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What to wear for your family portraits

Family picture season will soon officially be in full swing. Although it begins in late spring, the months of September, October, and November are typically popular months for family pictures. The fall color palette is always stunning in portraits, and the holidays are right around the corner so fall dates fill quickly.

The main question I get is what should I (we) wear for our pictures. I'll begin by telling you that this is my personal preference after photographing tons of families in all kinds of outfits. In the end I want you to wear what you want, but also what will look amazing in your family photos.


Family pictures are a special occasion and the images from the session will be displayed in your home, sent out to your friends and family, and will be looked at for years to come. Don’t wear your everyday clothes, make them special.

I typically recommend that women wear a long dress. Avoiding jeans brings elegance to the images and dresses provide an incredibly flattering figure. Flowy dresses are really fun to shoot and bring movement to your images, which you’ll love A short dress can significantly limit your ability to pose comfortably for your photos. Test out your favourite dress to see if it’s appropriate for your session by sitting on the ground. If you cannot comfortably sit in it, it will be best to choose a dress that is longer or opt for pants.

For men, I recommend slacks (or nice jeans), buttoned up shirt, and closed toe shoes. Layering can also add great detail to the images. Maybe add a sports jacket or a cardigan to the buttoned shirt. It will look great on camera and be super flattering.


The best secret to choosing great outfits for family pictures is to make sure you don’t all wear the exact same color or outfit. Long gone are the days of everyone wearing a white shirt and matching. You don’t have to have everyone buy a white shirt and jeans. Allow personalities to shine with colors and patterns. Rather, coordinate outfits and colors that go together. Research color palettes that compliment each other and consider the time of year you are holding your portrait session. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration. Fall months are popular for grays, navy, maroon, and gold. Summer months; pinks, greens, chambray, or navy, coral or yellow. These are just some examples but the options are endless. Also consider the decor and colors in your home. These images will be displayed in your home and should compliment the rest of your decor.

3) Avoid logo or graphic shirts and minimize patterns

Nothing is more distracting and takes away from a family photo than lots of loud patterns, or a child that shows up with a logo shirt to his current favorite store. Don't get me wrong, some patterns work well. Let me explain....

Patterns You Should NOT Wear

Dark against light: Patterns (especially small ones) that have a dark color against a light color can be very distracting. I'm mostly talking about geometrical patterns, here.

Small, close together stripes: This just tends to look trippy in photos, and sometimes gives this weird effect called moiré that you don't want. Trust me. Stripes are especially bad when combined with the above problem pattern (dark against light).

Plaid: Okay, plaid is fine sometimes. You can totally disagree with me if you want and that's fine (sometimes I disagree with myself!). But if you are going to do plaid, only have one person wearing it and make sure it isn't too crazy to look at. For example: Blue and red or red and green. If you look at it and it hurts your eyes, don't wear it.

Patterns That You SHOULD Wear for Your Family Photos

There are lots of great patterns to wear that will look great in family photos, I couldn't list them all or even think of them all! But here are some of my tried and true favorites.

Florals: You can find so many different kinds of florals that look amazing in photos! Smaller, spaced out floral patterns look awesome, and so do larger florals. I also really love a simple floral pattern where the background is one color, and the flowers are another (like the orange floral pattern in the collage below). You can even find floral patterns that are busy but still look great!

Stripes: I love stripes. They are great as long as they aren't skinny and close together. Thick stripes, or skinny stripes that are spaced out look amazing.

Subtle Shapes: Subtle is the operative word here. If you're going to have a pattern like this where the shape repeats throughout the item, you want the colors to not be too different (So don't do black and white or something like that). A lighter color with a white subtle shape throughout is ideal.

Don't Underestimate the Power of Texture

Textures can really add a lot of interest in your photos, but in a more subtle way. I am obsessed with textures and I suggest you add as much texture as possible! You can't have too much (unlike patterns). Some textures I love are lace, corduroy, knits, chambray, gauzy or crepe fabrics, velvet, swiss dots, and waffle cloth.

4) Layer and accessorize

You can really add interest and color to your portraits with accessories. A hat, a cardigan or blazer, a headband, scarf, necklace, etc. It helps break up the picture and allows you to add a subtle pop of color if it is needed.

How to Put it All Together

The trick to choosing patterns for your family photos is that you don't want to have to many and make your photos too busy. Usually I'd suggest sticking to one or two patterns and have solid colors and textures for the rest. But there are exceptions to that rule! I'm always available to help all my clients figure out clothing, so if you have questions, I'm here!

Sometimes you can get away with having two or three floral patterns, you just have to make sure the patterns are different enough. For example: One smaller floral print, and one larger.

Also, and this is important! Fitted clothes. Tailored outfits will always look better than loose-fitting clothing. If you feel the need, wear Spanx to smooth rolls (we all have them). Also, you should choose a cut that works best on each family member’s body type.

Looking great!

You’re looking fabulous now! It’s easier to dress for family portraits than you might think. Practically any pattern and texture is great, and you can feel free to mix and match styles to show off your personalities. By focusing on cuts that look best on each individual family member, everyone will arrive at your session feeling confident. And when you mix neutral colours you’ll be sure that your family portrait will still look great 20 years from now.

Links for outfit inspiration:


For Dads/Men:

Button down short sleeve with print - remember stick with smaller print



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