Hey there moms and dads! I know that figuring out what to wear is one of the most stressful parts of booking a session – I have been there! And it’s important. The right outfit elevates an image from just okay, to one that appears timeless, classic, coordinated and polished. Here are my top tips for wardrobe and outfit suggestions for your upcoming lifestyle family portrait session!
When choosing colors for your outfits, I always recommend a few key tones and shades
The camera loves shades of soft pink, muted blues and mixing that with some sophisticated light neutrals (gray, creams, white, dark brown). All natural outdoor locations best balance and fits beautifully with these colors.
The goal is to bring the attention to you – your facial expressions, emotive connection with your loved ones. Any colors that distract are best to avoid for a family portrait session.
You don’t all want to wear the same color on top and bottom. You could pull off wearing matching outfits in the 90s when that was a popular look and style for the time, but we are going for modern classic – a look that won’t ever go out of style or look outdated with the passage of time. So, instead of matching, let’s mix it up! Plan each outfit with “dominant colors” and “accent colors” in mind. A dominant color is the color that you see the most in an outfit, while an accent has a smaller piece of visual real estate. When you’re planning each family member’s outfit, if you can aim for each person to have a different dominant color, and then tie in and vary the accent colors, it’s going to look great all together.
For example, if you’re wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then he could wear a navy coat with a white button-down and gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square (making navy his dominant color). Your daughter could wear a soft blue top with a white tulle skirt (making a soft blue her dominant color) while your son wears light beige pants with navy suspenders and a white button down (making white his dominant color). Now each person has their own dominant color while still incorporating a few touches of the others that will pull all the looks together. This will break up the color visually and highlight each personality. Remember to select those softer, lighter tones and avoid those ultra-bright, bold colors.
If you have multiple children, don’t feel like you need to put them all in the same type of outfit. For example, one of your daughters could wear a dress and flats, while the other wears a skirt and boots. One of your sons could wear a bowtie, while the other one wears suspenders. Mixing up the wardrobe pieces will bring a great visual interest to the photos.
For older children and family portraits, we usually advise our clients to choose 2-3 colors and base the family outfits around those colors. For instance, light blue, navy blue, and cream are a great palette. Perhaps one family member would be in a patterned outfit with those colors and everyone else would be in various solids. We suggest quality materials ad great textures as it does make a difference in portraits.
You’ll often hear photographers tell their clients ‘no white.’ – my lifestyle family studio however loves the classic simplicity of white clothes. Although I mostly do not use props at my sessions, some photogenic or sentimental ‘props’ (such as a favorite book, stuffed animal or family heirloom) in a few photos from your session can personalize things.
Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! How often do you get to have a professional portrait session?
Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera. Long, full-length, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature, like the forest, plains or beach. Consider softer fabrics like chiffon or tulle which allow for beautiful movement in the images.
When considering the length of your dresses or skirts, it’s also a good idea to factor in whether or not there will be little ones in your photos. If you have smaller children, we’ll likely have you sitting or crouching on the ground to interact up-close with them. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a floor-length dress or skirt, or perhaps a cute midi-skirt, will make moving around with your kids much easier, and look perfect on camera, too.
If you’re an expecting mother, we always recommend floor-length gowns or maxi dresses. These dresses create the best silhouettes to flatter your figure and really highlight your bump. A lot of our expecting mothers love to incorporate flower crowns or headpieces as well.
See the Helena Woods Pinterest board here for more ideas!
Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on his handsome face. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts, sandals and jeans at home, too, as well as any pants that are loose or baggy.
Fitted dress pants or fitted colored pants work best on camera. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong compliment to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. I also recommend staying away from graphics and logos.
Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath.
Many of our guys love to mix a suit coat, blazer or sport coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest, and breaks up the color tones. We’re big fans of this fresh modern take on a timeless classic.
Explain how much the photos mean to you so they know to be on their best behavior. A lot of families discuss and pick something fun in advance as a treat after the session if they’re good listeners, like an ice cream cone! You can find more tips on how to get your little ones happy and excited for their session here.
They’re little, and we know that some days don’t always go as planned. I’ve seen it all and will make sure to get you great photos, regardless of their moods. And please note, if your child is under the weather, it is imperative that we reschedule. Sick kids typically don’t act themselves, and as their parent, you’ll notice in your images if they aren’t feeling well. My goal is to make this as fun and stress-free as it possibly can be for you and your family! 🙂
Excited to see you soon!
Want the full Session Style Guide Magazine? This guide will give you some information about your session experience. Our studio wants to help make the session perfect from helping you choose the right outfits and location to getting the natural lifestyle poses for our session.
Want some Family Session Style inspo? Check out these outfit ideas on Pinterest!
2016 - 2019 Helena Woods | Helena Woods Portraiture is located outside New York City in Fairfield County Connecticut and travels worldwide for her clients. Helena Woods is New England and Connecticut’s premier family, children, baby and newborn photographer specializing in modern classic custom family photography with a timeless look that's always in style. As a professional photographer, Helena captures maternity, newborn, baby and family portraits in NYC, Westchester, Trumbull, Easton, Weston, and Westport, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Norfolk and all Fairfield County surrounding areas.