What To Wear For Family Photos (8 Tips To Look Cohesive, Not Matchy-Matchy)

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Say CHEESE!  We’re frequently asked, over here at The Mom Edit, how to dress for a family photo.  It’s such a tough question to answer because each family is so unique; each photo session completely different. But after thinking about it for quite some time (years) and helping friends, family, and specific readers offline…there are a few strategies that seem to work for almost any kind of shoot.

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1. Pick your own outfit first

You’re the mom.  How you look is the most-important, hands down.  You are the one (most likely) paying for these photos, you are the one who will be staring at these photos for years, you are the one who will cry tears of real joy when the photographer gets it right.  Your young kids are already cute.  Your teenage kids will hate how they look (girls) or won’t care (boys).  Your husband is who he is.  So.  When it comes to family photos, dress yourself first.  Pick something you love, something you feel amazing in.  Be sure to include lipstick, accessories, and shoes – they really change the feel of the photo.

For example, in this shoot, I wanted to wear something easy but memorable, so I picked plaid patched jeans and lipstick.  I added heels because they make me feel special (even though I don’t wear them often).  I felt like myself, but on a seriously cute outfit day.  That’s a pretty good vibe to aim for.

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2. Create a Color Scheme Based on Your Outfit

Take a look at your outfit and create a color scheme for the rest of the family.  In general, a mix of neutrals (black, white, browns, grays, taupe) with one accent color tends to work best.  It keeps the look cohesive, rather than matchy-matchy.  For this shoot, our outfits were a mix of black, white and gray…with red as the accent color.

The accent color can show up in lipstick, accessories, shoes, shoelaces, scarves, pocket squares, ties (or bowties), hats, belts, a collar peeking out, or make it a major component of one of your kids’ outfits.

A few pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t put the accent color in everyone’s outfit.  At a minimum, it should show up in roughly half of your group, but it doesn’t need to be found in everyone’s outfit.  That’s how you end up looking a little too “done”.  (It takes so much freaking upfront planning to make it look like you didn’t plan meticulously haha.)
  • Don’t put everyone in blue jeans.  All-blue-jean photos often end up looking really matchy-matchy.  Break things up with dresses or skirts, mix in some black or gray denim, try trousers.  Just don’t have blue jeans across the board.
  • Avoid khaki pants.  They typically add 20 lbs and don’t photograph well.

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3.  Put Something Plain and Boring On Your Husband

Chances are he’s the biggest anyway, so let him visually anchor the photos.  It’ll give you and the kids more wiggle room.  For this shoot, I put Mike in all black.  You don’t have to go quite so extreme, but a plain sweater and dark, plain bottoms are a sound strategy for husbands in photoshoots.

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4. Make Sure the Kids Are Comfortable

Know who can’t fake being happy?  Like…AT ALL?  Kids.  (Trust me, as a blogger, this is the story of my life.)  Finding something comfortable that they are willing wear is key.  For this shoot, I grabbed the boys each a pair of Joe Fresh’s knit jeans (here’s the toddler version).   My boys have issues with pants, so sweatpants that look like jeans were PERFECT for this shoot.  Be sure to pick out not-scratchy tights, soft sweaters, etc.

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5. Choose A Few Statement Items For The Kids

A few well-chosen items can really make the photoshoot.  I have boys, so I look for cute hats, scarves, mittens, bowties, or statement outerwear (like R’s leather jacket).  For girls, I’d expand my search to include faux-fur, patterned tights, frothy dresses, or even a cute little purse if you’re into that sort of thing.

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6.  Shoes Matter

One area that many people go wrong is that they spend lots of time picking out outfits, then completely forget about the shoes.  This is not the time for big, ugly tennis shoes.  If you need to, buy your kids (or husband) some cheap shoes to go with their outfits.  Bad shoes distract from many a good photo.  (Or go barefoot! )

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7.  Mix Those Prints, Nix Those Graphics

To keep yourself from looking like The Great Color-Blocked Family Of 2015…mix in prints.  Plaids, stripes, florals, and dots can all be mixed successfully – especially if they have some colors in common (even if that common color is white).

