It’s family photoshoot time! You have the date set and the location arranged with the photographer. You’re ready to mark the date on the calendar and forget about it until the day arrives, right?
Not so fast.
Great family photos take a bit of coordination and planning. That’s even more true if you’re shooting with extended family members who don’t live under your roof. You want everyone to look and feel their best in solo shots while blending well in group shots. That can take time, so you can’t leave it to the last minute.
The good news is you don’t need a degree in fashion to select the perfect family photoshoot outfits. We’re about to deliver all the information you need to make the process fast, easy, and a knockout success.
1. Match the Location
If you haven’t settled on the location for your photoshoot, do that as soon as possible. If your location is at your home, you need to know what rooms will become your backdrop or if your photographer is planning on setting up a backdrop for you. Our photographers bring along white and black backdrops so it’s easy to coordinate!
The location is important for everything from the color scheme you select to seasonal style of clothing. You don’t need to match the location perfectly. For instance, you don’t need to wear swimsuits for a beach family photoshoot. You just want to look natural in the setting chosen.
What would you naturally wear to a park in early fall? What colors would look great against the backdrop of a lake surrounded by trees? You may want to dress up a bit more than you would on a normal day walking in the park but keep it realistic. For instance, you wouldn’t want to take pictures in a summer dress and sandals for fall pictures while surrounded by falling leaves.
Keep your location in mind as you work through the remaining tips on this list.
2. No Impersonations Allowed
You can get style ideas online and in magazines, but ultimately, you want to select clothing that you would wear in real life. Even if you wear something a bit dressier than you have the opportunity to wear daily, make it something that you would wear if given the appropriate occasion or event.
You want to look like yourself, and the same goes for every member of your family. Getting inspiration from social media or Pinterest is one thing. Glamming it up with tons of makeup and clothing styles that you don’t even like is taking it too far.
Look at fashion trends if you want, but ultimately, stick to outfits that show the unique personality of everyone in your family. You want to feel like the best version of yourself, not someone else.
3. Pick a Color Palette
If everyone just wears what they want, you’re likely to end up with colors that clash or just don’t look great standing side by side. You want every personality to shine in solo shots while coordinating well in group shots.
Does that seem impossible? We have some tips to make it easier:
- Stick with a palette of three colors. For large families, you may go up to four as long as at least one is a neutral color like black, gray, or white.
- Consider selecting one person to wear a pattern that blends well with the backdrop. Everyone else can choose from two solid colors pulled from that pattern. You may also coordinate solids and patterns by groups. For example, the children wear matching patterns while the adults wear coordinated solids.
- Go for muted colors over super bright colors. For example, coral instead of hot pink or forest green instead of neon green.
- Pull colors from your location or expected backdrop. For example, if you’re using a Christmas backdrop you may decide on red, white, and green. For beach family photos, you may select turquoise or seafoam green matched with navy and white.
- Think about where you will hang the family photo in your home. Is there a color scheme in that room? Can you use your outfits in the photos to create a splash of accent color for that room?
- Talk to your photographer before going with all black or all white. The ability to take great pictures in one solid color will depend on a variety of factors, including your background. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Don’t get too strict here. Allow each person to select something they love while working with the chosen palette. Perfectly matched isn’t the ideal. Think more in terms of coordinated yet individual. Every person can have a unique color and still work within the palette.
4. Coordinate Patterns
The best patterns for photographs are subtle. The louder they get, the harder it is to take a picture where everyone is seen. You don’t want a crazy pattern to overshadow your smiling faces.
If you want to go with a pattern or print, start by making sure it will work well with the background or backdrop. If one person has a bright pattern they really want to wear, use it as the centerpiece and set your color palette around it. Make sure all other patterns and prints match, or just go with solids for everyone else.
If multiple people want to wear patterns or prints, make sure they look good side by side. You should have enough solids to pull it all together in one cohesive look.
There are a few patterns and accents you want to avoid:
- Small plaids or checkers
- Thin stripes
- Brand logos
5. Start with One Person or Group
If you’re struggling, start with one person or one group. For instance, you may start with the person who wants to wear a pattern or the family member pickiest about their clothing. You may want to start with a group, say the children, parents, teenagers, or grandparents.
