Choosing What to Wear

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Deciding what to wear in Family Pictures can be a daunting task. What colors to wear? How can we coordinate, but not be match-matchy? I’ve got some great tips to think about, and at the bottom of the post, links to other ideas to help you on your way to get fabulous family pictures!  I have our family pictures taken at least once a year, if we are going on a fun family trip, I may squeeze in a second (often taking them myself–you can too–see the link at the bottom). I may run all over town looking for the perfect items to wear, but this past year, I mostly used what we had at home for our casual At Home pictures (below). It was my boys favorite ever because they got to wear their favorite athletic clothes!

What to Wear in Family Pictures

{more from this session HERE}

Here is a fun little video I put together to give you a visual for what to wear in family pictures:

I simply LOVE planning out clothing to wear in our family pictures. It’s a challenge…that I enjoy. Here is my family below in our turquoise, yellow, and navy clothing family pictures last summer in California:

{To see more from this session, CLICK HERE. See how I decorated with these pictures HERE.

Image taken by my awesome friend Shari Hanson in Huntington Beach, CA}

Here is a fun and quick little video that will help you see more of what I explained below:


I have so much to say about planning family portrait clothing, so listen up!

Trying to figure out what you are going to wear for family portraits can be stressful. It used to be that everyone wore white shirts and khaki’s and that was that–simple. Sadly, that doesn’t say WOW in family portraits, it doesn’t show a whole lot of personality, and everyone has done it (ok, almost everyone). Besides that, white washes people out, so I generally suggest staying away from white for anyone in portraits, unless used as an accent, or placing colorful accessories over a white top. Here are my top 10 tips:

1. Decide on a Color Scheme

The first thing I ask when someone seeks advice on colors to wear, I ask where they plan to hang the portraits in their home, and what colors are in that room. For some people, this doesn’t make a difference. But for others, if they plan to hang the prints in their family room that is painted red and black, and you plan to wear orange and brown, it won’t work very well. If your room is neutral (like mine) and you’d like some color pop from the portraits, and you just need help deciding on colors, here are a few thoughts.

Design Seeds is a site full of fabulous eye candy. The artist finds beautiful images, and pics a color palette out of those images that you might not otherwise notice. It can be applied to home decor or clothing, I think of it when picking out color schemes for portraits. It helps your eye to see color patterns that go together.


You can do a search by color palettes or themes (spring, fall, ocean, edible), and you can sit there for hours drooling over the beautiful photography, but find an image/colors that resonate with you, and go with that! My home is fairly neutral in nature with lots of color accents. I also have our family portraits taken once or twice a year, so I’ve gone through lots of color schemes. I really need to look through these to decide on our upcoming family portrait colors!

2. Select one focal piece

If you have a color palette in mind, or even if you don’t…shop around to find one patterned piece that you love. It can be a little girls floral dress or a boys plaid shirt, but if you find one central piece, it helps to plan everything around that. Since us moms like our kids to be the focal point, I’d suggest this focus piece to be on one of the children (not an adult). That doesn’t mean that they will stand out the most, after accessorizing (my next  point) it will all flow together.

3. Pick 3

It’s a good idea to pick 3 colors to work with as your main colors, then consider grays, whites, blacks, or browns as freebie’s. Not necessarily all of them together, but one or two that work with the 3 colors you chose.

4. Layers & Accessories

Cardigan, necklace, headband, scarf, button up shirt, tights, hats, ties. Layers & accessories add dimension, pizazz, fun, texture and therefore richness to the overall look. In the past, I have had the problem of purchasing all of these in my color palette (while keeping the receipts very close by) and once I have the clothing planned out, start throwing in accessories to see what works. If I have 2 girls, they don’t both get yellow headbands, but one yellow and  one blue to spread out the colors. If you notice on my boys in the image above, they both have undershirts to provide another layer. Boys have fever options when it comes to layers (and seem more difficult to dress). I often try to put my 2 boys in two types of shirts and layer them differently. One a button up with t-shirt underneath, the other a polo type with T underneath and maybe sleeves rolled up into each other. Below, I found a vest that fit.