But if the one red tshirt your kid has says “Daddy’s ‘lil helper”….try turning it inside out.  That’s what we did with R’s black tee, below.  (Unless, of course, the graphic shirt in question is this sweater with The Beatles knit into it because that’s just AWESOME.)  Bottom line – if you have a graphic tee in the pic, make it intentional, make it part of the overall look.

 

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8.  Plan Ahead….Visually

It really helps to see how the pieces you’re wearing will all hang together.  Pull everything out of the closet, line it up and take a picture.  Upload pics to your computer, and use a combination of your pics with product screenshots to help visualize both what you already have, and the pieces you are thinking of buying.  (I typically just use Pages on my mac.)

Here are a couple of ideas.  The first one is the collage for our family shoot.  You can see that I had planned to pull in a few more accent pieces (red) and stripes.  However, it ended up being really warm the day of the shoot, so for the kids’ comfort, I ditched the sweaters.  I thought the bow tie (Pax) and leather jacket (R) were more important.

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Outfit Details

Me –  Joe Fresh Plaid Shirt (sold out), plaid patched jeans (24)

Mike –  Joe Fresh cashmere sweater (M), Joe Fresh black straight jean (32)

Raines (oldest) –  Joe Fresh faux leather moto jacket, striped sweater, knit skinny jean, sneakers

Pax (youngest) –  Joe Fresh checked sweater, Bow Tie shirt, knit jegging, sneakers

 

Next, I wanted to show how a wider mix of neutrals could still work, as long as they’re all pulled together by a few common elements.  In this case, black serves to keep everything cohesive, and red (even a small range of red) is the accent color.  Below, the Dad’s shirt is patterned, but it’s a small, dark pattern, which still anchors.

 

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Outfit Details

Mom – Joe Fresh Sheath Dress

Dad – Joe Fresh print neat shirtJoe Fresh black straight jean, desert boots

Girl – heart hat, heart sweater, sequin tutu, glitter ballet flats

Boy – Joe Fresh fedora, Bow Tie shirt, knit jegging, sneakers

 

Retailers like Joe Fresh are perfect for family photoshoots.  Their clothes look special without breaking the bank.

Hope this helps!  (And if you have any family photoshoots you’d like to share, shoot them over!)

S

A huge thank-you to Joe Fresh for sponsoring this post.  I needed a kick in the butt to finally get this long-overdue article finished.  As always, all product choices, thoughts, and opinions are my own. 

photo credit:  all photos were taken by Amanda Danziger Photography.  If you are in the Philly area, I highly recommend her.  She has a great eye, and knows the city well.  You’ll be seeing more of her work soon!

 

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About Author

Shana founded The Mom Edit in 2008. She lives with the love of her life (his name's Mike) and their two crazy boys in downtown Philadelphia. She loves a good styling challenge (her engineering side shows eventually), appreciates kindness, and usually picks scotch over wine, sneakers over stilettos, and denim-underwear, always.

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23 Comments

  1. LOVE this post! Such great tips. We just did pictures last weekend for my fam, so of course I did a lot of soul-searching — but what do these outfits SAY about my family? haha. I totally agree about putting my husband in something boring (he’s cute and always looks the same, right?) I dressed my twin girls in different colored cowboy boots and offset their denim polka dot rompers with a striped Vince sweater for my baby boy. We’ll see how they turned out! Also, totally agree about khakis. I have a strict anti-khaki policy!

  2. The boys’ jeans…how slim are they cut? Your family looks rather lean and my son (who would love them!) is…can I say built like a brick sh*thouse? 🙂

  3. You guys are so photogenic! My in-laws are big into photography professionally. It should make it easier having photogs in the family but holiday shoots are such a stress! Our style is way more “capture the moment” and we love the ad hoc off beat pics of our kids doing whatever silly thing it is and yes none of us are looking in the same direction or matching but it’s love and real life 🙂 The in-laws however love very coordinated, posed shots and don’t get that two kids under 3 have no interest in that lol! I want a shot that says here is our crazy, messy family and we love each other, but also check out how cute we look 🙂 can’t I have both? 🙂

