, I’m loving warm tones like blush, burnt orange, and mustard! Keep scrolling for more general clothing tips below the boards.
If you’re stuck, ask for help!
Many stores offer free styling assistance (J Crew and Nordstrom are two great options that have clothes for the whole family). I also love helping my clients choose their outfits. Just text or email me photos of different possibilities and we can solve the puzzle together!
Mom: White Pom Pom Sweater + Ankle Boots
Dad: Men’s Maroon Pullover Sweater
Girl: Girls’ Pink Bell Sleeve Shirt + Girls’ Corduroy Pinafore Skirt
Boy: Boys’ Oatmeal Shawl Collar Sweater + Boys’ Gold Pants
Mom: Sweater Dress + Women’s Riding Boots + Women’s Skinny Jeans
Dad: Men’s Cable-Knit Cardigan
Boy: Brown Boys’ Shirt + Boys’ Gray Jeans
Girl: Girls’ Ankle Boots + Forest Green Dress + Mustard Romper + Girls’ White Shirt
Mom: Women’s Taupe Coat + Women’s Skinny Jeans + Ankle Boots
Dad: Men’s Cable-Knit Cardigan + Men’s Ivory Henley
Girl: Girls’ White Skirt + Girls’ Ruffle Shirt
Boy: Boys’ Ivory Pullover + Boys’ Gray Jeans
Want a fail-proof formula?
Put most of the family in different neutral shades (i.e. ivory, gray, beige) and then add a few pops of coordinating color. See the sample palettes further down this post!
Start with one person.
It’s way easier to visualize the whole puzzle once you know what one piece looks like! Try starting with mom or daughter, since women’s clothing tends to have more colors and prints.
Complement, don’t match.
The day of all white shirts and khaki pants are long past! We want colors that generally complement each other: so for instance, soft colors (light blue, gray, blush) or warm colors (brown, orange, burgundy), If you want colorful images, then you should choose a more vivid color scheme for your outfits!
Generally, solids work best.
Pops of pattern can definitely look great, but if you’re looking for a fail-proof family combination, go with solids. To keep things from looking boring, include textures (think chunky knits, tulle, lace, etc). Avoid tiny prints, especially small plaid and small stripes.
Stick to one outfit.
Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be! All you need for an awesome family session is one outfit for everyone. Changing outfits will take time away from your shoot and can put your kids in a grumpy mood.
Consider your home decor.
If you’re planning to hang your images in your living room that’s decorated in all white, you probably don’t want your clothing to be dark. If you’re hanging them in a colorful nursery, then wear vivid outfits.
Plan for the weather.
Nothing is worse than being miserably uncomfortable in a perfect outfit. If you’re planning an outdoor session in November, think about coats, gloves, and hats. In the summer, dress in layers that you can easily take off if you get too hot.
Don’t forget shoes!
These are often the forgotten last element, but they can really make or break your outfits! If you can’t find shoes you love, consider going barefoot (just bring walking shoes to get from point A to point B). Steer away from athletic shoes and bright white sneakers.
Try on your clothes well in advance!
Check your outfits from all possible angles in the mirror, not just the one you like best. Try sitting, squatting, leaning forward, etc. The kids’ clothes should work well in motion so that we can play during your session (think flying, tickling, and hanging upside down).
Let the kids have input.
If your daughter hates wearing dresses, don’t force her to wear one for picture day. If your son thinks that bowtie is uncomfortable, ditch it. Happy kids make for happy photos!
SAY YES TO:
Above all, if you feel good, you will look good! Choose clothing that gives you freedom of movement, keeps you warm/cool, and won’t require a lot of maintenance throughout your session.
Add some visual interest to your images with unique fabrics. Some examples: lace, cable knits, chambray, tweed, herringbone, chambray, faux fur, wool
Don’t be scared of patterns and prints! They can work great in moderation. Try one statement piece (for instance, a colorful floral dress for mom) and one subtle pattern (maybe tiny polka dots for baby girl), and then keep the rest of the family more simple.
Layers and Accessories
These are the quickest way to take your outfits from average to amazing! Think scarves, blazers, cardigans, belts, jewelry, fun socks, and hats.
We don’t want your clothing to be too baggy or too tight. Properly fitted clothing looks put together and will show your shape. For women, your upper half and lower half should be balanced: so for instance, blousy shirt + skinny pants, or tight shirt + flowing skirt.
Try to steer away from current trends, since they’ll date your photos 10 years from now.
SAY NO TO:
Let your clothing match your surroundings. A tuxedo or formal dress will look out of place in the woods.
If you love white, try off-white or ivory instead.
Black and dark navy/brown/gray should all be avoided, since they tend to darken the overall feel of your photos and keep them from feeling bright & airy.
These create skin tone/color cast issues.
Very Saturated Colors
I.e. bright red, bright yellow, etc. Instead, try more muted versions of the same color: so for instance, replace bright red with dark red; replace bright yellow with mustard, etc.
Logos & Text
Words will draw attention away from your faces.
If you wear glasses every day, please wear them in your shoot! However, lens glare and shaded lenses will keep your eyes from being seen. You can have anti-reflective coating added to your lenses or wear just the frames.
Even if you’re planning to use these images for your holiday cards, steer away from holiday-colored clothing and let your card design incorporate those instead. That way you’ll be able to enjoy your images year-round!
Button-down or structured shirts generally look better in photos. If you have your heart set on a t-shirt, try layering a blazer on top.
Tiny Plaid, Small Stripes, & Complicated Patterns
These don’t always translate well in-camera.
Say yes to:
maxi dresses, fitted tops tucked into long skirts, a-line dresses/coats, skinny jeans, cardigans, blazers, scarves, ankle boots, riding boots, fitted tunics
Say no to:
strapless, sleeveless (unless you love your arms), low-cut shirts, baggy clothes, chunky knits, cheap/flimsy fabrics
Say yes to:
shirts designed to be worn un-tucked, blazers, chino pants/shorts, button-downs with sleeves rolled up to elbows, sweaters layered over collared shirts, dark wash jeans, leather shoes/boots, cardigans
Say no to:
short-sleeved polos, baggy shorts/pants, athletic shoes, cargo shorts, white t-shirts, undershirts that show
Say yes to:
everything listed for mom, plus these optional accessories: headbands, hats, bows, rainboots
Say no to:
visible diaper/underwear (try shorts or bloomers under dresses), neon, athletic shoes or character shoes
Say yes to:
everything listed for dad, plus these optional accessories: suspenders, bowtie, caps, high-top sneakers
Say no to:
tank tops, neon, visible diaper, athletic shoes or character shoes (Disney, etc.)
Favorite brands for children’s clothing:
- J Crew
- Janie & Jack
- Hanna Andersson
Sample Color Palettes
If you’re overwhelmed by all of the advice I just gave you, here are some sample color palettes that you can use as a starting point. I based all of these sets off of two or three bright colors, then filled in the rest with neutral colors like beige and gray.
Of all of those colors, here are my favorites! These all photograph beautifully:
Finally, here are a bunch of examples of clients who have rocked their outfits! I may be biased, but I think I have some of the most stylish clients around! Love them!! 🙂
Did you find this post useful? Please feel free to use the pinnable image below to save this to your Pinterest board!
(For the previously posted clothing boards from 2016, click here!)