What to Wear for Family Photos

How have I not done a post on this yet? I’m mildly embarrassed! I’ve started to receive a lot of e-mails on help with styling family photos. {Earth to Katey! It’s mid October! People are taking holiday photos. Get with it on a post.} And while I wish I was able to help individually, I thought the best way to help was to do a large blog post!

Now ultimately, your holiday or family photos represent you and your family! If y’all are outdoorsy and far more athletic than I, have your family photos embody that! If you love to be home, do a cozy home shoot on your couch with your pups. These are just my tips and tricks for photography and styling families together. I hope they help!

If It’s For You & Your Guy

If it is just you and your guy I always think it’s a little easier to style a shoot. You don’t have multiple people to match and you don’t have to worry about the comfort of an outfit that much. I’ve always liked to have dressy family photos because we blog casual outfits far more frequently. However, if you don’t feel like you get to enjoy lots of casual looks together as a couple ignore this advice. Blues and greens photograph well if you have lighter hair, if you have darker hair neutrals are stunning. And if you have stunning red locks, go for an emerald look. No matter your coloring, when in doubt go for a jewel tone! They always photograph well. If your guy doesn’t want to go all out in a suit, no worries. I know so many of my readers are Southern girls, so your guy can totally wear his boots and be casual if he prefers that. Here’s a few looks you could easily blend with a suit or jeans and a blazer your guy would wear.

If It’s For You & Extended Family

If you’re taking a large family photo with extended family definitely don’t worry about matching as much! It’s going to either be impossible or look 1992 in all denim. How many of us have matching family photos adorning our halls?! We do! Come up with 4 or 5 colors that the family can wear! For example you could easily do black, cranberry, tan and deep purple and it would all blend! Then make sure your outfit just has one of those shades. One major trick I’ve found with large family photos is accessories! Look to a plaid scarf or faux fur vest as those are perfect neutralizers in a look. They blend well with most other shades because they are meant to blend with a variety of other pieces in your closet. For example, I wouldn’t wear a pink blazer in family photos because that’s really meant for one or two specific looks. Grab the most versatile accessories out of your closet for these types of photos!

If It’s For You & Your Kids

While styling with kids can get a little stressful [it’s the e-mail I receive most frequently] I also think you can have a lot of fun with it! You can full on match in Lilly Pulitzer like above or you can shop from sister stores. One little trick is to wear clothing from sister stores like J.Crew and Crew Cuts. You won’t be matching à la 1992, but the hues, cuts and styles will blend seamlessly. Janie and Jack is another great option if your little one doesn’t fit into Crew Cuts quite yet. If you’re not interested in sister stores, always remember this rule: have about 1/3rd of the components be busy and keep the rest simple. The photo above is a perfect example of that. I’m in a printed dress while Maxi and Paul are in outfits that pull shades from it. Below I share a family look of how J.Crew and Crew Cuts blend! Your guy or little boy can wear jeans or jackets they already have to make it easy, but J.Crew has great options for those as well.

Tips To Keep In Mind

  • Focus More on a Location, Than a Look: Whenever I have had the privilege of going to conferences for blogging and hearing from incredible photographers, they always harp on one issue! They continually say how everyone from bloggers to families taking photos focus more on their looks than they do shoot location. Of course fashion bloggers are promoting fashion, but a great location makes an outfit pop far more. As a family, no one will say, “So glad they all wore purple!” Instead they’ll think, “They all look stunning on the beach.” The first time I heard a photographer rant over that issue I was a little confused, but then I went home and looked at a batch of Christmas cards and realized they were right. In fact, I missed what most people were wearing and instead was focusing on the fact that they looked so happy on vacation or how much they were smiling. Now of course, if your toddler is wearing a red shirt you probably don’t want to wear a yellow dress. I just say this to reiterate to not stress too much on what you wear! The outfit you’ve chosen is probably perfect with your family. Stick with a color family and it will look beautiful. Really embody your stage of life with your location. If a family of a newborn sent a Christmas card of them cuddled on their sofa with their baby and dogs, I would think it was precious! I wouldn’t necessarily notice what the baby was wearing. Think of what your family likes to do and try to incorporate a location into that. One trick for this is to follow your Photographer on social media and scroll through all their shoots. If you need portrait photographers Roanoke contact Haleigh Umphlette Photography. If you see a location you like, you as the client are more than welcome to ask where it is and say you want to shoot there. In my experience, photographers have access to so many more locations and venues than we do! Another thing to note is, you can rent out venues easily. I’ve rented bridal venues for shoots and it’s quite affordable. You get access to their entire area and even the outside which is normally made for beautiful wedding photos. Now the Texas market may be different, but sometimes it’s just $50 an hour if you don’t do your shoot during the weekend.
  • Eat Before: In theory, it’s always a great idea to go out to eat after you take your family photos. Everyone is showered, dressed and looks great. Why not enjoy the evening?! You get busy getting ready for photos, you don’t eat and then when you tell your husband to smile more and his stomach growls, everyone is cranky. Eat something light before you go shoot and keep almonds or trail mix in the car as you drive. I have done at least 1-2 photo shoots a week for the past 4 years and I can say there is always a huge difference in how my photos turn out when I eat breakfast vs. when I get too busy and skip it.
  • It’s Pinterest, Not Real People: Many say comparison is the thief of joy. I say Pinterest is. While Pinterest is honestly my favorite social media site [give me all the cookie recipes] it’s not realistic. When you gather inspiration for your holiday shoot remember that 90% of what you see on Pinterest is professional shoots. It may look like a sweet family photo that went viral but I’ll let you in on a secret. Photographers, makeup artists, stylists and vendors partner together all the time to shoot for both their portfolios as well as magazines. The intention of these shoots is so that they go viral and all vendors participating can get advertisement. It’s an incredibly wise business move! So while we may search “family photo” on Pinterest and see a cute look we want to copy, those are models. And it was made so that it does pop up when you search “family photo” on Pinterest! The people are models, the outfits are on loan from designers, the photographer is normally award-winning in their city or state and the location is perfect from wedding vendors assisting. It’s to give you inspiration, but don’t let it affect how you see your family photos. I joke with Paul that no one should have to see themselves in photos as much as bloggers do. On average, I have to sift through about 6 shoots of myself [over 200 images] a week. And while I am really happy and content with who I am as a person, I don’t sift through these photos thinking, “Way to go girl!! You look fab!” It’s more like, “Oh, that looks awkward. Why am I looking down? I can’t post that people will make fun of me. Do I seriously have a deodorant mark on my shirt? I don’t even want to post these.” But then I remember I’m a real person and the entire purpose of these photos is to just show the clothing. When you remember the entire purpose of your family photos is to capture your family at that stage, you’ll always love them.
  • Be Up Front: Be up front and honest with your photographer about anything you may feel insecure about in the photos. For example, if I ever have a snag on my dress or something I tell my photographer. They know how to work around those issues and do a great job not highlighting it!
  • Darker Lipstick: When shooting I always wear my favorite lipstick shade, just one shade darker! In real life we love glossy nude lips but lipstick always portrays far more washed out on camera. In fact, it’s taken me years to accept this and I have far too many photos online to prove it! On Snapchat I’d wear a nude lipstick or something and get hundreds of messages and e-mails asking about the lipstick. I knew y’all liked it so I would shoot it. Then I looked ill in the photos and it wasn’t my best look. Your lipstick will automatically wash out a few shades and blend in more with your skin in photos so be mindful of that. If you want to wear a more nude color, definitely follow the lip liner rule. Apply a lip liner one shade darker than your lipstick. You normally wouldn’t do that day-to-day but this helps in photos so much! My favorite lipstick combo for photos is MAC Plum and then Kat Von D in Lovesick or NARS Save The Queen, then lightly dab MAC Snob in the center!

