This is by far the question I receive most frequently when a client books a session with me, especially for the first time. There can be a lot of confusion and it can feel overwhelming to dress a family for photos. So many factors come into play when choosing your family’s wardrobe – location, season, boys vs. girls, and what the heck do I wear as the mom?! Fear not, I’ve created this guide to help you put together your family’s wardrobe so that it becomes – dare I say – fun (or at least less miserable) to plan outfits for your session!
Step 1 – Mom, dress yourself first!
Let’s be real for just a second here – as a fellow mom, I’m the first to admit that when I see a photo of my family, I immediately look at myself first. I am my own worst critic! So when it comes time to dress my own family for photos, I start with my outfit first, and it’s the most important advice I give to all of my clients!
Find an outfit you love, something that makes you feel beautiful, and be sure to prioritize comfort along with style. Don’t normally wear dresses because they aren’t comfortable to you? Then don’t wear one for your session! If you’re uncomfortable, it shows in the photos. Unsure of where to shop for photo-worthy outfits? Keep reading because I included some suggestions at the bottom of the page!
Step 2 – Identify your neutrals
Once you have your outfit picked out, it’s time to identify your neutrals. What does this mean? Put simply – look at all of the colors in your outfit, which one(s) are neutral? If your outfit doesn’t include any (or only has one), think about what neutral colors would jive with your outfit. Some examples of neutrals are ivory, gray, navy, tan, and even dark green. Pastels can also serve as a neutral depending on the color.
White and black are also neutral but one point of caution if you would like to include these in your family’s outfits – white acts as a reflector and black acts as a vacuum, both often eliminating most detail that would otherwise be visible if the clothing item was a different color. I typically suggest not having any clothing items that are entirely white or entirely black, but items with a pattern including these colors are completely fine!
To help illustrate these ideas, here’s a swatch from a dress I have available in my studio wardrobe. Looking at this dress, the colors I would identify as the neutrals are ivory and dark green. Because the florals include lighter, pastel colors, pastel shades of gray and blue would also work well with the dress as additional neutral options.
Step 3 – Identify your bold colors
Alright, you have your outfit decided, as well as your neutrals, so it’s time to choose which pops of color you’d like to use! The bolder colors you incorporate should also be chosen from your outfit so that your family’s outfits coordinate, but don’t match. Using the floral dress example above, some bold color options could be coral pink, green, and/or yellow.
TIP: It’s important to note that when choosing your bold colors, you want to consider the location and the season. Colors like mustard yellow, burnt orange, and wine red are often associated with Fall. Pastel pinks, blues, and greens are often associated with Spring. Keep these guidelines in mind, as well as the time of year of your session, when choosing your family’s outfits.
Step 4 – Mix it Up!
Now that you’ve done the work of dressing yourself and identifying your color palette, it’s time to actually pick out the rest of your family’s clothes! This should be easier now that you know which colors to look for.
When picking out your family’s clothes, remember to mix it up. The days of matching white button up shirts and jeans are long gone (that trend will stay in the 90’s, where it belongs!), we want to mix it up for a seamless, coordinated look. Here are some ways to mix it up:
- Mix up the shades – Find a mix of shirts and pants of different shades of both your neutrals and bold colors (e.g. if your bold color is red, put one family member in a red sweater, and one family member in a red skirt or pants)
- Mix up the layers – don’t have every person in pants, or every person in sweaters. You could dress yourself in a dress, your son in a button up and pants, and your daughter in a skirt and shirt or sweater.
- Mix up the patterns – if your dress has a bold pattern like the floral in the example above, avoid putting other members in your family in similar, large, bold patterns. Instead, choose smaller patterns that complement it, like small dots or pinstripes.
- Mix up the textures – texture can be really fun to play with, don’t be afraid of it! Sweaters, leather, fuzzy vests, all fair game! Mix it up so that there’s even more variety in your family’s outfits.
- Mix up the accessories – the icing on the cake, the accessories! Jewelry, scarves, bow ties, oh my! So many possibilities, so have fun, and let each person’s personality shine through with his/her accessories!
Step 5 – Hair and Makeup
I’m a big believer that hair and makeup are very personal and unique to each person. However, there are some guidelines to keep in mind when planning your hair and makeup for your session.
HAIR – Every woman has a preference for her hair. Curly or straight? Up or down? Parted on the side or down the middle? Style your hair the way YOU like it so that you know you’ll love it in the photos. (Be aware of the weather when making this choice. For example, if you want to straighten your hair but it’s a bit drizzly, your hair will likely start to frizz during the session, so keep that in mind!)
MAKEUP – Makeup can be tricky, because again, this is very personal to each person. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to makeup in photos:
- Less isn’t always more – The camera can be an unkind beast and show more “flaws” than we see with our own eyes. A good coverage foundation and concealer can help to lessen the things we often nitpick about ourselves. Also important to note – the camera tends to reduce the effect of our blush/contour/highlight/lipstick, so don’t be afraid to add just a *little* extra to combat that.
- But sometimes less IS more – In the case of eyeliner, this is particularly true. If you use too much eyeliner, it can give the appearance that your eyes are partly shut, even if they aren’t. Be wary of lining your eyes too thick if you don’t want to appear half asleep.
BONUS – Dressing for Themed Minis
Because every Themed Mini session is different, it’s hard to give a blanket set of rules to follow. The best advice is to take a look at the setup (I always post them prior to booking) and use the rules I’ve outlined above to coordinate with the colors/season/feel of the setup. I always include “What to Wear” suggestions in the session information you receive when signing up, so keep an eye out for that if you still aren’t sure!
My Favorite Shops for Finding Outfits
- Mabel McKinley – a local, woman-owned company!
- June & April – lots of bump-friendly options
- Saving Paige
- Three Bird Nest
- JCrew Factory
- ZARA – boys and girls
- Jamie Kay – boys and girls
- GAP – boys and girls
- Old Navy – boys and girls
- H&M – boys and girls
- Target – boys and girls
- JCrew Factory – boys and girls
- Joyfolie – girls only
- SweetHoney – girls only
If you’d like some good visual/examples on how to put together your family’s photo wardrobe, I have many examples on my Pinterest board.
If at the end of all of this, you still aren’t 100% sure if your chosen outfits will work, email me! I’m more than happy to give you some guidance and suggestions so that you LOVE what you and your family are wearing for your session!