family in front of barn doorClothing is always a concern when clients book family shoots. Should we all wear the same thing? Should we all dress up? Should the kids all match? In short: no, not unless you’re a formal kind of family, and no.

Complementing each other versus matching is key. The ‘white shirts and khakis’ or ‘black shirts and jeans’ look has been a little overdone in family portraits. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go for it if that’s what you love, but if you’d like a more modern and colorful look, try variations on the following themes:

  • Primary colors like red, yellow, blue and green mixed in with denim or khakis
  • Jewel tones like deep purple, crimson, navy, emerald green and gold
  • Navy with a pop of color like red or bright yellow

This last point has endless possibilities – you can treat one colour as a theme, so that everyone can wear whatever they want but use two or three colours to tie everyone’s clothing together (i.e. each shirt or dress will have a shade of red, green or yellow in there somewhere, whether it’s some red flowers, green stripes/checks or just a solid yellow shirt).

The basics are always going to be the same:

  1. Choose your colour theme (try to work around three colours)
  2. Add one or two bases/neutrals like white, navy, denim, or khaki to keep your photo from looking like you just escaped a riot in a Crayola box.
  3. Add one focal piece in a standout colour.  Keep in mind that the eye will be drawn automatically to wherever that colour burst is, so if it’s on your dog, you might want to reconsider…
  4. Choose your accessories and layers. Funky jewellery is a great way to add flare and colour to your photos! Think kids look great in hats or headbands? So do I! Find one that works with your colours and add it in if you want. Layers will add texture and depth to both the colours and the overall look of the images. Denim jackets, vests, cardigans, scarves, tights… these are all ways of adding subtle patterns and textures into your photos without being distracting.

The most important thing is that your family portrait reflect who you are as a family at this moment in time. If you’re ‘jeans and t-shirts’ kind of people, then dress everyone in primary-coloured t-shirts or put everyone in those jewel tones and you’re good to go! If you like formal clothing, pick out some fun dresses for the girls and nice collared shirts whose colours work with the dresses for the boys.

Keep in mind that my shoots tend to be a mix of activity and poses – I’m happy to have you all running around if that’s what works for you, so if you’d like natural-looking shots, please dress in clothing you’ll all feel comfortable in.

Need more guidance? Check out any of these helpful links:

  • Kristen Duke has some excellent, concise advice (great notes near the end about taking ‘pairs’ into consideration!)
  • Click it Up a Notch gives some great visuals
  • Pinterest fans, check out The Dating Divas for the most over-the-top organized planning tool ever (includes suggestions on all kinds of things other than just clothing)

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