  4. I would also add–from experience!–that you might also want to avoid anything too trendy, although you might not agree with me Shana b/c obvi plaid-patched skinnies with pointy heels sort of falls into that category. Remember that 10 and 20 and 30 years ago those precious portraits are probably going to be still hanging on walls and in special frames and family albums, and anything that reads “big trend in the year ___” will likely evoke peals of laughter or at the very least some quiet “hmm, yeah, looks a little silly now” thoughts-to-self. I’m not saying you don’t look gorgeous and cute here Shana, b/c you do! Again, just speaking from experience looking back on fam photos from 10 years ago when my tween was a babe. 😉

    • Such a good point!! You’re right, though….I do go back and forth on this one. It seems that pics with “trendy” pics feel really outdated in 10ish years…..but 20? They’re kind of awesome again. The photograph becomes almost a period piece, LOL! My favorite pics of my parents are when they’re totally rocking their flare bell bottoms and printed maxi dresses. (However, I’m not sure enough time will EVER pass before I like the pic my parents have hanging up of Scotti & I in the 80’s. But I suspect that has more to do with my gigantic teeth than anything else, haha.)

  5. Shana- love this post! The photos are swoon-worthy and you all look fabulous!

    I hear you on kids and comfort. We are in the “I will only wear athletic gear and tops a la Nike and Under Armour- don’t even think of asking me to put on anything else- not going to happen ever.” phase. Sigh. So, how skinny are those jeans? To be honest, my boys are built to wear skinny jeans, cool graphic tees, and the like- they are long and lean, but in our suburban town that is not the uniform of middle school. But, if it was for a family photo and the jeans were comfy? Well I might be able to get them on board- especially since I’d let them wear their high tops sneakers.

    As for mom- what if I am the one that wants to wear all black?!?!? Seriously!

    And, last note- having the style posts for men has been so helpful. My husband now is looking more pulled together, and just got his first Soul Sock delivery for his birthday and LOVES them. Having a place to be a go to for fashion for me, and for him? Well that is, as my son would say, two-fer double good luck!

    Thanks for the insights- you are a rock star! xo

      • I have boys- one is upper elementary and one is middle school. And the third boy? Well he’s a grown-up in body but a kid at heart. (Who is now dressing more like a grown-up with a cool vibe style, thanks to your posts about Mike.)

  6. I have not braved family photos yet in all the ten years of child rearing. I want some but need to save my pennies for my favorite local photographer who is like an absolute artist, like for real…

    Me, my husband, and my four boys are definittely NOT posing people. And certainly not intentional dressers (the boys on this one) so I need to find clothes that they think are awesome and that they love and that they want to wear otherwise someone is going to end up in multiple plaids or in a stained tee shirt with his star blazer and flip flops and there will be nothing I can do about it.

    I do a lot of embracing the moment and letting go…

    Anywho… I LOVE those plaid patched skinnies so much. Holiday without being over the top. Give me the scoop on how they wear please!!

  7. My boy also has problems with pants that don’t feel soft. I ordered 2 of the knit jeans (both colors) for him! 🙂

    I tried ordering some denim for me, but they switch between American and European sizing with no conversion table on their site. I called for assistance, but I’m seriously thinking that the lady I spoke with was wrong. Oh well.

  8. Thank you! We have a photo session Sunday and I had no idea how to even begin to have a cohesive look. I will lay out clothes tomorrow!!

  9. My husband will love to hear that his outfit is fashion blogger approved (dark jeans and charcoal sweater).
    I think I automatically fail on matchy matchy though by buying my sons both the same outfit. Lol. Maybe next year!

  10. My family does an outdoor photo shoot every year in November. Your tips are great! I’d also add that I do pick out my outfit first because no one else really cares. Ha! For the kids I buy outfits from the same retailer for both so that the pop of color matches. Mini Boden is our fave because they do a good job of mixing patterns and colors in their clothes. Hubbie is usually in some form of blue and no pop of color. The kids wear the most color, and I pick an accessory to match them. Last year was an orange scarf, this year a green necklace. We are all blondes with fair skin so our neutral tends to be navy or denim to pick up the color of our eyes. Anyway, we get compliments every year on our outfits! This is last year: https://instagram.com/p/-cJuz-H3Jv/. Still waiting for this year.

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