the journal




fresh 48



If you are anything like me, you may have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with picking out your outfits for a family photo session. It’s half exciting and half stressful. If you tend to be indecisive like me, it may take you upwards of 2-3 months to even come to a decision. The more advice and guidance the better.

“What I should my family wear?” is one of the most common questions I get from clients as they prepare for a session. I am going to share some helpful ideas + tips to keep in mind when you are trying to figure out what to wear for family photos.

the do’s—- (of what to wear for family photos)


I don’t think you can go wrong with a simple, timeless approach to styling (just like my approach to photography itself). Of course clothing styles will go in and out of trends (i.e. bell bottom jeans), but simple materials such as solid colors, florals, corduroy, etc stand the “test of time”.


Similar to keeping it simple, neutrals are pretty much always a good idea. If you are picking a few colors or patterns, sprinkle in some neutrals as well.


One of the big “no-no”s with styling is to have everyone being too “matchy-matchy”. This is not the time to have two kids wear the same outfit or “mommy and me” type of clothing. If colors are too similar (i.e. two greens), it will look distracting and will just blend together in the photographs (aka a blob). You ideally don’t want everyone in your family wearing the same color. If you would like to choose one main color, i.e. blue, then try to incorporate different complementary shades and patterns (i.e. a ditsy floral or a white stripe shirt with subtle gray/blue vertical stripes). You can also choose to incorporate 2-3 colors (depending on family size). It also helps to have variety in clothing types, i.e. rompers, overalls, skirts or dresses, instead of all tees and pants.


Textures seriously go a long way to add interest to the photograph. Especially with those super sweet detail shots, i.e. holding hands, brushing your child’s hair back from their face etc). Textures that can add variety can include corduroy, lace, linen, knit + leathers (i.e. shoes). Textures are everything from head to toe (shirts, pants/shorts, shoes and even accessories, blankets)


If you think of your family photos as art you can imagine your photographs like paintings. These photos are a beautiful way to decorate your home and walls. Considering things like the season and location are all a part of the overall feeling and aesthetic of the art. Are you having a session in the middle of the field? Playing in the sand of a lakeside beach? A more documentary session at your favorite playground? An urban session downtown? You can either choose your location first and then choose outfits or vice versa.

The color palettes below give examples for each season. Think about whether you are more drawn to bright/lighter options or more muted color schemes. Some families love lots of bold colors and others prefer more of a vintage muted look. Of course these are only examples and you can certainly deviate from these or even mix and match.

Spring: pastels, neutrals, eyelet (i.e. dresses, shirts), florals

Summer: more vibrant colors, white/neutrals, florals

Fall: warm colors i.e. yellow, orange, reds or deeper colors such as rust, brown, olive; neutrals such as taupe, black, white also can be a good contrast with colorful foliage

Winter: bold colors photograph really well as everything is either dead or snow-covered (at least in the Midwest); dark foresty green, maroons, reds really pop against our landscape

There are certain photographers that only photograph certain color palettes or styles. For example, if the photographer is “light and airy” they will recommend light pastels and neutral to be able to achieve this look. As a potential client, it’s always a good idea to notice trends in the photographer’s portfolio and see if it aligns with your style and vision.

the don’ts (of what to wear for family photos)


  • Neons
  • Bright oranges, pinks and greens (they cast undesired colors on people’s faces)
  • Logos or words
  • Small close together stripes: they look “psychedelic” (in photography its called “moire”
  • Blending in with the landscape (i.e. I recommend avoiding a strong green color scheme if you have a session in a grassy area)


  1. Choose a location with your photographer (if you need ideas, here are some of my faves). There are a lot of factors that can help you decide on a location. One of those factors can be the landscape itself. It can certainly be nice to use different landscapes/locations for different sessions. For example, open prairie field one year, lake beach the next, fall foliage the next
  2. Decide on a starting spot for outfits. You could start with an outfit for mom or kids that you have been dying to wear. If you don’t have any outfits in mind, think about what colors you are drawn to and use this as a jumping off point. For my current/future clients, I have also started offering access to a Client Styling Service using Style and Select. This website asks you for the overall vibe you are going for i.e. bold + rich, or light + airy, or muted earthy. From there it will also ask you what color palette you would like to use.
  3. As you are compiling outfit ideas, always lay it all out. I recommend making a collage of different outfit choices (i.e. screenshot on your phone). Think about how each person will look next to every other person! The most common mistake I see is that two people in the family are dressed to similarly and don’t look good next to each other. This step makes a big difference and saves you time before purchasing and laying out on your bed.
  4. When in doubt, after you use all of the tips/tricks and styling services out there, ASK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER!! They have an eye for how colors and outfits photograph after all 😉

Are you ready to book a family session? Feel free to contact me!


What to Wear for Family Photos: the do’s + don’ts