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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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Unicorn Photo Session in Utah

Picture a wild unicorn, running freely, leaving a trail of magical dust everywhere she steps. You’ve probably got a make believe environment in your mind, with waterfalls, trees, flowers and a sparkling stream. You actually don’t have to rely on your imagination because outdoor Utah resembles a fairy tale, and Utah is home to a very real unicorn named Marshmallow. Many happy girls have had their dreams come true through a photo session with Marshmallow the Utah unicorn.

Children's Unicorn Pictures by Utah Photographer Loni Smith with princess dress
Scarlett’s love shines through in this photo of her with her new unicorn friend.

I have been working with Marshmallow the unicorn for five years. She is calm, sweet natured, patient and an absolute dream to work with. But what really sets her apart is the help that she comes with. Utah Pony Party ensures that Marshmallow’s horn is shined, her hair is clean and wispy and her heart is open for another princess friend. They also provide an extra set of hands to make sure that children can sit safely on Marshmallow and snuggle her close during their photo session.

What really happens at a unicorn session?

When you book a unicorn session with Loni Smith Photography, I arrive at the session with dresses and floral crowns for your child. While your child gets dressed, I decorate Marshmallow’s mane with flowers and greenery to add that extra fairy tale touch.

Children's Unicorn Photos by Utah Photographer Loni Smith with girl kissing unicorn
Marshmallow loves kisses!

A handler from Utah Pony Party attends to Marshmallow’s needs and helps your child get comfortable with meeting the unicorn.

I work to get a good mixture of natural, unposed photographs and posed photographs. I make sure that each child has moments to interact with Marshmallow and capture unique photos of their personality. I also direct the professionally posed photographs that always end up as my clients’ top choices for wall art.

Depending on your child’s comfort level, I capture kisses and hugs with the unicorn, your child sitting on the unicorn’s back, having “tea” with Marshmallow, reading a book with her and dancing in front of her.

Children's Unicorn Pictures by Utah Photographer Loni Smith.
Gwen was completely enthralled with her unicorn encounter.

You might have noticed that my finished photos have the straps edited out on Marshmallow’s horn, as well as the rope and my assistant. I do this for every single photo that you purchase from your unicorn session. To make your photos even more magical, I also add things like rainbows, butterflies and sparkles. It’s all a part of making dreams come true and capturing those dreams in photographic artwork for your home.

Ready to book a magical unicorn session?

Use my contact page to send me a quick email for more information about my special edition unicorn sessions. You can also reach me by phone at 385-429-0028. I would love the opportunity to show you my beautiful collection of printed products and to design a unicorn wall gallery for your home.

You can find out more behind the scenes information on my fairy tale portraits on my blog here.

Children's Unicorn Photos by Utah Photographer Loni Smith with quadruplet sisters Gardner quads
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Utah Newborn Photographer | Nova’s Session

A year ago, I had the privilege of being the Utah newborn photographer for sweet little Saphira. This year, Saphira’s precious little sister, Nova came in for the newborn spotlight. Both of these girls had perfect sessions, with a wonderful variety of poses and backdrops.

Nova took a little extra work to get to sleep, but once she was ready, I was able to capture the most adorable images of her by herself, with her mom and with her sister.

As a Utah newborn photographer, not only do I design sets and themes for all of my clients, but I also provide the wardrobe, so I take a lot of the guesswork off of your plate when you prepare for your newborn session. All that I request is that my clients bring their diaper bag and all of the people that they want photographed with their newborn. I take care of the rest of the details.

Nova’s mom trusted me to design a session that suited her style, she was perfectly happy to sit back and let me do my thing, which resulted in some gorgeous keepsakes. Grandma also came to the session and was tickled to have the chance to help pose little Nova and to be my other watchful eye to keep baby Nova safe at all times in the studio. Newborn safety during your little one’s session is top priority in my studio!

These moments between mom and newborn are so fleeting, I love having the opportunity to capture it all on camera. Saphira and Nova will always be able to see their mom’s unconditional love and complete happiness with her children when they look back on these photos.

Utah newborn photographer Loni Smith captures Nova in studio
Mom and Nova

Utah newborn photographer Loni Smith captures Nova with her sister in studio

From capturing Nova’s little tummy rolls, to her wiggly toes and her head full of hair, Nova’s photo session captured all of her details and the newness of her life. She already has a forever best friend in her big sister and they are sure to be super close as they grow since they are so close in age. Enjoy a few more portraits from Nova’s official newborn session!

Utah newborn photographer Loni Smith captures Nova in studio with big sister Saphira
Saphira and Nova
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A Disneyland Anniversary Celebration… Leave the Kids at Home

Also, Test Your Disney Ride Knowledge!