Outfit Ideas

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Here is a little family outfit look I love together if you have little ones or want to draw inspiration!

Ultimately, enjoy your photo session! If your toddler is running around not wanting to sit, don’t worry. Your photographer will get perfect candid shots- that you may cherish more than a posed option! Ultimately, your photographer has seen it all and is there to make this session enjoyable. As for the styling, go with your gut and you won’t regret it.

We take our family photos this weekend so I’ll let you know how Maxi likes it! We will 99% be sending out photos this Christmas of her chewing on something because that poor little girl has 3 teeth coming in up top right now. 🙁

Thank you so much for reading!

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  1. Loved the guide, especially around extended family, who I don’t usually see for long periods of time. Your outfits are all so cute as well!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  2. Brittney wrote:

    Have I seriously been following you this long?! I remember every one of those photos from past posts/shoots!

    This is SO helpful! Definitely one of my favorite posts thus far.


    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  3. Caroline wrote:

    My fiance and I have our engagement photos coming up, and while we have picked the perfect location (a generally empty Boston park with a stunning view of the skyline from across the water) I have been stumped on what to wear! I just bought that Adrianna Papelli dress in the navy for our “dressy” shots and can’t wait for it to come in! Great tips as always, Katey!

    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  4. autumn wrote:

    Love your tips! As a photographer they were pretty spot on. A lot of the tips you gave are the same ones that I give to my clients.

    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  5. allie wrote:

    I think this is my favorite post yet! My immediate family lives out of state and none of my extended family lives in this country – and I’m not engaged or married yet so I don’t think I will be taking any family photos in the near future but I just loved reading about your tips and tricks and differences between shooting with your spouse, child, family, extended family, etc! Will be saving this post for future reference!

    xo, Allie


    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  6. Lacey wrote:

    This is so spot on! Love pinterest too, but man does it make you feel less than!


    The Glitter Gospel

    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  7. Jennifer wrote:

    This post is defiantly what I needed! We are doing our holiday pics at the end of November. I really like your J Crew look. What shirt would you put together with the green tule skirt? And what would you recommend for my husband? Your insights would be awesome! Thank you!

    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Jennifer! I would do the white button up blouse next to it with those heels and earrings! For your husband he could do a nice white button up with a cream or tan sweater over it, with jeans and loafers! I hope this helps. 🙂 xo

      Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  8. Chris wrote:

    Hi Katey!
    Do you mind sharing where you purchased your scarf you wore in your black sweater and pants picture? It looks similar to the scarf in your scarf layout but when I clicked on the picture of the scarf it appeared to be slightly different . Thanks so much!!!

    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Chris! It is Burberry! xo

      Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  9. Ashley wrote:

    This is perfect! We’re doing our engagement photos this week which will double as our Christmas card and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for our outfits! Love this guide!


    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  10. Pri wrote:

    Omgggg I wish you would create many more inspiration boards for family pics!! Amazing!!

    Published 24 Oct 17Reply
  11. Leigh Legg wrote:

    Loved this post! I’d love to see more makeup tips and how you do your makeup different for photos. Also, skincare..do you do anything different like certain masks the night before a shoot etc? Thanks so much for the great tips!

    Published 26 Oct 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Leigh! Thank you so much for reading! I don’t do my skincare any different, but that’s a great idea to look into! I also like to use white eyeliner on my lower waterline so it makes my eyes look more open! I hope this helps! xo

      Published 26 Oct 17Reply
  12. Great guide! I will be sure to share this link with my clients!

    Published 27 Oct 17Reply
  13. This is an awesome guide for our family sessions! thank you so much for writing! Helps alot! xo, Jess

    Published 10 Jul 18Reply