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What to Wear for your Family Portrait Session
The best way to encourage families to choose interesting wardrobe options is to show them examples–perhaps a gallery on your website or a Pinterest page of your most successful family sessions? (They will likely aspire to become one of them!)
But written instructions can help, too, so here’s what I tell portrait families:
Start by choosing one favorite article of clothing. I usually encourage the parent booking the session to choose their favorite item of clothing, something they feel best in, and work from there. Then, choose the remaining outfits for the rest of the family as if you were creating a single outfit for one person to wear. (Tip: lay all the clothing out together to see if it works together!) If all of your choices could be worn by one person, would the result be a cohesive, appealing outfit?
1. What colors should we wear?
Need help choosing colors? You can’t go wrong with blue. All shades of blue, from navy to teal to turquoise to soft aqua and baby blue photograph beautifully and almost everyone looks terrific in blue. Other great colors in photos are taupe, cream, navy, greens (both dark and soft shades), soft pink and chocolate brown.
If you are using timages from this session for holiday cards and gifts, think about the holiday card you might use (check Minted, Paper Culture and Tiny Prints for inspiration) and find color palettes that are pleasing. Holiday can be anythingógold and cream, green and gold, red and gold, greens and blues, blue and silver, burgundy and cream and jewel tones.
Or, if the images are meant to be displayed long-term as wall art, consider the rooms in which you are most likely to display them. Draw inspiration from those colors, and consider dressing in complimentary tones.
2. What colors should we avoid?
Hot colors in large amounts, such as bright pinks, fuschias, yellows, and orange rarely read “true” on camera, and can reflect up onto the skin, creating unnaturally colored patches on the skin. Fluorescent colors are notoriously difficult to capture properly and are rarely flattering worn next to the face. Little girls especially tend to have lots of these colors in their wardrobe, so please be strategic and consider ways to minimize their appearance in your photo-day wardrobe. If you love those colors, opt for them as an accent: in a small pattern, a hair flower, a belt, shoes or a scarf. I also recommend against lots of white and lots of black, particularly in outdoor portraits.
3. Any specific tips for adults?
Darker bottoms, such as dark denim, are often more flattering than lighter khaki-style pants. Also, if you’re wearing leather accessories, such as shoes, boots and belts, shades of brown are generally more appealing than black in photos. For holiday photos, I love seasonal acessories–hats, scarves, mittens, puffy vests. Finally, don’t forget to consider shoes or boots that finish your outfit, for both men and women–cropping your feet out simply looks, well, like we cropped your feet out–and not necessarily on purpose.
4.† I often see khaki and white, or navy and denim in family photos. Should we match?
Some may call matching outfits classic, others will call them dated. While it is, of course, up to you and your vision of the final product, I always find a well-curated mix of color, pattern and texture to be far more interesting and pleasing than a uniform on the whole clan. I believe your family photo should be infused with your family members’ own style, so unless you routinely dress in matching outfits, I’d suggest some mixing and matching.
5. How do I mix and match without looking too chaotic?
If you don’t think you have the verve to mix too many colors and patterns, stay closely aligned in your color scheme. Start basic and build! Perhaps your child leads off with a blue-and-white checked shirt paired with green pants, making the blue-and-white your inspiration pattern. Another family member might wear a blue top, another a green, and still another a small pattern of blues and greens or perhaps a white-and-aqua striped dress. Throw in a pair of red sneakers on one person for a color pop. Success, and not a plain old white shirt in the bunch!
6. What is the best way to make sure our photos are timeless and classic through the years?
You mean you don’t want to qualify for awkwardfamilyphotos.com? Neutral, muted colors go a long way towards making your family the real subjects of the photo. Characters, large logos, “of-the-moment” jewelry or props, loud sports jerseys and trendy motifs are somewhat distracting, and can instantly put a date on your look.
So unless you are trying to document the outfit your son wears EVERY DAY as a way to capture this time in his life, consider a more timeless look using the suggestions above.