Family photos with great outfits - dresses from Joyfolie and Free People

What to Wear for Family Photos: Choosing the Right Patterns

What Patterns to Wear for Your Family Photos

I’ll begin by telling you that this is my personal preference after photographing tons of families in all kinds of outfits. I want you to wear what you want, but also what will look amazing in your family photos. So if you are wondering what patterns look great, and which don’t photograph so well, read on and I’ll explain!

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, but only for products that I use and love (I seriously only included things I’m obsessed with!). If you buy through them, I’ll earn some cash for coffee (or tea). But don’t worry, I’ll use that energy to create more helpful content for you!

Patterns You Should NOT Wear

We will start here, because there are tons of patterns that will look great that you could wear, so it’s easier to explain what I don’t think looks all that great. 

Dark against light: Patterns (especially small ones) that have a dark color against a light color can be very distracting. I’m mostly talking about geometrical patterns, here. 

Small, close together stripes: This just tends to look trippy in photos, and sometimes gives this weird effect called moiré that you don’t want. Trust me. Stripes are especially bad when combined with the above problem pattern (dark against light).

Plaid: Okay, plaid is fine sometimes, I’m just kind of over it (usually). You can totally disagree with me if you want and that’s fine (sometimes I disagree with myself!). Haha. But if you are going to do plaid, only have one person wearing it and make sure it isn’t too crazy to look at. For example: Blue and red or red and green. If you look at it and it hurts your eyes, don’t wear it ????.

What patterns not to wear for family photos

But lets take a second to admire this adorable plaid dress. See? I don’t always agree with myself! Haha.

Adorable baby girl wearing plaid dress

Patterns That You SHOULD Wear for Your Family Photos

There are lots of great patterns to wear that will look great in family photos, I couldn’t list them all or even think of them all! But here are some of my tried and true favorites.

Florals: You can find so many different kinds of florals that look amazing in photos! Smaller, spaced out floral patterns look awesome, and so do larger florals. I also really love a simple floral pattern where the background is one color, and the flowers are another (like the orange floral pattern in the collage below). You can even find floral patterns that are busy but still look great!

Stripes: I love stripes as long as they aren’t skinny and close together. Thick stripes, or skinny stripes that are spaced out look amazing.

Subtle Shapes: Subtle is the operative word here. If you’re going to have a pattern like this where the shape repeats throughout the item, you want the colors to not be too different (So don’t do black and white or something like that). I love lighter color shirts with a white shape like this dad’s shirt:

Little boy on dads shoulders with family laughing around them
Collage of patterns that look great in photos. stripes and florals

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Texture

Textures can really add a lot of interest in your photos, but in a more subtle way. I am obsessed with textures and I suggest you add as much texture as possible! You can’t have too much (unlike patterns). Some textures I love are lace, corduroy, knits, chambray, gauzy or crepe fabrics, velvet, swiss dots, and waffle cloth.

How to Put it All Together

The trick to choosing patterns for your family photos is that you don’t want to have to many and make your photos too busy. Usually I’d suggest sticking to one or two patterns and have solid colors and textures for the rest. But there are exceptions to that rule! I’m always available to help all my clients figure out clothing, so if you have questions, I’m here!

Sometimes you can get away with having two or three floral patterns, you just have to make sure the patterns are different enough. For example: One smaller floral print, and one larger like in the photo below. 

what to wear for photo sessions - mom and kids sitting on blanket in grass

You can also try having one person in a floral print and one in stripes like this family who has their youngest in a yellow and cream striped dress with a sweater over it, and the mom wore a floral dress.

Family hugging and being sweet and candid in the middle of a field in Portland oregon

Or don’t wear patterns at all and stick to textures! Wearing lots of textures looks amazing in photos. This family did a great job with textures, and added a pattern by using a quilt to sit on.

Family photos in portland oregon - family of four playing together on blanket wearing all textures without patterns

Examples of What To Wear!

Families who stuck to just one pattern:

family of three in the Columbia River Gorge
Little girl running under a blanket
Family of three with wooden fence behind them
Closeup of kids walking through flowers
Family with twin babies - family photos
Family laughing together
Family of five running after youngest brother
Outdoor newborn photo of family of five
Mom and two kids sitting in flower field
Mom holding her two kids
Family photos in Portland Oregon - what to wear

Families who used two patterns:

Family dancing together - ideas for what to wear to family photos
Sisters in a field of poppies - What to wear for photos
Family photos with great outfits - dresses from Joyfolie and Free People
What to wear for family photos - family standing by a mountain

Three patterns! This isn’t always an easy task but they pulled it off beautifully:

Families who used texture to add interest, rather than patterns:

Family on the beach wearing muted colors and texturesThe baby bell bottoms above are hereFamily of four looking amazing in their family photos family standing together and laughing in Oregon City - What to wear for family photosMom’s dress below is from here.Mom and son laying on blanket in orange poppies

If you’re wanting to find out more about what to wear for your next family photos, I provide an outfit inspiration guide when you book your session with me, as well as access to my brain! I’d love to work with you to find the best outfits for your family.

I’ve created some amazon lists of clothing I think would look great in photos. Some I own and some I don’t, so read the reviews before you purchase! I’ve added notes on the ones I own, though 🙂

My Amazon Collection of Women’s Dresses Great for Photo Sessions 

Girls Dresses and Rompers 

Outfits for Men and Boys

Other What to Wear for Family Photos Posts

If you’re interested in learning more about what to wear for family photos, more than just patterns, I wrote more on the subject:

What to Wear for Maternity Photos

What Colors to Wear for Family Photos

What NOT to Wear for Photo Sessions

What to Wear to Your In-Home Lifestyle Session

How to Prepare for Your Overcast Photo Session

How to Dress for Winter Family Photos

I also have a What to Wear page on my website, and you can get inspiration from my Pinterest Board where I pin outfits I think would look great in photos.

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  1. Love this article and how you’ve laid out the combinations of colors and patterns that work well with photos. I’m always looking for inspiration for our family portraits. I’ve pinned this for future ref for those days when i’m stressing about what to wear to a shoot 🙂

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