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Do’s and Don’ts of Styling your Family Photography Session

The Dos and Don’ts of styling Family Photography Sessions


Style plays a huge role in images or people. Family portraits can be changed dramatically with what someone wears. I have struggled with this aspect of being a photographer for awhile. I am NOT a stylist. I don’t even think people who know me well would call me “stylish.” I am a photographer through and through – which means I am mostly practical. I wear things because they make sense – not because they are stylish. That is my disclaimer to this whole informational blog post! If you want to reference some real true stylists I have some links at the bottom – and you can do your research to your heart’s content!

With that being said – I also take tons of photographs of families. These families are all unique and different with styles that range from classically polished to rustic and outdoorsy. I take photos of large families and small. In the years I have been photographing families, I have come across some basic Do’s and Don’ts in the world of styling a family for portraits. My goal here is to give you some basic guidelines to follow so that your real true style still comes through in the images.

DO Consider the Location you’re Going to be Photographing

I ALWAYS like to start the booking process with this question because it helps to shape the entire shoot concept. It helps me get a grasp on what my client is expecting from the shoot and how I can best deliver that. Your style needs to make sense in a practical way AND within the story of the images we create together. Something as simple as wearing heels in grass (You know, when you continue to sink into the ground with every step of your stiletto?) instead of wedges can really change your mood during your shoot! I want my clients to look their best, and wearing a tuxedo to the beach in 90 degree weather is for the fashion models of Vogue – Not for your family shoot with three kids below the age of 10. Wear something that makes sense for the location of your family photography session — This means taking time to decide on a location. If you want help with that, ask your photographer for suggestions OR check out the blog I did on the subject already!

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DO Ask Advice

Ask advice! If you’re a novice in the style world – don’t hesitate to ask the person you know with great style! They will be so flattered that you asked, that they will probably be head over heels to help you decide what little Susie should wear. Also your photographer might be able to point you in a direction of an informational blog post (like this one!) or have a style guide all ready to share with you. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re not a fashionista — there is a whole world of people out there who would JUMP at the chance to influence your style in these photos – and probably do a great job in the process.

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DO Consider What you are Going to be Using the Photos For

Is this a Christmas card? Are they going to hang over your fireplace for the next 30 years? Are you trying to showcase a sense of humor with these images? It’s important have a concept of what kind of images you want to end up with. If the photos are going to hang in your home and you have a very modern, clean-line approach to interior decor I would convey that to your photographer and consider the colors you choose while styling your images. Or maybe you know you want black and white prints – so color doesn’t really matter to you. Or you’re trying to have a funny Christmas card for all those family members up north so bathing suits and Santa hats on the beach is where you want to go with it. Having a sort of end-product vision helps all those other choices along the way.

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DO Coordinate

I have noticed in my time as a photographer that families DO look better when they coordinate their outfits. I always suggest dressing the littlest in some sort of pattern with lots of colors – then everyone can use the color palette of that pattern within how they dress. This rule helps everyone to look good together with out being dressed like they are on the same team!

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DON’T Dress Identical

This is a huge photographer pet peeve!!! Everyone ends up looking super tacky (which is totally ok if you’re doing some sort of humorous ironic family photo thing or something!) But mostly it just sucks all the personality right out of the photo. It’s also very dated to do this. So please, PLEASE PLEASE don’t show up to your session in white shirts and blue jeans. It’s not cool. It doesn’t look good. Just– stop.

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DON’T Let your Husband Decide what He’s Going to Wear

I mean, am I right ladies?! Unless he just has impeccable style — usually guys just want to wear comfy sneakers and the shirt they got from the Vegas airport with his buddies. Put your foot down and insist on a button down. Insist he irons his shirt. Make him wear something that coordinates with the rest of your family, then compliment the hell out of him and make him feel sexy! Otherwise you and the kids will look cute and put together and he’ll be in the back looking crabby and in tie dye – it could totally throw off your whole session!

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DON’T Over-Do it with the Props

This one is kinda huge. While I do love using props, I hate it when a family shows up with three bags of crap. We end up just doing posed shots the whole time and they never end up liking their session! Keep the props to a minimum. Some props I totally love are sunglasses, umbrellas and letters (maybe of your last name or of a soon-to-arrive new addition.) It’s too hard to tromp around the beach, park or hotel we are shooting at and keep track of all the extra STUFF. Keep that in mind for your session!

DON’T Be Afraid to be a Little “Extra”

Go get your hair and make up done – get your nails done – put a little more effort into yourself for your session. Not only will we be able to see the extra effort, you will be more confident infront of the camera! NO ONE likes having their picture taken, so these little things can help you boost your confidence a little bit — plus it’s just fun. 🙂

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Here are some other great resources and tips on how to style your family photography session!

Click it up a notch. 

What to Wear Guide 

6 Families Who Nailed Color Coordinated Portraits

If you’re interested in booking a session to showcase your awesome style do so at our online booking page! Or you can inquire with me, Kate, and I will get back to your email as soon as I can. Also call or text anytime.