The #1 Question about Family Photos

All photos are by Morgan Slade Photography. Morgan is amazing! You can find her taking pictures here and here

I love a well coordinated outfit. And it doesn’t matter if I’m going to be the one behind the camera or not, from both clients, friends and family and everyone in between, the number one question I get asked is….

What do we wear for family photos?

Literally. That question gets asked more than fart noises get made in my house. I’m sure the fart noises will eventually win out, once Brecken figures it out, but still….

I know you’ve heard ‘coordinate, don’t match’ and it’s one hundred percent accurate. Because nothing screams “we got dressed JUST for this picture”  more than matching outfits. And that’s not really what family photos should be about!

You want everyone to put their best foot forward, sure. But you’re taking photos to remember those moments, those days. What your kids looked like that year, how they laughed; a little glimpse into their personalities. My favorite pictures are the ones that feel authentic! Authentic because we were really smiling or laughing or kissing. And authentic because we’re wearing clothing that fit us.

That’s what you wear for family photos; clothing that is authentic.
And that coordinate. 

So practically speaking, what does that actually mean? How to do you pull together an authentic outfits that coordinate for your whole family?

Start with a color palette

How do you pick a color palette? What colors make up most of your wardrobe? What colors are you drawn too? What colors do you use in your house? If you were to print these pictures and hang then on your wall, what colors would work?

Pick a dominate color and try to keep everyone in the same lightness or darkness, in terms of tones. Using a ‘black and white’ color palette as an example, having both colors equally represented in your clothes will be distracting and doesn’t look great side-by-side in a family photo, even if you throw in a black and white pattern! One person always looks like the odd one out.

Pick the black or the white as your dominate color, and then add touches of the other color through shoes, or a pattern that is primarily your dominate color, but contains the other color. And really, the best palettes work with four coordinating colors – not all equally represented.

This is a great example (that’s a link). There is gray, black, jean blue, cognac/tan color palette happening. The only thing that I would suggest changing is to put the little girl into a black shirt with white strips. Can you see what the different could be?

This picture (also a link) on the other hand, looks great… in this pose! When you put the little girl in the mom’s arms, next to the dad, it doesn’t looks as great because of the contrast (and similarity) of the patterns/colors. The way to avoid this would be to add a light gray shirt under the dad’s vest and put the little girl in a black and white floral or polkadot shirt. The gray shirt to lighten up the tones in his clothes, and a different pattern to break up the similarity with the mom.

They nailed it. The pattern in the darker color breaks up the contrast; and the coordinating is awesome!

Pick a vibe

How do you pick a vibe? Find an outfit for anyone in the family that is in the color palette that you want and work from there. When you build the whole look from a pieces or pieces that you already own, you’re starting with clothes that someone in your family already wears! It helps create a look that is YOUR family.

Unless you’re going for a themed shoot, you want your family photos to look like you. That means wearing clothes that you wear or would wear (if they had been in your closet before the photos). So if you start with even just a few pieces that you already own, you’re nothing to end up with outfits that were just bought for this photo session, and will never be worn again.

Look for patterns

I know I touched on this in the color palette, but trust me, you want a few patterns in the mix! If there are only three people, then try and put one person in a pattern. If there are four or more, as many as half of the people can be in a pattern. But pattern are the key to coordinating as they usually bring multiple colors into the vibe.

Fill in the holes

I am almost positive that anytime we have had pictures taken, I have purchased clothes for at least one person (and occasionally all the people involved). And that’s okay! Because you don’t necessarily purchase clothes that coordinate for all the closets in your family. Look for the right piece to fill the holes. Usually, whatever you buy will be a piece that person will wear again, because you’re just filling in the holes in terms of color or pattern of clothes that your family already wears.

The new pieces in these photos – the shirts that both of the boys are wearing. Everything else we already had; but those shirts really tied everything together (they have a pattern!).

And don’t forget the details

Shoes matter. Even if you think oh we won’t see them, you will! You do! Shoe matter when it comes to taking pictures, so make sure your kiddos aren’t wearing those sneakers that they wear to the playground.

Wear jewelry that fits you, but don’t be afraid to wear pieces that compliment your outfit.

Literally everyone asked themselves (or someone else) the question, what should we wear for our family photos? And really, it’s awesome! I think you SHOULD ask the question, because it does matter! When you see a phenomenal family photo – the lightening is perfect, the backdrop is outstanding – and that family has given no thought to coordinating their outfits… it’s a bummer! Don’t be a bummer.

Also, if you want help picking out outfits that coordinate, feel free to connect with me on Facebook, or Instagram or through email at hello @ abitomberlin.com!

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  • These are good tips! My daughter is nearing three and we have yet to have any photos done together… These are great to keep in mind!

    • Abi

      I love having photos with the whole family! I take so many picture of my kiddos + my husband, but all of us together are special=)

  • ‘Don’t be a bummer.’ I love that. Outfits are ALWAYS key to great family photo composition.

    • Abi

      hahaha! Yes, girl!

  • Great tips! These photos are so beautiful and sweet. What a great family 🙂

    • Abi

      Yes, my photographer is amazing! I can only take credit for the outfits=)

  • As a photographer = YES TO THIS POST! <3 What you wear matters; especially the color pallet! These images last a lifetime so it makes a difference.

    • Abi

      Yeeess! These photos are over a year old, and still some of favorites!!

  • Such beautiful photos! And great advice for looking good but also authentic.

    • Abi

      Thank you! I love these photos (even a year later!)

  • Ro

    This is super helpful! While my husband and I don’t have kids yet, I’m looking forward to taking family photos when we do in the future! These are great tips!

    • Abi

      I think dressing 2 people might be even harder!=)

  • I needed to read this! My husband and I are going to have photos done hopefully in January. He’s more “I’ll wear something nice” and I’m wanting to coordinate and look cohesive. This post will come in handy for us!