I am so excited to share our Disneyland Anniversary Celebration with you! Yes, we really did Disney with NO kids.

Disneyland. The happiest place on Earth. A place where dreams come true, magic happens and pixie dust is a real thing. Before you cross under the railroad and enter into this land of balloons, cartoon mice, and palpable nostalgia, a plaque greets you with the most accurate quote in all of the park: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”

Adults-only Disneyland Anniversary Celebration tips and tricks

How does Disney do it? If you’ve ever taken your kids to Disneyland, you know it’s an experience unlike any other. From the immaculate walkways to the cheerful employees, to the fanciful rides, you enter into an alternate universe where smiles are everywhere and the smell of delicious churros fill every land in the park. My husband describes the Disneyland experience like this:


“When you see your kid meet Mickey Mouse for the first time, you hand the mouse your wallet and tell him to give back however much.”

-Todd Smith

We’ve taken our kids twice (We went to Disneyland for the first time ever two years ago!) and we have made some incredibly happy memories there.

Disneyland tips and tricks

So how did my husband and I make the decision to go to Disneyland sans kids for our 20 year anniversary? Well it started a little like this in September:

-“I think we should go to Hawaii to celebrate our 20 year anniversary.”

“Yes, let’s do that.”

In October, we discovered a brand new private school right by our house that was dedicated to helping and teaching children like my 13 year old son who has multiple delays and learning disabilities. We’ve been praying to find a better option for him and this was it. We enrolled him and our Hawaii savings went toward his education. Then November went like this:

“Maybe we should do Disneyland.”

“Without the kids though?… I LOVE it!”

And so the Great Disneyland Anniversary Celebration was born and planned over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Adults-only Disneyland Anniversary Celebration badges
Don’t forget to get your buttons if you’re celebrating your first visit, your birthday your anniversary, etc. You can get them at City Hall in Disneyland, the Silhouette Studio and even the restaurants!

So what does a couple with 5 kids do when they go to Disneyland without those 5 kids? They eat. You know how expensive it would be to feed seven people in Disneyland? (We’ve never ate in the park before, my crock pot is my best friend when we do a Disney trip with all of the kids, let me know if you want a blog on what crock pot meals I made!) Well, when you are only feeding two people, Disney food gets a whole lot cheaper. We tried pretzels and churros and the Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou restaurant. We had mickey shaped treats and the Grey Stuff at the Red Rose Tavern (“Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious, don’t believe me, ask the dishes!”- Beauty and the Beast).

Adults-only Disneyland Anniversary Celebration tips and tricks without kids

Not only did we eat, but we rode all of our favorite rides several times over. Because there were only two of us, we splurged and got Max Passes so that we could select Fast Passes from my phone. I rode Star Tours countless times.

Adults-only Disneyland Anniversary Celebration selfie

Confession time: Last October was my first time ever to gather up enough courage to ride a roller coaster. You see, I suffer greatly from motion sickness, and the idea of a roller coaster always made me feel nauseated just thinking about it. But I always envied the excited screeches coming from a speeding coaster. Now, I didn’t go all crazy and hop on the Incredicoaster, no way. My first ride was Big Thunder Mountain. I know, I know, it’s tame, but hey, after 38 years, I finally rode one!

So this time, for our February anniversary visit to Disneyland, I added the Matterhorn AND Space Mountain to that list of coasters I’ve braved. And I lived to tell about it.

We also shopped! Because we weren’t spending time standing in lines for character meet and greets (though if my kids were there, you can bet your tiara I would have been in every one of those lines), we had lots of opportunities to peruse the long string of shops on Main Street, Disneyland.

I was especially excited when I came across a keychain with the quote from the plaque as you enter the park. And it matched my purse perfectly, so it felt meant to be.

I also discovered the Crystal Arts shop where I could get a glass engraved with our names and anniversary. Yes, I’ll take one of those as well.

We also discovered details that we missed before: like the fact that Frontierland has boot prints, horse hoof prints, and wagon tracks pressed into the concrete walkway. And we stopped by Esmerelda to get our very own fortunes.

This anniversary went down as the best celebration we’ve had in our 20 years. Being in a magical place with my man, holding hands and sharing treats and kisses, it all was a fairy tale come true.

Adults-only Disneyland Anniversary Celebration photos to take

Now, I have a game for all of my Disneyland loving readers out there! It’s called: Name That Ride. I took pictures on some of the rides (not all), can you name them?

-Leave a comment below with your best guesses numbered 1-14 identifying these rides.

-Leave a comment with your favorite thing to do in Disneyland!

