9 Style Tips to Help You Dress Your Family for Pictures (Without the Stress!)

You know the drill. When it comes to getting our family photos taken, the stress starts the moment we book our session.
We worry about if our kids will behave for the photographer. We fret about whether our husbands will be up for another round of pictures. We triple check ourselves in the mirror, debating if we should wait until we lose that last 10 lbs.

But what causes moms the most anxiety is figuring out what to wear for the yearly family photo session.


Stress no more! I’ve broken it all down and have detailed my top tips for easy family styling right here!


1) Shop in your closet
I recommend that 70 percent of what my clients wear for their family pictures comes from their own closets. When you shop in your own closest first, everyone feels and looks more comfortable in front of the camera, because what they’re wearing is really what they normally wear. This point is particularly important for dads and older kids… both are quick to express their discomfort. ;)

Plus, when the majority of what you’re wearing comes from what you already own, you avoid looking like you’re trying too hard (which can easily happen with an overstyled, all new wardrobe). And, something we don’t think about enough, when your family dresses the way they normally do, every time you see the pictures, you’ll take a trip down memory lane… nothing takes me back in time like seeing my child in one of their favorite t-shirts or frilly skirts.

Pro tip: If you do wind up purchasing new clothing, be sure to wash it before the shoot to give it a little softness.


How to style your family for pictures graphic

In the photo above, the only thing new is a cute pair of shoes for mom. She shopped her closets first and found the one thing that would pull the whole family together!


2) Choose your clothing first
So many moms become quickly overwhelmed when thinking of styling their family for pictures.  The trick is to choose your outfit first, and then move from there.  Once you feel really good about what you’ll be wearing, creating everyone else’s outfits will be a snap.


3) Let other people do the work for you
When thinking about what colors to dress your family in, start by looking around your home.  What colors are you drawn to? It’s likely you’ll have a repeating color in your most lived in rooms.  Take this color and search on kuler.adobe.com for an incredible selection of color pallets. Or, find a pattern of a pillow, dress or tie that you like and use that as your color pallet. Style experts have already combined and coordinated the colors, so why not use what they’ve already designed?

how to dress for family photosHere is a color scheme I found on Kuler. I searched on mint and coral (two colors of our living room). If I were to dress for family photos based on these colors, I would go with creams and corals with just a pop of mint. Easy peasy!


4) Color pop vs. color explosion
Pops of color can help a photo come alive, but the trick is to keep it to a minimum.  If everyone is wearing bright, cheerful colors, it can be distracting from the people in the pictures and date the photo (much like the white shirt with blue jeans on the beach that we saw so much of in the ‘90s).

The focus is put back on the people when you tone down the clothing – you could dress your  daughter in a bright green skirt and your son in socks with green in the pattern.  There are many ways to show color without wearing it head to toe.


5) Look at the whole rather than the parts
Even though you’ll have several actual outfits in the picture, consider it as one well coordinated outfit.  The key here it to not repeat the same outfit for everyone. For example, everyone wearing jeans and green or yellow shirt isn’t coordinated, it’s matching.

Instead dress each person using the color palate incorporated it in different ways. Play with texture, layers and a little pattern. For example, the color blue can show up in several ways: shoes, pants, a layering tank, a belt, hair clip, sweater, etc… By moving the colors around for each person, you can avoid that “color block” look that happens when families stick to one or two colors for shirts.

How to style your family for pictures

This family did nearly all of their shopping in their own closets and while the youngest’s outfit is more purple than blue, it still works because she’s got a red stripe on her skirt (I love the uniqueness of her faded outfit… it’s her through and through and let’s be honest, imperfections are more fun!). I love this family’s style! Everyone is an individual, and they look wonderful as a group! 


6) Ask your kids
Many children fight dressing for pictures. And who can blame them? We put a lot of pressure on them to not only act a certain way, but also dress in a way. Try asking them what they would like to wear. It sounds scary, but it can be fun! They’re very creative and you might love what they come up with. If not, maybe it can be a bottom layer?  Just knowing they have it on might make the difference between an uncomfortable child and a confidant one.


7) Location plays a part
As a general rule, you and your family will stand out more if you dress with the session location in mind. If you’re getting your pictures taken on the beach, and everyone is wearing tans and blues, you’ll blend right in. Likewise, if you’re posing in a park with a lot of flowers, wear muted tones so you’re not competing with nature’s colorful backdrop.


8)  Think beyond the holiday card
Make your holiday pictures work for you. In fact, why not consider it a family photo session that you *might* use for your holiday card? Ask yourself what else can you do with the photos.  You can create gifts from the pictures, family keepsake albums, and decorate your walls.

Pro tip: If you plan on hanging them in your home, use one color from your home decor in your clothing.

How to dress for family pictures

The family in the picture above wore blues, yellows and grays (with brown accents). This works perfect for them and the pictures they enlarged didn’t clash with their home decor.


9) Trust yourself
Once you have all the outfits spread out on your bed, and something doesn’t feel right, but you followed all of the “rules,” change things around until you do like it.  If you’re not happy with what you’ve put together, you’ll think about how it could have been better every time you look at your pictures.

Trust your own sense of style. I call this Style Feng Shui. ;)


Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Care for more tips? Check out my own personal battle with my style demons here: Hammer Pants, High Tops and Family Photos

P.P.S. Need help finding the perfect family photographer? I can help with that, too. Check out my 5 tips that will help you hire the perfect family photographer!