Figuring out what to wear to your family photo shoot is not easy, and I know it can be stressful, so here are some tips from a local Portland family photographer (that’s me!) for selecting the right outfits.

How to Dress Your Family

First, you need to decide what kind of feel you are going for. If you are wanting a warm color palette, consider mustard, brown, rust, cream, burgundy, and taupe. If you want a lighter, more pastel palette, choose clothing that is neutral and light toned. Colors that would look great for this are cream, white, beige, gray, muted pinks and purples, coral, rose, and light blues. If you are looking for a more dark and moody look, choose some moodier colors, but mix in some lighter colors with it to keep it from looking TOO dark. Another idea would be to choose a couple pops of color, but keep the rest neutral. (There are plenty of outfit examples at the end of this page.)

PLEASE DO choose well-fitting clothing and something that you feel confident in. I would suggest starting with the pickiest person’s clothing first, then build the everyone else’s outfits off of that. You want to coordinate, but not match. So I wouldn’t recommend just saying “We’re doing rust,” and then going out and getting tons of the same colored shirts for everyone. Get a textured knit sweater in rust, a gray shirt for another, a cream floral dress with mustard, pink and rust for another person, a mustard lace dress for another, etc. See where I am going with this? The goal is to look good together without being matchy-matchy. Change up textures and prints.

AVOID! Stay away from thin, close together stripes (it has an odd effect in photographs), small plaid or buffalo prints (also looks weird in photos), large logos, cartoon characters, or words on your clothing, as it detracts from the main subject of the photo: you. Stay away from too many super dark colors, as it makes photos look dull (especially black, avoid black as a base color of an article of clothing unless it’s pants). Also avoid neon colors like the plague, they make color casts onto skin and it’s not pretty. Don’t do this to your photographer ;). I also wrote an entire article on the subject of what not to wear.

Don’t forget to coordinate shoes! This is usually the thing most people forget about, and it really makes a difference. Know what always looks amazing? Brown shoes. Stay away from athletic shoes and shoes with neon colors, even on the soles. Wear shoes that go with the style you are wearing. Unless your session is in your home or on the beach, and in that case, ditch the shoes!

CLIENT CLOSET! I have a client closet full of beautiful dresses, rompers, etc for clients to borrow during their session. Please check it out and let me know if you need additional sizing info or if you want to set up a time to try something on.

I know that was a lot of info to throw at you, but if you need ideas, please check out my Pinterest Board for inspiration (I pin things pretty often, so the most recent pins are most likely available to purchase if you want. I try to pin a variety of price ranges, too).

Also, feel free to send me an email, text, or Facebook message if you need help deciding. I love when clients send me wardrobe photos!

Styling Hair

Quick note on hair. Keep it loose and flowy, rather than tight and pulled back. I’d rather your child showed up in 2 day old braids than tight french braids. Messy hair is more inspiring and fun to photograph than perfect hair! But really, if it looks good in wavy curls, then do it because that’s going to photograph the best. And if it’s windy, it will look amazing! For boys, just do what they normally do!

Where to Shop for the Whole Family:

If I don’t have something you’d like to borrow in my client closet, here is a list of some of my favorite clothing shops:

Whole Family:

Target $-$$
H&M $$
Zara $$
Amazon $-$$$

Babies & kids:

Joyfolie – $$-$$$ (favorite!!)
Bailey’s Blossoms $-$$
Lenny Lemons $$-$$$
Roolee $$-$$$
Alice and Ames $$-$$$
Jamie Kay $$-$$$
Noralee $$$
Lali $$$

Women:

Forever 21 $-$$
Baltic Born $$-$$$
Roolee $$-$$$
Joyfolie $$-$$$
Free People $$$-$$$$
Three Bird Nest $$-$$$
Hazel and Olive $$-$$$
Reclamation $$$$$ 
Fillyboo $$$$
Jen’s Pirate Booty $$$-$$$$
Lulus $$-$$$
Wren and Ivory $$-$$$
Piper and Scoot $$-$$$
VICI $$-$$$$
Pink Blush $$-$$$
Lucy Ave $$-$$$
One Loved Babe $$-$$$
Rove Designs $$$

Men and Women:

ASOS – $$-$$$$

Maternity:

Read my blog post all about how to dress for your maternity session

WHY IT WORKS

On cloudy days, having some pops of color can help keep the photos from looking dull. This particular combo works because everyone is in a different color, but they all look great together. There are only two patterns and the rest are solids, which helps keep things interesting without looking too crazy. Mustard is one of my favorite colors, and without the sun to give us warmth, the dress does the job!

how to dress for family pictures example - family walking on beach

WHY IT WORKS

Mom's red-orange dress is from Baltic born, and she paired it with all neutrals for the boys to keep that beachy feel. Their toddler is in a cream and tan striped shirt from Zara, and leggings. Dad looks great in an off-white button up with brown pants. Sticking to neutrals with one pop of color is easy and always looks great. The trick is to make sure that no one matches!

family photography in PDX

WHY IT WORKS

This charcoal dress looks awesome with the lighter colored dresses that the girls have on. They invited me over a couple weeks before the session, I brought tons of dresses and we came up with this combo. The bright and happy colors of the girls' dresses keep the parent's neutral outfits from feeling boring. We kept dad simple in jeans and a cream henley.

Little girl in orange Joyfolie dress twirling near a Portland river

WHY IT WORKS

We started with mom's dress and pulled the orange color from the pattern to use for her daughter's dress. We put the little boy in a romper perfect for sunny days at the river, and dad in a neutral shirt with a subtle striped pattern for interest. The use of texture and patterns is great, and I love the warmth in their clothing.

example of cloting to wear for family maternity photos with rust dress

WHY IT WORKS

For this session, we styled the boys in solid colored button up cotton shirts which are flattering because of the stiff material. Mom is in a rust lace dress from Baltic Born and the texture in her dress helps to keep the outfits from being too solid.

family playing games and running around

WHY IT WORKS

Sometimes using a few different patterns works, and this is one of those times. I'm obsessed with the mom's dress, which she borrowed from my client closet. Everyone is in different colors, but those colors all look great together. The raspberry color is in the youngest's dress and the mom's dress, and the blue colors are also in the youngest's dress, so it all ties together.