5. Mom’s, don’t give yourself the leftovers

You know how some moms will go around the dinner table and make sure everyone has all of their food situated before they sit down, and then their food is cold? Don’t be that mom when it comes to clothing for your family portraits. Don’t pick everyone else’s out, then just grab something from your closet that only looks “ok” on you, but matches the color scheme. You need to feel AWESOME in your family pictures! If anything, I’d pick something that you think looks fabulous on you, then plan around THAT!  It’s tough enough to get mothers IN pictures, so when you are in them, you want to feel and look good! My friend Reachel has great ideas on dressing for your body type on the sidebar of her blog, Cardigan Empire.

6. Split up the colors

If I’ve got 6 people in my family, and have selected 3 main colors, I don’t want all of those colors on top, nor to the people that are close in age–I want to split them up. I want to weigh some color towards the bottom in one or two of them as well.  I do this with shoes, skirts, and pants. There are so many more options now with those fun colorful jeans. I did also purchase a pair of red converse for my son for our pictures last December that hasn’t been worn much since–but darn-it they looked awesome in the picture!  You aren’t just investing in a photographer, but in the clothing to enhance your awesome family (see red shoes below).

{More from this Christmas Tree Family Session HERE. Images by my friends Heather and Tricia}

7. Use Polyvore to create a style board

You’ve seen the fashion/clothing boards on Pinterest (I’ve made my own “what to wear in family portraits” pinterest board here).

They’re great, but don’t always have the perfect configuration for your family, and you may not care for some of the pieces. Have you wondered how to make them?  Well I did just that using Polyvore, but the details may need to be a post for another day. I created my own “set” and typed in the beginning basics of color/clothing item I wanted, and was able to drag them around the board. It searches from a database,  you can even type in from the stores you shop from. I was trying to arrange our clothing for the above family pictures. I knew I wanted red, green, and navy as our main colors, and I made this style board last year:

Originally, I wanted to wear a red hat. I even found one, and decided I didn’t like the way it looked on me. Since I had planned to have a bold red accent piece, I switched out the hat for the scarf. Also, I originally planned to have a little yellow in the mix.  But then decided I had too many colors and wanted to simplify. I also couldn’t decide if I  wanted the stripes and the vest on my son or husband, so kept them as alternatives while I figured it out. I had 4 people set as to how they were  going to dress, but wasn’t sure about the other two. I kept this image on my phone and referred to it while I was shopping, to remember what I already had. With my youngest daughters vest, I turned a boys t-shirt inside  out and cut it down the middle, no one was the wiser!

8. Lay it on the floor

Once you have gathered items in the colors you’ve picked, I try to find a spot in my home that I can keep it all out. I like to lay the pieces on the floor, and look at it from afar, take a picture of it, so I can see it from a different perspective.

{Image taken with my tripod–and I ran–more image HERE}

9. Split up the pairs

If you have natural pairs in the family: mom and dad, Brothers, sisters, Mom and baby, try to split up the colors, as they will often be standing near each other. When I have babies, I know I will want to be holding them (helps me look thinner) so I see my baby as my “pair” and aim to not dress us alike. My husband is my obvious other pair, and as the two tallest, I have to make sure he and I are also not “matchy-matchy.” This part can get complicated, so do your best, then let it go!  Hopefully the photographer will notice this and split everyone according to the colors. But ultimately, the natural/candid shots that I like to take won’t be so planned out.


{More from this family picture session HERE}

 10. Plan ahead

Make sure you start this planning when you book your session (hopefully a few weeks before it takes place). Be thinking of it, look around in your home/closets, shop well in advance so you aren’t stressing at the last minute.

There you have my top 10 tips to think about when planning what to wear in family portraits! Come back tomorrow to figure out how to choose a location for your family portraits that will reflect your style and personality. Make sense? Any questions???
Do you have Family Picture Sessions on the brain this fall?

More clothing board ideas here.

*Since this post went LIVE, I’ve shared a TON of clothing ideas by COLOR, see them all by clicking on the image below! What to wear in family pictures by color


 Join me today at these other sites on the web for more inspiration with Taking Family Pictures:

Infarrantly Creative–Decorate with Pictures

Capturing Joy–What to Wear for Family Portraits

The Idea Room–How to Enjoy and Not Just Endure Family Pictures

The House of Smiths–The Best Backdrops and Settings for Family Photos

Capturing Joy–How to Take your Own Family Pictures

{If the direct links above don’t work, click on the home page}


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