People always ask me about what to wear for family portraits. It’s really not to complicated, but does take just a little advance planning. The goal is for everyone in the group to look their best individually, but also look like an important part of the whole group. Faces and expressions should be easy to see and the over all effect is harmonious and soothing.
Example number one: what NOT to wear! The Strickland family agreed to help me out with the what not to wear example and put together an outrageous combination of colors and patterns.
When you look at this photo, your eyes just don’t know where to go or what to do. The colors and patterns just overwhelm the faces and compete with each other for attention. Also, the shorts and bare legs are distracting, the tube top dress shows too much distracting bare skin and tan lines. Then, on the far left, is the son… Not only is he mixing patterns and colors, he’s dressed in long pants and a jacket, when everyone else is dressed for warmer weather. And that hat!
So how do we fix this and show off the beautiful family?
First, eliminate logos and screen print on shirts. Patterns and textures can be a nice contrast, but should be used sparingly. Everyone needs to be prepared for the same day; if mom and kids are dressed for a casual afternoon in the park, dad isn’t going to fit in if he’s in a suit and tie. If the three-year old princess is dressed in chiffon and bows, but everyone else is in denim and t-shirts, it’s not a harmonious look or feel for your portrait.
Here is the Strickland family with the outfits they put together using my suggestions.
Ahhh… That’s so much better! Same family, same location, and same treatment to the image, but look what happened.
We can see their faces! Our eyes can figure out where to look and what’s important. They also seem to fit into the surroundings better, rather than just sort of being there.
Notice they are not wearing matching outfits. Mom and the girls are wearing the same dark blue, but with different necklines and sleeves. Ideally, the girls could have had long sleeves, but the short sleeves in a solid dark color are not a terrible distraction. Dad and the son are wearing lighter blue button up shirts, that go with the dark blue mom and the girls are wearing. They are all wearing dark jeans, again, not matching, but close enough nothing stands out too much. They are also wearing dark shoes. It would have been ideal if the son had shoes that didn’t have bright white laces, but this is a huge improvement over the before picture.
My recommendations for what to wear for family photos are solid colors, long sleeves, and think of the apparel for the whole family as one outfit: does it all go together? Colors, materials, and styles? Don’t forget to think about shoes.
The goal is to make the faces be the center of attention and not have the clothing be a distraction.
Here are some more of the whole family. Click on any image to view larger.
The girls adore their big brother, and he feels the same way. Click on any image to view larger.
It’s important for mom and dad to have a moment for portraits of the two of them, as well. Click on any image to view larger.
And parents and kids. Click on any image to view larger.
With just a little bit of planning and preparation, it’s very easy to choose what to wear for your family pictures.
- Darker solid colors photograph well and keep faces visible
- Simple classic styles are not distracting
- Think of the clothes for the whole family as one outfit
- Don’t forget the shoes!