-Leave a comment if you’d like to see a blog post about what crock pot meals are our favorite to prepare when we go to Disneyland.

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Making Magic with Fairy Tale Portraits

I often get asked, “Why fairy tale portraits?” What is it that makes these sessions some of my absolute favorite?

I read books to my 7 and 4 year old every night. We read about unicorns with horns that can heal, sailing far away to where the wild things are, princesses that go on daring adventures, dancing mice, tiny fairies, cats that surf and magical snowmen that play at night.

Their eyes light up as we sit by the soft yellow glow of their lamp and the words on the pages invite them into enchanted lands where the impossible becomes possible and animals become their best friends.

Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Hedgehog and Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

The wild imaginations and daydreams of kids have captured my interest so much that I chose to specialize in fairy tale portraits for children. It’s one thing to read about otherworldly adventures, it’s quite another to have your own.

Little Girl as Mermaid in Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

So what makes a fairy tale portrait magical? What do I have to consider when creating a childhood fantasy in an image? Every detail needs to come together to tell the story – the location, the wardrobe, the props and the special effects added in with PhotoShop.

Unicorns and Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Whimsical Unicorn Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
  1. LOCATION – this is perhaps the most important detail, the scenery must match the story that you’re trying to tell. I spend hours doing what is called “location scouting”. I always have my eyes peeled for new, gorgeous locations that fit a specific theme. I’m an avid hiker, so I have familiarized myself with Utah’s beautiful Wasatch front, and I’ve spent time on the phone, calling for permission to shoot at private locations. I’m not only assessing the “look” of potential locations, but I’m also accounting for –
  • shooting space (can I create a pullback image and include tons of scenery?)
  • colors of the location (do they harmonize with my theme?)
  • foreground and background (such as the unicorn photo above – pretty white flowery growth in the foreground, thick trees in the background)
  • lighting (can I get even or dramatic light? What is the best time of day to shoot at this location?)
  • accessibility (can we park close to the location, will it be easy for clients to find, will we have cell phone service there in case my clients get lost and need to contact me?)

2. WARDROBE – dressing up is perhaps the best part of the whole experience and an essential part to telling the story in a fairy tale portrait. You can derive so much information about what’s being told by what the subject is wearing. I work closely with my clients to help put together the wardrobe for their session. In many cases, I’m providing the outfits, and in other cases, I am communicating with clients through picture texts and emails.

  • Are we going for a soft, forest princess vibe? I have a large collection of dresses ranging in sizes from 1 year to 16 years. I also have matching floral crowns.
  • Are we creating a pirate/shipwrecked scene? Cutoff pants and bare feet are a must!
  • Do we want the portrait to express a different time period? Make sure the clothes match. Pinterest is a wonderful place to start understanding wardrobe customs of that era.
  • Do the colors of the wardrobe go well with the colors of the scenery, and if multiple children are being photographed, do the outfits look good side by side?
  • Don’t forget the little things! Footwear, headpieces, jewelry, etc.
Girl's Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Whimsical Studio Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Baby's Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

3. PROPS – Make sure the props add to the story and don’t distract from the person being photographed. They shouldn’t seem out of place or thrown in just to fill space. They have to be a part of the scene. Props can be as effective as wardrobe when it comes to storytelling.

  • One of my favorite props is a lantern because you can really play around with the lighting of the photo and adding in a glow in PhotoShop makes a fairy tale portrait so dreamy.
  • Starfish for an underwater scene. Flowers for a forest scene. A sword for a Lord of the Rings-esque shoot. A fishing pole and bucket for a dock scene. Vintage, antique and homemade items tend to work best when it comes to props.
Magical Girl's Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Fairy Tale Portraits with a camel with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

4. SPECIAL EFFECTS – This is where the fairy tale portraits really come together in the end. When the magic becomes visible and a portrait turns really whimsical. Adding too many special effects can really bog down an image, so I usually suggest keeping it at one special effect, and no more than two. Some examples include:

  • Rainbows in the background and magic on a unicorn’s horn.
  • Light on a lantern.
  • Magic sparkles springing out of a Christmas box.
  • Fireflies.
  • Light rays.
  • Fairy dust.
Christmas Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Studio Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Marshmallow the Unicorn Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

What story do you want to tell? Does your child have a favorite book that he would love to star in? Does she want to meet an mystical animal friend? Does he dream of looking for dragons, does she talk about being a mermaid? What wonderful adventure can you create for your little dreamer?

Fairy Tale Portrait Album with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Girl Reading Fairy Tale Portrait Album with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Fairy Tale Portrait Story with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

Contact me with your fanciful idea and lets make magic with fairy tale portraits, with your children as the stars!

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