What to Wear to a Family Photo Session | Utah Family Photographer

After years of saying “we need to update our family photos”, you finally booked a session with your dream photographer, , you just finished with the consultation and picked out a gorgeous location, now for the biggest question that all clients face : what should my family wear?

Deciding what to wear comes easy to a few lucky people, but let’s face it, you’re here reading this blog because you’re not one of those people. That’s okay, I’m not one of those people either. But after years of photographing beautifully dressed families and then moving on to help dress those families, I’ve collected the best tips and organized them nicely on this blog for you.

After you’re through reading this article, you’ll be able to use this checklist when planning your family’s wardrobe for your session:

  • Consider your location
  • Dress for the season
  • Mom’s outfit first
  • Be cautious of patterns
  • Look for textures
  • Plan some accessories
  • Don’t forget about socks, shoes and underthings
family portraits with Utah photographer Loni Smith Photography

Let’s begin with the first two considerations that you need to dive into before you run out to Target and buy that dress that you’ve been eyeballing.

Consider your location

Is your session taking place indoors or outdoors? Is the location urban or wild?

If you plan to shoot at your photographer’s studio,  make sure you discuss with your photographer the backdrop options that she has so you can use them to plan complimentary colors. I.E. if your photographer plans to use an Old Master’s blue backdrop, consider dressing in cooler tones to match with it.   

If you’re shooting outdoors, talk to your photographer about the overall colors at the location. If you’re at an urban location, will you be downtown with gray buildings and white sidewalks? Will you be on a cute, colorful small town street? Plan accordingly.  If you’re shooting in nature, are the leaves green or yellow or orange?  Is there grass? Are there flowers and what colors are they? What is the overall majority color of the scene?  Asking these questions will at least give you an opportunity to decide on a neutral tone and if you’d like to go with warmer tones or cooler tones.

Family photo session with Utah photographer Loni Smith

Dress for the Season

If it’s Winter or Spring, think about pastel tones.  If it’s summer, neutrals or bold colors go well.  If it’s Fall, jewel tones also photograph really nice. Dress for the season.

Fall – Imagine these items in jewel tones:  sweaters, pants, corduroy, scarves, velvet, leggings, leather boots

Winter – Imagine these in neutral and pastel tones: faux fur, sweaters, boots, scarves, knit hats, leg warmers, pants, wool

Spring- Imagine these in pastel tones or in tones of spring flowers – sundress, sunhat, sandals, shorts, linen, seersucker, cotton

Summer- Imagine these in bold tones : shorts, flowy shirts, suspenders, sunhat, sundress, linen, wedge sandals, seersucker, cotton

Winter portraits of families with Utah based Loni Smith Photography
I dressed my family for my location with pastels and used brown and cream as my neutrals. We dressed for the season with scarves and snowboots.

Mom’s outfit first

Now that you’ve nailed down details of your location and the season, you can hit the stores to find the first outfit for your family. Tip: don’t start in the kid’s section, unless you’re a single dad shopping for yourself and your kids, then you can start with any family member you want.  But if mom will be present at the session – this is the best advice out of this entire article because it makes all the difference when shopping for your wardrobe… start with mom’s outfit first.

Why does this matter? The first outfit that is picked out tends to decide the criteria for all the rest of the outfits. Think about it, if mom finds a cute boutique outfit for her 5 year old daughter that she’s dying to use for her session, she now has to spend hours in dressing rooms trying to find an outfit for herself that fits within those parameters set by her daughter’s outfit. 

It’s hard enough for moms to find something that they feel beautiful and comfortable in.   Moms tend to be the hardest on themselves in family portraits, and I speak from experience after years of selling wall art to clients –  if mom doesn’t completely love the way she looks in an outfit, she won’t like any of the photos with her in them.   Moms, start out by finding a comfortable outfit that you love that fits with the location and season.

