I know what to wear for photos is a reoccurring theme on photography blogs, but that is a good thing. Most people don't have formal family photos made all the time, so a lot of customers have questions, which is a very good thing. While we all cherish the family photos of us with our parents, all in khaki pants and white button-ups, styles have changed. More and more, photographers are having consulting sessions with their clients about what to wear. And thanks to google, blogs, and pinterest, good examples are at our finger tips. Here are some of my thoughts on wardrobes for family sessions.
Pick a Color Pallet
Think "coordinate" not "matchy, matchy"
I know, easier said than done, right? There are two easy ways.
- Consider the location of your photo session and choose colors from that setting. If you are out in nature, like the picture above, the choose earth tones, colors you would find in nature. If you are doing a shoot with a more urban feel (I've actually seen amazing family portraits that were shot at a parking garage.) then you can choose colors that you see in the city--think bright colors you'd find in graffiti.
- For large groups of families, pick a color family. (That should be easy to remember, right?) For example, if it is a family picture at the beach, have everyone wear some shade of blue. Now, I don't mean everyone has to be in head to toe solid blue. Men can be in slacks with a blue polo or button-up--and some guys can be in polos and others in button-ups. Women can be in dresses, long or short, or jeans and a top. Remember, the key is to coordinate (not be matchy-matchy)
- Look around at how your house is decorated. In the digital age, people forget that the purpose of these pictures is to display them in your house. Not simply upload them to facebook. If you plan on the picture hanging in the living room, you probably want to make sure the
- Find a piece of clothing you love, and choose others to match. When I was making the board above, I had a different color pallet in mind...but then found that awesome printed dress and just had to use it. I think the printed dress would look cute on an adult or younger girl. For this example, I'm envisioning it on the imaginary family's teenage daughter. A lot of people put their youngest (smallest in the print. Which leads me to my next point....
Don't Be Afraid of Prints
If you are doing a lot of online research, you will notice that many families put their youngest (and usually smallest) child in a patterned outfit. It is an easy way to include a pattern, because the child is so small, you don't have to worry about the pattern being an unnecessary distraction. Which is one reason people stopped wearing prints in in photographs, the wrong print can be very distracting. The purpose of any portrait is to notice the people, and then to notice eveything else. How do you use prints the correct way?
- Limit Patterns--Not everyone in your picture needs to be wearing a print. Too many patterns will be distracting
- No Characters--yes, your son looks adorable in his favorite Elmo shirt, but like patterns, characters can be very distracting.
- No Large Logo's or Large Prints-- Again, these can be distracting. Notice the third example. There is a large print (the large stripes on the little girl's shirt), however, it is a large print on a small person. As opposed to a dad wearing a rugby shirt that has large stripes.
Consider All Combinations
When I photograph a family, I don't just take a few group pictures. I will take a picture of just the parents, just the kids, just the mom and kids, just the dad and kids, etc etc etc. Keep in mind, you want all of the outfits to match in those various scenarios. Even two patterns can match without being distracting. (If you are a fashionista, you have probably been experimenting with mixing patterns the last few years. Mixing patterns in a photograph is kinda the same concept.) For example, the mom and little girl outfits in the second set of clothes. Mom is in stripes; girl is in flowers. This combination works because
- They are in the same color and style family.
- The prints are small. They aren't competing for attention.
Also, don't be afraid to mix textures. I did that a lot in the first example with the sunset. Just keep in the same style family. You don't want to be in a formal dress, and your husband to be in jeans and a t-shirt.
Feeling Totally Overwhelmed?
Don't Want to Spend a Ton of Time Shopping?
Sometimes things are easier said than done, right? Well, actually finding these outfits in the real world is pretty easy. Thanks to our great retail marketers. Head to stores that typically have color coordinating collections. Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic are three stores I can think of off the top of my head that are pretty good at this. (They are also owned by the same parent company...maybe why they display with the same concept in mind.) I know there are many, many stores that do this--so don't feel limited to those three options. And, keep in mind a suggestions I made at the beginning--start with one piece you love, and start from there. The idea of finding one outfit at a time can be less stressful than thinking you must find 5 coordinating ensembles.
Family pictures should be fun! I know planning and coordinating everyone's schedules and what they wear can get very stressful. View the shopping as a way to relax and prepare some something fun. Time goes by so quickly, in the blink of an eye, your kids will be in college, and it will be hard to imagine when they were young. Essentially, photographs freeze time. Looking at them can bring back all sorts of memories and emotions. Enjoy documenting how your family looks and feels right now.