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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! )
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.
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.
Me – Joe Fresh Plaid Shirt (sold out), plaid patched jeans (24)
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.
Mom – Joe Fresh Sheath Dress
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!)
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!