Family portrait ideas with Utah photographer Loni Smith

Next, take the color scheme from mom’s outfit and plan the rest of the family’s outfits.  I often find a lot of help by typing the colors into google plus the word palette or scheme. For example, if mom chose a dress that has purple, white and blue on it, she would type in “purple white blue color palette” or “purple white blue color scheme” and she would be met with pages upon pages of coordinating colors.  She now knows which colors will compliment her dress well and she can use those colors to pick out the rest of her family’s wardrobe.   I suggest using no less than 3 coordinating colors and no more than 6 (this also depends on family size, the bigger the family, the more colors you are likely to need).  You can tie in colors to each outfit with accessories as well.

What to wear to your family session with Utah Photographer Loni Smith

Let’s use the color scheme from the above photo: yellow, navy, burgundy, with cream as a neutral. Mom is in yellow and navy, dad is in burgundy and blue jeans, daughter 1 is in yellow and cream (I think she was also wearing a navy skirt, ,daughter 2 is in yellow and navy, son 1 is in navy and yellow, son 2 in burgundy and navy, son 3 in navy and blue and son 4 in navy and burgundy. This family used three coordinating colors with 1 main neutral.

Family portrait session with Loni Smith Photography in Utah

Be cautious of patterns

You don’t want your outfits to clash or be too busy. You can choose a busy pattern for one or two members of your family (this depends on how big your family is!)  and choose solids or really subtle patterns for the rest of the family. You can add a touch of a pattern in a small accessory such as a scarf or bowtie. In the photo above, only mom is in a busy pattern while everyone else is in solids.

Family at Utah lavender farm with Loni Smith Photography
For this family photo, I started with the colors of the location at the lavender farm. I settled on purple, peach, light blue white, and a touch of green. There are two people in patterns, the rest are in solids.
Textures for photography with Utah based Loni Smith Photography
Different textures can be used to add dimension to your wardrobe.

Look for textures

Look for different textures. Wool, lace, gauze, corduroy, linen, etc. Combine different textures for depth and interest. Textures create tiny shadows that give your photos more dimension and look almost three dimensional when printed. 

Family photo session in Utah wildflowers with Loni Smith Photography
These colors look great together, look great with the location, and the clothing goes well with the season. There are two bold patterns, one subtle pattern (little boy to the left) and the rest of the articles of clothing are solid colors.
Vintage car family photos with Utah photographer Loni Smith
Accessories like hair bows and scarves can really tie together your color scheme.

Plan some accessories

Accessories can go a long way in tying in outfits. Hats, shoes, jewelry, hair accessories, belts, scarves, bowties, suspenders, etc. Make sure the accessories tie in with your color scheme and fit your style.

Family portrait session with Utah photographer Loni Smith
family in Utah wildflowers
This photo of my family was photographed by http://krisdoman.com

Don’t forget about socks, shoes and underthings

Socks are generally overlooked, but remember, when your family is posed sitting on the ground, socks will show.  And shoes will show in some if not all pictures.  Make sure the socks and shoes coordinate with your outfits!  Also, if any of your family’s outfits are slightly see through, make sure that anything  they are wearing underneath the outfit doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb – for example, a white top with a black bra.

family session with newborn in Utah studio by Loni Smith Photography
There are some amazing textures in this family photo. I provided all of the outfits in this photo except for what dad is wearing.
Outdoor Utah family session with Loni Smith Photography

One last piece of advice that you will thank me for  before starting your session – have everyone in your family empty their pockets before beginning your session – this is mainly for the dads and teenage boys as females often wear things without pockets.  I can’t tell you how many cell phones, wallets and sets of keys I’ve collected from my clients over the years after noticing unfortunate bulges in their shirt and pants pockets.  Those things can be pretty difficult to try to edit out.   

family with quadruplet photo session with Utah photographer Loni Smith
I keep a collection of dresses for girls and moms in my studio that my clients have access to.

Now, let’s do a quick recap:

Location, season, mom’s outfit, accessories, patterns, textures and finally, socks, footwear and underthings.

If you take all of these things into consideration, you’re bound to have a gorgeous session with a seamless look which will result in wall art that you’re proud to hang in your home. 

If you’re ready to book your family session , head to my contact page and shoot me an email, I’d love to work with you!



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