When it comes to getting a family together for a portrait session, some of us are just lucky to get out the door with clean clothes, fresh diapers, and our sanity. If you're putting together everyone's outfit prior to the day of, here are a few tips I have to make your wardrobe even better:
1. Coordinate but don't match
Family photos look great if everyone has a similar color scheme, but matching outfits aren't necessary. In fact, matching outfits might get you in the realm of an Awkward Family Photo. Granted, matching toddler outfits can be cute, but be careful. As your children get older, the matching should probably come to an end.
Think about how you can link your outfits with a common theme but still be different enough to be individuals. Maybe everyone wears jeans and a solid shirt, but the shirts are different colors. Or maybe everyone has some variation of blue in their outfit. For the Buckeyes reading this, I know you can find a way to coordinate in scarlet and grey.
I love the wardrobe choices of the family below. They are coordinated without being too similar.
This next family, too, did a great job balancing similarities with individuality.
2. Be careful of certain colors and patterns
Simple is almost always better when it comes to portrait photography, and it's the same for clothing. Intricate patterns and textures might be distracting or might not show up in the photo as they do to the natural eye. Simple clothing with solid colors is usually the way to go. You can add pattern and texture variety with a scarf or hat or other accessory.
When it comes to colors, neutral tones, earth tones, and desaturated colors are preferable to bold, highly saturated colors. For one, our eyes are attracted to colors like red, orange, and pink. We will see those colors first in the photo, and we'll often linger on those colors rather than on the people. Just as important, you have to be careful of wearing a top that is a bright, saturated red, orange, pink, purple, or the like. Believe it or not, the bright color of the top will reflect back to your skin, often giving your jaw or cheeks a glow of the same color. We want natural skin tones, so wearing a top that keeps things natural is important.
Take a look below. See the pink from the jacket on her cheek? We want to avoid that. One thing I will often do is give a black-and-white version, too, which eliminates the issue altogether.
You'd never know that the girl's cheeks in the image below have reflected-pink from her tutu.
3. Dress for the weather and for comfort
Make sure that everyone is in clothes that won't make them too hot or too cold. In early fall, September especially, the temperature may still be too hot for jeans and sweaters. If you're like me, September usually has you aching for that favorite pair of jeans and long-sleeves. But it's usually too hot, especially for energetic kids. If you're dressed too warmly for the weather, then you'll be sweaty and uncomfortable. Like or not, you might need to do your fall session in shorts and short sleeves. Similarly, if you're out in March or April, you might have to be more bundled up than you'd like to be for your spring photos. Or if we're meeting in May, it might already be summer, so pants and long sleeves might be out. Dress for the weather. Trust me, everyone will be happier for it.
Don't force yourself and your family to wear clothing that is unlike your normal duds. You might be able to dress up one-level more fancy than normal, but anything more might have everyone messing with their outfits and not able to move naturally. If you usually wear sweats and t-shirts, try jeans and a button down. If you usually wear sundresses and flip-flops, add a nicer pair of shoes and some accessories. Don't force the family to be fancier than they're used to. No one will be happy, and the photos will look forced and uncomfortable. Dress like your normal selves, or maybe one notch fancier.
These two boys were dressed perfectly for the crisp fall morning we had together. And they could move and play and have fun. (Also, see this photo featured on Shutterfly's Family Photo Ideas interactive!)
And how about the warm, light tones in this couple's outfits? It was a little hot, but their outfits were just right before the sun and temperature rose too high.