Even when I’m scheduling a photo session for my own family, I both love/dread selecting outfits for everyone. It’s easiest to find clothes for the kids first, but I know my best bet is to select my own outfit first and plan everyone else around me. However, that’s rarely how it works, for me at least!
The good news is, there are a couple rules of thumb that will help you plan outfits for your entire family, even if start with your children. Then, once you’ve got a solid plan in place for everyone else, you can focus on your own clothing without worrying you’ll clash with the kids and have to start all over.
Whether you’ve got an upcoming maternity, newborn, family or holiday photo session, these guidelines will help you love the way you and your family look in photos – with minimal stress during the planning process!
Rule #1: opt for neutrals – yes, even for kids!
Hands down, my best advice for family wardrobe color schemes is to go with neutrals. They flatter everyone, look good in any setting, and won’t clash with the decor in your home if you decide to hang the photos on your walls after the session.
This doesn’t mean you’re stuck with everyone in boring, shapeless white tshirts and khaki shorts. In fact, I urge my clients to nix the idea of everyone in the exact same colors and cotton fabric because it’s outdated and unflattering, especially in newborn portraits when your body is still healing after birth.
In the following examples, Erika selected white and cream outfits for her family, with her husband Eric in a white shirt and khaki pants. I photographed them at The Glass House in The Woodlands, a clear glass greenhouse that is just breathtaking. I simply adored how well this session turned out; it’s upscale, stunning and absolutely unforgettable.
Rule #2 – select different fabrics with texture to add pop to your photos
Erika did an incredible job adding visual interest through her choice of fabrics. Her oldest daughter, Ava, is in a tulle/lace dress from Amazon. I actually own this dress for all three of my daughters and it’s beautiful in person! Even better, it’s easy to spin like a princess while wearing it, which I had Ava do in front of the oversized mirror at this venue!
Erika’s youngest, Aria, is in a romper similar to this one on Amazon. It’s delicate and lovely, and super comfy for Aria, which is critical when you’re considering outfits for littles. If they’re uncomfortable in their clothing, no matter of bribing is going to bring out the real smiles you’re after.
Erika is in a chiffon dress and Eric is in khaki jeans with a breezy white linen shirt. They look amazing photographed together and separately – and these photos are anything but boring!
Rule #3 – consider using patterns to add pop to your photos
Full disclosure: this next series of photos feature my family and I am so proud of these sweet little men! My sister-in-law Kelsey selected a striped outfit for her newborn son, Maverick, and a cute striped shirt and khakis for her todder son, Summit. From there, she found a cute khaki sundress for herself, and hubby Jaxon went with a darker khaki pant and two different button down shirts.
I love how the stripes on the boys’ outfits are similar enough that they look like they’re part of a “big brother little brother” set. That’s what makes these selections flow well together when the boys are photographed with each other. Here’s an option similar to Maverick’s that I love for photos and here’s a shirt like Summit’s. I love this dress for mamas, which is similar to Kelsey’s.
For the second half of the session, Jaxon changed into a bolder plaid shirt that still works well because they boys are in shirts that are so neutral, and Kelsey’s dress is a solid color. If the boys would have been in louder prints, these photos probably would have looked too busy when paired with Jaxon’s plaid.
You’ll also notice that the pillows in the background on the bed are neutral shades too. Everything goes together in a harmonious way, without distracting from the kids or their parents.
Rule #4 – work in colors with fun accessories, like flower crowns for infants & babies
If you’re dying to add a little color or sparkle to your photos, particuarly if you have a newborn or a baby, consider adding a hat, bonnet, headband or flower crown. This is my favorite way to add a feminine touch to photos of little girls!
The first little angel pictured above is Charlotte at her four-month-old baby session. It was a mommy & me morning, as Charlotte’s dad had to work and couldn’t join his wife and daughter for photos. It was the perfect opportunity for mama Jenn to wear some of her neutral gowns that hadn’t gotten much attention since before she was pregnant with Charlotte! To add in visual interest, we popped a few headbands, a flower crown and a bonnet on Charlotte’s sweet little head. This also added variety to Charlotte’s photo gallery!
Next, you’ll see brand new babe Ella, whose mama Kelly was so excited to play dress up with my flower crowns! They add color and elegance to Ella’s newborn portraits. You’ll note she’s wrapped in ivory, and the newborn donut has an ivory cover, along with an ivory flokati on the floor. All of these neutrals made it so simple for mama to decorate every room in their home with different photos of sweet Ella!
Rule #5 – It’s ok for you to steal the show in a soft, feminine print, with the rest of your family in neutral solids!
Floral maxi dresses are an easy, flattering favorite for lots of mamas at any life stage – during pregnancy, postpartum and life with babies, toddlers and older kids. The great thing about long dresses is that they elongate your body, which is often very slimming, while ensuring you’re totally covered sitting and standing during the session.
So, if you’ve fallen in love with a print dress, don’t hesitate to rock it for your session. To keep your photos from being too busy, just put the rest of your family in complimentary solids. Here’s how that worked for Danielle and her family:
Jack’s sweet blue and white striped shorts were an excellent choice alongside Danielle’s floral max and dad’s khaki/white shirt combo. These shorts are such an easy option, especially paired with his white polo shirt. Jack looks totally pulled together and photo ready, but he’s also comfortable in his slightly-nicer-than-play-clothes outfit.
Second-time-mama Danielle added in a soft pink headband for the first half of the session for daughter Via that perfectly matched the light pink in her maxi dress, which effortlessly pulled the entire session together! For the last half, Via is in a cream headband that also flows well with this neutral color palette.
Upscale, classy family photos that are anything but boring!
Did you notice how all of these photos look high-end and classy? A lot of that has to do with the neutral color palette. Earth tones will always give you a more elegant outcome than brighter colors. That’s because we associate neutrals with words like classic, expensive and high-end, and bright colors with words like fun, affordable, less expensive.
For years now, the only option I’ve considered for my own family photos is soft, light neutrals – and I’m always so happy with how our portraits turn out! Beyond that, my clients are always totally overjoyed with their images because I’ve coached them so carefully to consider neutrals first, and add in pops of color through accessories. If you’re gearing up for family photos, use these guidelines to make the planning process as stress-free as possible!