What NOT to wear to your next family photo session with me

I’m always talking about what to wear for your family photo session, but what about the things to avoid? Sometimes it’s easier to just read what NOT to do, rather than the millions of possibilities of what would look amazing, right?

Also, keep in mind that these are just my opinions, and things I’ve realized I don’t love after photographing families for 10 years. Feel free to ignore any and all of this if you like the opposite!

All photos in this post are great examples of what you SHOULD wear ❤.

And if you look closely, you will see that I’ve hidden some links to super awkward family photos throughout this post, too 🤣

Do NOT wear the wrong shoes

There’s two ways you can go wrong here.

The first is wearing uncomfortable shoes that you can’t move around in during your photo session (yeah, I’m talking to you, moms!). Most of my sessions involve play, so if you’re in heels, it’s going to be really tough to let loose and enjoy your family. I also have some locations that require a bit of walking that would be difficult in heels. If you really want to wear them, I’d suggest bringing another option you like for the more playful images, and save the heels for a few select photos.

The second way you can go wrong with footwear is to wear a style that doesn’t go with your outfits. Specifically, any athletic shoes typically don’t look all that great. Also any shoes with neon on them (even the soles!) really stick out and draw focus.

Below is a photo with great shoe choices!

PDX family photographer what to wear

Please don’t wear too much blue!

Okay, this is a personal preference, but I’ve found over the years that any time clients wear tons of blue, something looks off to me. Maybe because I tend to edit warm, and love to play with the golden sun, and blue sucks up the warmth from the image. So if you’re wanting to add in blue to your session, stick to only one article of clothing (or two if one is a pair of jeans). And always avoid bright blue! My favorite shades of blue are a bit dirty. That sounds funny to say, but I just mean they are muted and not bright. The example below shows a family who added only one blue item and it’s a great shade! There are also other warmer colors to balance it out and keep their images from looking too cool.

styled photography in portland

Avoid wearing clothing that doesn’t fit well

Seems obvious, but it’s an important one. Let’s focus on guys, here. Dads will be throwing their kids in the air and lifting their arms a lot, so a shirt that is too short isn’t ideal. Test the shirt out at home! Lift arms above your head and see how it looks. Another thing to consider in this same realm is the length of mom’s dress. Don’t wear anything too short for the same reason… arms lifting and bodies swaying.

Another mistake that moms can make is to wear a dress that doesn’t cover their bra correctly. If you’re comfortable with it, skip the bra and wear pasties so you don’t need to worry about it! Constantly adjusting bras isn’t going to lead to a carefree session. 

Do not wear the wrong pattern

So this one can go wrong a few ways. Don’t wear a pattern that’s too big, it overwhelms the subject. But at the same time, you don’t want a tiny pattern if the colors are too contrast-y (a light and a dark color together). A perfect example of this is men’s shirts that have tiny checker patterns because it looks trippy when photographed. Same with super close together stripes. Below is a great example of good patterns.

what to wear for your family photo session

No matching outfits

I know it was a big thing for a while to wear matching outfits/patterns but I really love when there is a variety of colors and patterns. So if you’re shopping and see mommy and me outfits or matching sibling outfits… just keep looking! The main reason for this is that anyone wearing the same color is going to blend into each other. It looks much better to have separation between people so you can see where one person ends and the next starts 😉 If you want to wear the same color as someone else in your family, just pick a different shade so there is a difference. See how in this example below, everyone is in a different color so you can really see where each person is, even though they are all super close? That’s what we want.

clothing ideas for family photo session in PDX

Don’t wear turtlenecks

Covering up the neck area is not very flattering and can add bulk, so if you need to add extra warmth in the colder months, wear an extra layer or stylish jacket rather than wearing a turtleneck. This also applies to tightly wrapped scarves. I want to see that neck!

what to wear to your family photo session

Avoid putting your family in the wrong colors

I’ll start by saying this is all my personal preference, but if you like my work then you probably agree with me, right? Lol. I’m not a huge fan of black clothing items. All the details get lost in the shadows and it also just dulls your images. Dark gray, dark wash jeans, and dark olive are great substitutions for black, though! But maybe not navy, because again, I don’t love blue, haha.

And on the opposite end, wearing bright white is also not my favorite. It can cast bright spots onto faces in certain light, or look blue rather than white. Off-white and cream are great, though, and also white lace is fine because it has so much texture.

Neon! Don’t do it! 😆

Do not get too formal for your photo session

Obviously you want to look nice for your photos, but it’s more of a relaxed vibe. We are going to be playing games and having fun so wearing bow ties and blazers just doesn’t make sense. For dads in particular, I’d stay away from dress pants and business shirts because they tend to look uncomfortable, and the point is to have fun! Also, basic long-sleeved business shirts are too puffy so they just aren’t flattering in photos (plus they have no texture so they look too silky to me). 

best portland fun family photographer

Stay away from logos, characters, and words on clothing

You probably already know this, but it’s super important not to wear any words, logos, or characters of any kind on your clothing. Even that tiny Nike logo in the top corner of your t-shirt is going to draw the eye there rather than the subject of the photo… your family! That’s the entire point of your photo session so let’s keep the attention on you.

Try not to forget the little details

Check for the small things that sometimes go overlooked:
-Scrunchies and hair-ties on wrists
-Food in teeth or on kids faces
-Watches that are too modern (they just really stand out and date your photos)
-Phones or keys in pockets (or anything, really. Empty those pockets!)

what to wear

Lastly, don’t forget to be yourselves!

Infuse your own personalities into your outfits if you can. If your daughter loves twirly dresses then put her in one, but if she hates them, go for some bell bottoms with a knotted tee or a romper. If your little boy is obsessed with the color orange, find a way to incorporate that into his outfit. Obviously I love to photograph the movement of a dress but if that’s also not your style, add the movement in another way, like wearing a lace kimono over your jeans and top. You want to look good but you don’t want to wear things you are uncomfortable in. So next time you are asking yourself what to wear to your family photo session, remember to put some of your own style into it!

photo session in vancouver washington and portland oregon

Learn More About What to Wear to Your Next Photo Session

Now that you know what NOT to wear to your family photo session, hopefully that will help you figure out what you SHOULD wear. And if you want to read more about styling, check out my What To Wear page. It has suggestions on where to shop and lots of good tips and examples.

Here’s more blog posts I wrote on the subject:

Patterns: What to Wear for Family Photos

What Colors to Wear for Family Photos

What to Wear for Maternity Photos

What to Wear to Your In-Home Lifestyle Session

How to Prepare for Your Overcast Photo Session

You can also get inspiration from my Pinterest Board where I pin outfits I think would look great in photos.

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  1. I love family photos. Yes, you are right about being yourself. Many of us want the photos to be ‘perfect’ but it’s not about being ‘perfect’. it reminds you to be the unique family as you are.


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