Once that one person or group is settled, you can select a color palette and coordinate the rest of your family outfits. As you add an outfit, lay everything out on the floor or a bed. That allows you to see how it’s coming together. Snap a picture or two of the arrangement with your phone to get an idea of how it may come out in your professional pictures.
6. Select a Variety of Textures
Texture can give more depth and detail to your family photos. You can weave more in through belts, footwear, hats, scarves, and sweaters. It’s easy to select outfits that match if you shop department stores that sell family clothing collections, but you don’t want to match completely. If you can shake it up a bit in the texture department, you may give your photographer more to work with in posing.
7. Have Fun with Accessories
Accessories are great ways to add varying textures, but they can also add pops of color to palettes that are more neutral or classic. Some accessories just make your photoshoot outfits more fun. Imagine a scarf with pompoms on the ends or hair barrettes that sparkle in the right light.
You can also use accessories as props when posing. Think about long necklaces that you can grab in fun ways or hats that you can wear at varying angles. Scarves, earrings, shawls, and hair ribbons are additional accessories to consider.
8. Balance the Fit
You may already know that wearing oversized clothing can easily lead to shapeless photos. If you didn’t, we’re telling you now. An oversized dress may look cute walking down the beach but may not photograph as beautifully. The same goes for extremely tight clothing that may highlight your weak spots in unexpected ways.
Balance is key, and you can take two approaches:
- Well-fit clothing that flatters your figure but isn’t too tight. This is perfect for someone who is confident with all parts of their body.
- Looser top with form-fitting bottoms or vice versa. Balance loose and tight for a flattering overall look. The looser piece may hide something you’re not so confident showing off in photos.
9. Reconsider Outfit Changes
If you’re planning for every member of your family to change clothing at least once or twice during the shoot, it’s going to get complicated. Not only is that more challenging to plan, but it makes the photoshoot more chaotic and confusing for everyone. Children are likely to get cranky the more time you spend changing their clothing. The time you spend changing will also take away from time your photographer would otherwise have to snap more pictures.
It’s best to stick with one great outfit for each person and then maybe backup outfits for the little ones. If there’s a chance someone may make a mess of their outfit before the shoot is over, a backup is smart. Everyone else can add variety through props and body positioning.
If you really want to change it up for some pictures, go with layered outfits. You can quickly add or subtract a layer between photos. You may also switch out accessories. Just make sure bottom layers aren’t hanging lower than top layer sleeves, necklines, and bottom hems, unless it’s intentional for style.
10. Give Feet a Little TLC
Shoes are often the last consideration for family photoshoot outfits, and that’s a shame. Your feet can blend into the picture or completely steal the limelight in a not-so-great way. For starters, make sure all footwear is clean. If you don’t have new shoes, take the time to clean them up as much as possible.
You should also leave the socks at home. Go for loafers, sandals, boots, and other shoes that create a smooth, polished look with the rest of the outfit.
If all else fails, go barefoot! This is especially true for children. Those tiny toes are far cuter than worn out sneakers. When the whole family kicks off their shoes, it can make for adorable pictures that are a lot of fun to snap.
11. Remove Transitional Lens Glasses
Does someone in your family have prescription eyeglasses that automatically transition into darker sunglass lens in the right light? If so, they may not want to wear them in the photoshoot. Alternatively, wear them and ask your photographer to let you know if they should be removed for some shots based on lighting.
Transitional lens can turn too dark and cover your eyes. If you wouldn’t wear dark sunglasses over your eyes in a shot, you may not want to wear those either.
Bonus Tips for Makeup
Once you select the right outfits for your family photoshoot, you don’t want to spoil it with common makeup mishaps. In many cases, these oopsies are noticed only when the prints come back, and it’s too late to correct.
In general, stick with makeup that is just slightly darker than you would normally wear. Don’t go overboard.
Here are some additional tips:
- Apply makeup in natural light – by a window, in a screened porch, or outdoors
- If you use fake eyelashes, make sure they still look natural and don’t hide your eyes
- Make sure foundation is fully blended, even along the neck and under the chin
- Allow men and children to wear plain Chapstick, especially if their lips are dry or cracked
- Give your lipstick or gloss a bit of color – nudes are easily washed out
It may seem like a lot to consider right now, but remember that you can start with just one outfit. Pick one person or one generation and start there. Like all things, starting is the hardest part!