What Do I Wear to my Family Portrait Session?
What Do I wear to my Family Portrait Session, a simple guide by Kate Mclean Photography
Of all the questions I get asked, “What Do I Wear to My Family Portrait Session?” is by far the most common – and for good reason. How you and your family dress can seriously change the outcome of your session. It’s hard to get a large family together; It’s even harder to get them together, well dressed/coordinated and on time. I have realized there are a few very simple rules to follow that can greatly improve your family’s portrait session style. These rules are very simple to follow, and they result in great photos that will reflect your personal style. My many years of experience in family photography – both big and small families – has helped me to tailor these rules down to the most simple version. I know people don’t have stylists on call, or time to go and shop for outfits for an entire family. Sometimes the families I photograph are upwards of 30 people – and even with a group that big, these rules still work and give everyone the ability to show off their personal style while still coordinating and creating a great final result.
Start by One person picking out a Print to wear.
The print can be a floral, plaid– anything. The more colors in the print the better. For larger groups, I recommend the print be on someone who will be in the center of the photo (usually grandma or grandpa) and for smaller groups I recommend the print be on a little kid. With that being said – the print really can be on anyone in the photo but it is very important that only 1 person be wearing a print pattern. Multiple prints can create a very busy photo that is distracting to the eye and the prints can clash creating a final outcome that is hard to look at. What usually happens with my sessions is the person who contacts me about the shoot wears the print because it involves going to buy a new outfit. This first step is crucial to the way everyone else dresses.
Everyone else draw on colors from that print for their own outfits.
This is where everything comes together. Everyone else in the family can use that one main print to pick out their own colors in their clothes. This allows everyone to have some freedom to express their own individual personalities while still coordinating. This prevents from having everyone matching identically which always results in people looking like a big blob of color. An easy way to do this is just to send a photo of the print you pick to the rest of the family and let them do their own thing! There are a few more rules to follow, but they are very simple.
Avoid large logos, words, or characters on clothing.
This goes for EVERYONE. The reason for this rule is large logos, words and characters and quickly date an image. It’s hard to make the time to get a family portrait taken, you want that image to last as LONG as it can without becoming dated! Classic is always best – and a big picture of Elmo or some trendy phrase is going to go out of style in 10 minutes. Keep it simple and classic. Now if you’re going for a Disney theme – disregard this! There is always a place for Mickey and Goofy when we are doing photos at Disney properties. But otherwise, words and logos are a big No-no!
If you don’t usually wear heels, don’t wear stilettos. Consider the environment you will be in and wear appropriate footwear. I have been at many many sessions where people are cranky because of their shoes – including little kids! So consider the environment you will be in, how comfortable your family will be in their shoes, and what the shoes look like. This little detail may not seem huge – but it can seriously effect the expressions on people’s faces during your shoot – which is really more important then anything else anyway! You don’t want to be sinking in grass or sand at your shoot. Also, sometimes people take their shoes completely off for a few shots – so that is also something to consider! I advise people to wear shoes they are comfortable walking in for an hour but also ones that look great with your outfit! And don’t forget to monitor what the boys are wearing – more often then not they are the ones to wear shoes that don’t match their outfits!
Coordinate – don’t MATCH perfectly.
These simple rules are all designed to make sure you don’t perfectly match. Family photos where everyone wears the same exact outfit is a very dated – and it sucks the personality right out of a photo! Letting everyone in the family pick their own clothes means they are going to be comfortable and confident during the session which makes for better facial expressions and a relaxed environment. The best way to go about it is to pick out that initial print and send a photo of it to everyone in the family — letting them know that is the color scheme to stay within. The results are always a fun and fluid style that lets everyone be themselves. Plus it’s so much easier then trying to track down the same exact colors for everyone!
When in doubt – Ask!
If you’re really not sure about any of this — ask! I have people send me photos of outfits while they are shopping all the time! Or if you’re not comfortable utilizing my knowledge on the subject, ask a friend who has great style. They’ll take it as a huge compliment and probably give you outstanding advice on the topic.
If you’re like me, you probably need some visuals to help you get an idea of what you want. I put together some Pinterest boards of really great family photoshoot stylings to inspire you to style your family just the right way! You can find those links below.
Cheers — and Happy styling!