What you wear to your portrait session can make a big difference in the final look of your images, and I love helping my clients style their outfit selections for their sessions. In five years now of doing family portraits, I have learned a lot about what colors and styles will look best on camera and those you want to avoid. There is also a specific way you are going to want to dress to achieve that soft, dreamy look that you see in the photos I share on my website and social media accounts.
In past years, I have just sent out a PDF or blog post, but I was recently inspired to try something different after hearing a short podcast from one of my favorite bloggers, Living with Landyn. Landyn Hutchinson is a Nashville blogger with two children and a wealth of experience getting her family ready for family photos. Most of her styling tips are honestly the same type of things I share with my clients, which I thought was so fun. I also love that this podcast is from her perspective as a mother, and I think she shares a very practical approach to getting your people ready for your time in front of the camera.
The podcast episode is also short at less than 13 minutes long, so I figure it’s something you can easily find a few minutes in your week to listen to. I am going to share the link below, along with another super helpful resource, but you can read on for a couple of my own tips that I would add to what Landyn has to say. I will also mention that Landyn gets into posing tips toward the end. That is not something you need to worry about. I will guide you and your family through a series of natural “poses” and candid prompts during our session time.
If the above audio isn’t working, you can also find the podcast at this link.
A few things Landyn says that I think are *gold* and I want to emphasize include: Do not be too matchy-matchy. Do incorporate (simple, non-distracting) patterns and textures. Stick to a palette of complementary colors. Start with mom’s (or you, who booked the session’s) outfit first and build from there. Don’t wear something that you are uncomfortable in. Do include incentives for the littles. And lastly (a big one!) prepare everything ahead of time so that you have ample time the day-of and do not run late. I personally schedule most of my fall family sessions back-to-back so I can fit everybody in, which means that if you are late to your session, we will not be able to extend your session beyond the scheduled end time because I will need to move on to my next client.
A few more styling tips of my own that I will add include: Select colors in muted tones when you are choosing your outfits. For instance, instead of bright red do a rust or burgundy. Instead of bright blue do a dusty blue or navy. Instead of bright yellow, do a mustard. Instead of bright pink, blush. You get the idea. For my style of photography (naturally lit, film inspired, organic), softer colors are going to photograph the most beautifully, as they will flatter your skin tone, not compete with the natural scenery, and keep the attention where it belongs- on your beautiful faces. I would say the same about patterns. I love a couple of simple, non-distracting patterns such as plaid, gingham or floral print thrown into the mix, but I would avoid bold, high contrast patterns as well as shirts with graphic prints and logos on them.
Having professional photos done is a special occasion, so this is a perfect time to consider hiring a professional hair and makeup artist. My go-to girl is Brittianna J, and she has a special rate for my clients if you mention that you are working with me when you inquire. Her job is getting people ready to be photographed, so she is truly an expert at giving you a look that is going to feel like you and look great on camera. I can also say from personal experience with having my own family’s photos done, it is amazing to have that as one less thing to worry about on the day-of when you are trying to get everyone else ready. If you opt for the DIY route, do your hair and makeup as you would for a special occasion, and give yourself a little more time than you think you need so you aren’t rushed getting ready.
The last thing I will say (an odd but important tip) is- as you are picking everyone’s outfits, make sure you are mixing up the bottoms as well. You don’t want everyone in jeans. Dressing everyone in slightly different tops and bottoms provides a nice visual break to the eye and really brings your whole look together. This cute family from last fall is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
I hope these tips are helpful! I want your family photos to be a fun, stress-free experience, so please know you are welcome to email me anytime for input as you are coordinating everyone’s outfits and getting final details together for your session. I can’t wait to get you and your beautiful family in front of my camera! -Rachel
BONUS TIPS for families with babies and toddlers: In Georgia, you never know if it will be in the 70s or 40s during November sessions. Plan those babies’ outfits with some layers so we can add or remove as needed to keep baby comfortable while we are shooting. Small, bite size snacks like puffs or a favorite toy or noisemaker can be useful in distracting a fussy baby. I also suggest having a cute pacifier on hand that complements your outfits and won’t stick out like a sore thumb in photos. I like these from Target (available in a variety of colors). If your session time falls during what is normally nap time or meal time, see if you can work on pushing baby’s schedule a little bit in the days leading up to your session so they are fed and well-rested, and content the day-of.
BONUS TIPS for families who want to include the furbabies: I love it when the family pups are included in family photos and like to think I am good at getting them to cooperate (probably because I am an obsessive dog mom myself). If you plan to bring your pups along, I do ask that you bring an additional friend or family member who can hold their leashes when they are not in photos. A favorite toy or treat can be helpful in getting your dog to cooperate in a strange new environment. Also remember that the natural demeanor of your dog will have some bearing on the photos we are able to get. Dogs that are very well behaved tend to be great at “smile and look at the camera” photos, while pups (like my own) who are a little more on the wild side make for some cute candid photos.