Category Archives: Ask a Pro

What to Wear for a Family Portrait Session

What to Wear for a Family Portrait Session

This week I visited a great clothing boutique in Snohomish, Wa: The Curvy Cowgirl Couture. This lovely shop is filled with a unique selection for women, men and children. All of which are great examples of what you should look wear to your next portrait session. I was so excited by the quality and variety I thought I’d share my ideas in this video.

Here are a few additional Do’s and Don’ts when planning your portrait session’s wardrobe.

DO’s:

  • Do have a variety of options to choose from. Bring them with you to the session, or if your photographer does a pre-session consultation (like I do) then show your ideas to the photographer first hand. Often your clothing choices will say a lot about your personal sense of style and how you live. This information is vital to creating personalized portraits that accurately reflect your character.
  • Do change clothes during your session. It adds variety and guarantees you will like at least one look!
  • Do look for layers to maximize the number of looks you can get out of one outfit. Adding a jacket can completely change your look.
  • Do bring great shoes. Even if your feet won’t show up in the photo, a great shoe can help you feel attractive. Additionally, a good shoe helps you have better posture.
  • Do think about how your outfit will coordinate with other people in the portrait. Take time beforehand to lay all of the clothing out on your bed. Check to make sure no patterns clash or compete for attention.
  • Do send your photographer a pic of items your considering while shopping. Often my clients will text message me at the mall and ask for suggestions!
  • Do look for ways to dress up a casual outfit with a sports coat, vest, button up shirt, chunky jewelry, and amazing high heels or boots.
  • Do wear darker jeans. Light colored jeans do not photograph as well.
  • Do blend solids and patterns together to create visual interest.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t forget to accessorize! The more the better. Hats, scarves, rings, bracelets, headbands, jackets, anything! All of these items add visual interest.
  • Don’t make everyone wear the same outfit. Nothing will make your photo look more dated then white shirts and blue jeans with bare feet!
  • Don’t avoid patterns. Subtle patterns are great. Bold patterns are better for individual portraits. For the group shots stick to more neutral colors and bring out the brighter clothing when it’s your turn for an individual picture.
  • Don’t wear all black. Unless it’s a funeral. Black is slimming. It’s also boring. A black top with a patterned skirt can be a great way to spice up an outfit.
  • Don’t spend a ton of money on new clothing. Often you can buy one new item and use what is already in your closet to create a totally new look.
  • Don’t wear clothing that makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t like the way you look in the mirror, you won’t like your photo!
  • Don’t forget to ask your photographer their opinion. You can also crowd source your clothing options on Facebook and other social media if you need a few more opinions.

Here are a few pieces I found at the Curvy Cowgirl Couture that I would love to see clients wear during a shoot.

This dress is a perfect mix of pattern and solid. The pattern on the trim of the sleeves and skirt added texture because of the small size of the pattern. The blue scarf and accessories work great together to add layers and texture. Pair this with a great peep-toe pump in orange, or yellow, or aqua. If this is mom’s dress for a family portrait, I’d have dad wear a cream or taupe sports coat with dark jeans and dress shoes. He could also wear a sweater vest with a blue toned tie and button up shirt and dark jeans.

You don’t have to love cowboy boots to love the texture on the fringed boots shown here! These tone on tone color schemes are a great examples of how to pair colors. Look for a variety of similar tones to add dimention and shape. If you do love cowboy boots, you already know how great they look with skinny jeans and a ruffled blouse.

This little girl’s dress is a great blend of pattern, and texture. The neckline is lovely. It almost acts as a necklace. The polka-dots are muted so as not to compete with the soft floral pattern that lies underneath. Add a soft pink or cream headband, and a pair of taupe leggings and ballet flats: Or if you’re a country girl, a pair of boots. For a portrait with an brother look for a button up shirt in a shade(s) of gray with blue jeans and boots (and if you feel so inclined a cowboy hat).

Here is a great example of a man’s graphic shirt. The colors here can be duplicated in the accessories of a spouse or a child. Using the yellow and aqua in a scarf, headband, or shoes can pull multiple outfits together into a cohesive grouping.

Speaking of accessories, watches are a great accessory for men and women alike. These sparkly beauties are more jewelry than time piece. The bigger the jewelry, the better it photographs!

Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns with the same color palette. This animal print looks great with the shirt shown. Just make sure there are solid pieces included to help the eye know where to look. This rule works well for family portraits.

Here are a few portraits of my kids that use the rules mentioned in the video.

This grouping shows off a use of multiple patterns within the same color scheme. The boys are both wearing plaids that include gray, white and maroon. My oldest (on the right) has his button up shirt layered with a white t-shirt. My daughter (middle) is wearing a gray and black dress with black leggings. Her clothes are easier to see in the next image.  Because the boys patterned shirts are paired with my daughter’s solid color dress, the three outfits coordinate without competing.

This photo shows my daughter’s dress better. The detail on the pocket, headband, and skirt add interest while staying very simple. Using texture in conjunction with patterns is a great way to help every family member show off their personalities. This skirt is a perfect example of the kind of texture photographers love! The best part? It’s a casual dress! With her leggings and ballet flats she fits in perfectly with her brother’s dressed down style.

Here’s a shot of my boys together. I love how the dark jeans don’t compete with their bolder patterned shirts. I also like how they don’t have the same shirt! Wearing the exact same outfit homogenizes the people in your portraits. All mother’s know, no two of their children are alike!

When looking for outfits for group portraits I always lean towards darker neutrals for Caucasians. Blacks, warm grey, dark blues, deep browns all help draw the eye towards the subject’s lighter face. The opposite is true for darker skin. Light yellows, cream tones, and light greys work better to complement features for African Americans. And for those with medium toned skin, you can go either way!

I must comment about the shoes here. Normally I would not suggest sneakers for a photo. However, these were brand new, and matched his shirt. Also the theme of our shoot was “fun in the park”. My kids are avid bicyclist, so anything other than a tennis shoe would have felt out of place. BTW, this photo was taken two months ago. These sneakers have already been destroyed. Boys are so hard on clothes!

Most of all, don’t forget that the portrait is about the person in the clothing, not the clothing itself! The goal is to bring out the best in the subject, and help them feel comfortable in front of the camera.

If you still have questions, don’t worry. Book your portrait session with me today and we’ll do a free in home consultation. I’ll help you pick out all of your clothing options, and a session location that is best for you. Visit the contact page now or portfolio to see more of my work.

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