How to Choose Clothes for Your Family Portrait Session

When preparing for the photography session for families, one of the most frequent questions that comes up is, "What do we wear?"

The outfits you choose will represent you and your family for years, so I completely understand why people are so nervous about picking out clothes. Browsing through Pinterest can give you good ideas on what to wear and what NOT to wear. Here are a few of my favorites and why they work.

Limit Outfits To One (or No) Patterns

Great, neutral color palette with a pop of pattern. Loved working with Growing Up Expat!

Great, neutral color palette with a pop of pattern. Loved working with Growing Up Expat!

Having many loud patterns in one portrait can detract from your beautiful faces. The point of getting your portraits is to remember your family, right?

If you wear patterns, make sure they are small, in neutral colors or are in small amounts. You want that pattern to go with the other colors in the photograph; it is not good if one piece of clothing stands out too much.

You can choose one clothing item of bold pattern as your pop of color (see below), but limit it to that. Remember that patterns tend to be trendy, so be sure you use a pattern that has proven itself timeless. Think small houndstooth, plaid or stripes.

Related: avoid large graphics. Like patterns, a graphic tee can detract from the people, date the photo and clutter the moment you want to capture.

Wear Colors That Go, Not Colors That Match

Do you remember those portrait trends where everyone wears the same color or material? Now when you see them, they are usually in an article about what NOT to wear. Why? Because they are dated. In order to create a more timeless photo, you need wear pieces that are not too on-trend.

Not every member of your family needs to match colors or patterns. Instead, find colors that compliment each other. A good rule of thumb is to wear neutral colors with one pop of color. For example, wear dark pants and light tops with a pop of yellow here and there (scarf, cardigan, belt).

A fun exercise? Use an online color generator to find a color combination that goes and appeals to you.

Keep in mind your location. If you take your family portraits in the woods at the end of Fall, where everything is brownish-orange, try not to dress in all browns and oranges. Choose clothes that will compliment yet stand out slightly from your surroundings.

Keep Hair, Makeup and Accessories Simple

With a pop of color and a pattern in the mix, adding big and bright jewelry or accessories can make your portrait too busy. If you wear a nice scarf, you do not also need large earrings and a fancy updo. If you have a statement necklace, keep your hair and clothes simple.

Makeup does not read as well in photographs as it does in real life, but that does not mean you need to go 200% on all of it. Enjoy bright lipstick? Keep your eye makeup clean and simple. Enjoy a nude lip? Have fun with your eye makeup.

Be Comfortable

No, you shouldn't go out with a tank top, gym shorts and tennis shoes, but do not choose the most uncomfortable clothes either. I offer two-hour sessions, and there are some adorable boots out there that would kill your feet after walking around for that long.

If it is cooler outside, take a jacket or coat to wear between shots.

Be Yourself

If you go all out and wear clothes that aren't normal for you, it will show in your portraits. You will not loosen up, and you will get back photos that do not feel authentic.

Is your son always wearing Batman rainboots? Bring them along. Are you a hat person? Take your favorite to the session. Do you and your significant other love rival teams? Play it up - bring along your teams' shirts.

Whether your portraits are for a holiday card or just for your mantle, make them YOU.

Test Outfits Beforehand

A few days before your session, lay out the outfits you are considering and take a picture of them together. Lay out all of the clothes flat on the floor or on a bed, and snap a photo with your camera. How do they look? Does something stick out? Play with different pieces until you have a combination that you would want memorialized forever.

Bring a Couple of Options

Do you remember seeing a friend's senior pictures and thinking, "How many outfits did they pack?!" Me too. You do not need a dozen different options for your session, but do pack a few options. Not only does this help you get a better variety of photos, but it also lets you dress for multiple locations.

If you do not want to change completely, pack layers or accessories. Bring a jacket or blazer, a second set of shoes or a different scarf. Have fun with it. Again, be sure to test out your options beforehand. And have questions? Talk to your photographer. He or she can help you decide on what to bring.


No, you do not need to look like models from LA for your family's session. But a little bit of planning will take your photographs from snapshots to timeless portraits.

Use Your Phone to Take Your Professional Headshot

When building a business, it is easy to delay certain tasks until you have "enough money": buying systems, upgrading technology, taking portraits.

But, there are usually affordable (sometimes free!) ways to knock those tasks off your list now.

Instead of waiting for a professional photography session to get photos for your About Me page, social media accounts and website, do it now. You only have seconds to make an impression on your potential clients, so your picture should be one of the first things you get done.

This infographic can help. With these easy steps, you can have a professional headshot for your business in minutes. Then you can move on to the tougher aspects of building your business.