May 25, 2022

How To Dress For Your Family Portraits

What should you wear for a family portrait? Answering that question is, hands down, the most challenging part of having family photos taken. 

It’s enough that you have to coordinate a whole family of outfits. But you also have to think about which colors look best on everyone and how each piece of clothing will look on camera. It can be a lot of pressure! So, we created a guide to help you figure it out. 

Pregnant woman sorting clothes for portrait fundraiser

Plan Your Family Portrait Outfits Early

The key to perfectly curated family outfits is planning ahead. It gives you a chance to see how pieces look together and how they sit on your bodies. And if something’s not quite right, you have time to rework your plan.

We recommend that you start planning your outfits at least two weeks early.

  • Lay Out All the Outfits Together: This lets you see how everything looks together before the big day. If something’s not quite right, you can easily add or subtract elements.
  • Try on Your Outfits: Have everyone try on their outfits and move around in them. Sit, stand and get on the floor. Are the clothes comfortable and flattering in multiple positions? If not, you still have time to make substitutions.
family talking to photographer at portrait fundraiser

Picking Your Family’s Colors

What colors should you wear in a family photoshoot? You likely have clues throughout your house. First, look at the rooms where you’ll display your portraits. What colors would work well with that decor? 

Next, go to your closet and put together an outfit that would work well with your home color scheme. Use this as your starting point to coordinate the rest of your family’s outfits. It will give you more freedom to play with different looks than if you immediately chose a color scheme.

  • Pick a Color Palette: Using your core outfit, pick two to three coordinating colors to tie the other outfits together. The colors don’t have to be perfect matches. Use lighter and darker or brighter and more muted variations. This will give your family portraits dimension and life.
  • Avoid Extremes: Dark colors can wash out your complexion and make your whole photo feel stern. On the other hand, colors that are too bright can be a distraction. Stay away from neons and aim for cheery but muted colors. Replacing a bright yellow with a mustard yellow is a great example. You still get the pop of color, but it doesn’t steal the show.
woman buttoning sleeve of black and white patterned blouse

Playing with Patterns

You can’t go wrong with plain colors, but patterns can add a bit of fun to your portraits. Just be careful about which patterns you choose. Generally, it’s best to limit your family to one or two patterns so the portrait doesn’t look too busy. A well-chosen plaid, floral, or stripe pattern can add points of interest throughout your photos.

  • Stick to Large Stripes and Checks: Small checks and thin stripes set close together don’t translate well on camera. Especially when the colors have a strong contrast, they can create a dizzying visual effect. Instead, opt for large checks whose colors are similar or fat stripes. Thin stripes are OK as long as they’re set far apart.
  • Say No to Graphics: It’s natural to try to decipher what the graphic is or what words are written on a T-shirt. Because of this, fun graphics or phrases often distract from your beautiful family. It’s best to leave them out.
  • Embrace Florals: Floral patterns add interest to a photo without being a distraction. If you have more than one, try mixing a big floral with a smaller one. You’ll find that the variety of colors in one floral pattern makes a great jumping-off point for the rest of your outfits.
  • Don’t Forget Textures: We advise limiting your patterns, but there’s no limit on textures. Add depth by layering different kinds of fabrics or knits. Play with accessories. Textures can add dimension without overwhelming the photo.
mother and son getting photo taken at portrait fundraiser

 Go for Classic Looks Instead of Trends

We’ve all laughed at outdated family photos. But the styles in those awkward portraits were once the height of fashion. Remember that as you dress your family. Instead of going for the latest trends, pick simple, classic clothes.

  • Wear Fitted Pieces: A flowing skirt is lovely — but to maintain a classic aesthetic, you should balance it with a fitted top. Avoid cargo shorts for boys or other baggy items. You don’t need professionally tailored items, but everyone should wear pieces made for their body types.
  • Stick to Simple Jewelry: Statement pieces are fun, but they do make a statement. Will you still want to make that statement in 10 years? Maybe. But if you’re not sure, opt for simple studs or small hoop earrings. For necklaces, wear a delicate chain or some classic beads.
Young girl getting photo taken at portrait fundraiser

Wear What Feels Good

Whatever colors or patterns you choose, make sure you’re all wearing items that make you feel good. If you’re uncomfortable, that will come through in your photos. So, as you apply all the previous tips, keep a few things in mind.

  • Let Your Kids Help Pick Their Outfits: Give your kids some limited choices about what they wear. They’re more likely to enjoy the family portrait experience when they’ve had a hand in shaping it.
  • Avoid Pieces You Have to Adjust: Clothing shifts as you move. You don’t want to spend your session worrying about whether your low-cut top is revealing too much or if a tight fabric is highlighting rolls you would rather keep hidden. Heavier fabric and modest cuts are better at staying put, letting you be fully present and relaxed throughout the shoot.
  • Dress Like Yourselves: Your family portraits are meant to reflect your family. So if your daughter hates skirts, let her wear a cute romper instead. If your husband has a beard, now isn’t the time to try shaving it off. Making big changes to your style before a portrait session is just a recipe for feeling self-conscious. Just be your wonderful selves.
taking photo at a portrait fundraiser

Turn Your Cuteness into Money

Did you know that your adorable family photos can help raise money for your favorite cause? At Knickerbockers, we help people like you set up portrait weekends for their communities. You sell tickets for portrait sessions, and the profits go to your school, church, or other nonprofit! 

We guide you through the whole process, and you get a beautiful portrait package in addition to the funds! Send us a message to learn more.

Created by The Social Brand
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