What to Wear to a Family Photo Session | Virginia Photographer
“What should we wear?” This is one of the most common questions I get as a photographer. It can be hard enough to choose outfits for everyday wear, much less for the portraits that will hang on the wall or live in an album on the coffee table for decades to come. But don’t worry – I’m here to help! After working with couples and families over the years, I’ve compiled a list of top tips to help you pick out the perfect outfits for your family.
Bonus: if you book one of my sessions, it includes one-on-one wardrobe advice. You can even send me a photo of your outfits, and I’ll give you advice on how to piece it all together. Not sure where to get started? I have a few of my favorite dresses and ideas to share as well.
What to wear to a family photo session | Outfit tips
Plan for the weather / season – you want to make sure everyone is comfortable! If you’re doing photos in the fall, it can be helpful to have layers to keep everyone warm and cozy. Summers in Virginia are hot, so you’ll want to be prepared for that as well. Having a winter or early spring session? You may want to bring an extra jacket or coat for everyone so you don’t get cold.
Your photos will look best when your outfits complement each other without fully “matching.” Soft neutrals such as cream, ivory and gray pair beautifully with navy, dusty blue, blush, soft greens and leather brown. In general, avoid bright colors (especially neon). Neutral colors also tend to be a bit more timeless as they allow the photo to focus on your connection with each other, instead of on your clothes which may seem dated in a few decades.
Stick to larger prints or patterns if you’re including them in your wardrobe. Small patterns can create an effect called moire in your photos because it can be difficult for the camera to properly capture how the light reflects off them. If you’re unsure, send me a photo and I’ll let you know!
Layering is also a great way to add different color accents or neutrals! Adding a cardigan, jacket or blazer can be a great addition. It’s also an easy way to get variety in your photos without having to do an entire outfit change.
Don’t be afraid to dress up. Getting your photos done is a special occasion, and when everyone is dressed up it really stands out. For women, I typically recommend dresses. Maxi, midi and knee-length dresses are always beautiful! For men, wearing dress pants and nice shoes can make all the difference. I generally recommend avoiding shorts. It’s also easy to dress up jeans or more casual dress pants with a blazer or sweater if you want to look dressed up without wearing a suit or more formal outfit.
Accessories are always fun! Ideas include scarves, headbands, jewelry, sun hats, bowties, basket totes with fresh flowers or blankets work well.
Make sure everyone can comfortably move in their outfits. The sessions are designed to be fun, which means lots of playing and laughing, running and walking together. If you like your outfit only at one specific angle, that’s going to make it very challenging for you to relax and get natural looking photos. A good test is to put on your outfit, walk around, sit down and see how it feels. Also, make sure all undergarments are not visible.
Consider the location. A session in the city may feel a little more formal, while a countryside field is a bit more laid-back.
If your littles are going to wear dresses, it’s best to have a longer dress so they can play without worrying about it riding up. This is especially important for babies and toddlers, since when you hold them the dress often doesn’t sit just right. It can also be helpful to have them wear spandex shorts underneath them so they can still play.
Tailored outfits always look stunning. Every person in your family may have a different cut or style that looks best on him and her. It’s best to focus on the individual outfits, and then tying it back to your original color palette or group. Again – neutral colors are so great for this!
Close-toed shoes always photograph well. Heels can also be a beautiful way to add elegance – just make sure you’re comfortable walking in them. You can even bring an extra pair of flats to get between locations. If you are going to wear open-toed sandals, I recommend removing bright nail polish from your toes so they don’t stand out.
What not to wear
T-shirts or clothing with large logos or writing.
Tennis shoes, velcro sandals and beach flip flops.
Outfits that show a bra strap or any under garments.
Short dresses – these can sometimes make it difficult for you to be comfortable while walking, sitting and playing. If you’re unsure if it’s a good length, do a test run to see if you can sit down and walk without having to adjust it.
Remove bright nail polish and stick with more neutral colors so they aren’t distracting in the photos. If your nail polish is chipped and worn down, it’s better to remove all nail polish instead of keeping it on.
Identical clothing – for example, jeans + white t-shirts for everyone. When everyone is identical, your photos will have more of a “staged” look that will look dated in the future.
Professional hair and makeup are a great way add a polished look to your photos. It’s also relaxing to get pampered that day! I’m happy to share some of my favorite recommendations. Some hair and makeup artists will even come directly to you so you never have to leave your house.
If you’re getting a haircut or color, I recommend doing so at least a few days before the session. The same goes for everyone else in the family too! Haircuts sometimes need a little time to settle, so you’ll want to avoid getting it done immediately before.
Always allow extra time to get ready the day of the session. It’s super important we start right on time so we make the most of the light. Adding buffer time never hurts and lets you start the session relaxed and ready to go!
You’ve got this! Once you start putting together the outfits, you can always reach out to me for advice. I love working closely with my families to make sure they look and feel amazing at their session. It’s the best way to capture photos that look beautiful and really reflect your family!