The number one question I receive from my clients is what to wear for family photos. Over the past 10 years of photographing families professionally, I have come up with some foolproof tips. You can find those nine tips here on my photography page.
Summer is a great time to schedule family portraits. Professional photographers usually aren’t as busy as they are in autumn. It is great not worrying about school schedules and homework if you have school-aged children. College students are often home during summer so it’s easy to include them. And then there are summer vacations with extended family! What better time to take family portraits than when the whole crew is together? That’s my family up there when we celebrated my parents’ 50th anniversary at the beach. We hired an amazing photographer from Wilmington, NC. If you’re ever in that area, check out Millie Holloman Photography! You will not be disappointed.
I don’t know about you, but I am a visual learner. That may be why I enjoy blogs and Pinterest so much! It’s one thing to tell me some guidelines about what to wear, but if you can actually show me and tell me why it works? That’s when it will really click for me! So this post is going to be REALLY picture-heavy. I hope you find it helpful!
Probably the easiest way to choose a color scheme for what to wear for family photos is to have the pickiest person in your group choose a patterned clothing item that they love. Then simply pick 2 or 3 of the colors in that pattern and voila: instant color scheme. Next, take a photo of the item in sunlight with a cell phone and then send it to everyone else to help them with matching the colors. For more inspiration, check out our Pinterest board (and follow us on Pinterest while you’re there!): What to Wear For Family Photos
I’ve learned that blue is one of the best colors to wear for family photos. It’s easy to find in stores. It’s easy to convey which shade you mean to other family members if you’re doing a large group photo. For my family’s photos we decided on a broad color scheme of navy blue, powder blue and royal blue with white and light khaki. Each small family unit was cohesive and when you put us all together as a group, we coordinated.
For my family unit, we stuck to just navy blue and powder blue. You can see in both photos that it’s obvious that we are all coordinated, but we aren’t matching. Each person in the family is wearing something that suits their personality and body shape.
What to Wear for Family Photos: Blue
Here are some more examples of families who chose to go with blue as their unifying color:
This family was actually my inspiration for our family photos! Look at all those different patterns! Stripes, plaids, tiny florals, geometric patterns but they all work because there are some solids mixed in. They also did a great job with adding layers and different textures.
Another great example of how well mixing patterns works as long as you have some solids too.
This family managed to coordinate their clothes even though part of the family was traveling from India and another part from Australia and yet another from Chicago! Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I get to live someplace that other people choose to travel to for vacation.
This family chose to stick to solid colors for a truly timeless look. I particularly like how each of the men has a different color of pants or shorts, especially the one son wearing blue on the bottom. Do you see how that blue on the bottom helps move your eye from the brighter blue shirt on the opposite end over towards the other side of the image? And mom’s statement necklace added some great texture.
Another mom chose to spice up her family’s photos with a fabulous pattern on her skirt (and dad who was a total ham insisted on his shark shoes!). Do you see how they are each showing off their individual personalities with their choices, while still looking like a family unit? And again, mom’s necklace helps to break up the solid blue of her shirt and draw your eye up towards her face. Those accessories are so important!
This family went with a lighter shade of blue and mixed it with cream and white and khaki. The mixture of dresses, shorts and slacks gives some visual interest on the bottom and the varied necklines and patterns keep it interesting around their faces.
What to Wear for Family Photos: Navy
Here’s the same family the year before! They decided to add a secondary color for some pop with their navy blue. Don’t you love how the coral adds a great punch? Each person added that little pop of coral in a slightly different way: shirts, pants, necklaces and a belt.
Here’s another family that used navy blue as their unifying color. We took their pictures right around the 4th of July so the little girl’s red bow made for a fun touch!
This couple also chose a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme for their anniversary pictures.Her sweater and necklace added some visual interest with the added layers along with a vintage double-wedding ring quilt.
This family mixed hot pink and turquoise in with their navy blue. I think this is something I love most about navy blue: it can be a neutral and works great with so many other colors! On a different note, this photo is why it’s so important to take the time to schedule family portraits when everyone gets together from other parts of the country. The father/grandfather in the image passed away unexpectedly two months after these photos were taken. His children and grandchildren and widow have all expressed how much these images have meant to them.
This family paired blues with a deep sea green. They didn’t mix in patterns, but mom has some interesting detailing on her neckline and the son has a bit of that dark green peeking out from his shirt.
What to Wear for Family Photos: Bright Colors
I love how this family of red heads chose turquoise as their unifying color! Two of the sisters have a similar stripe pattern: one on her leggings and the other on her dress. And the oldest sister has a beautiful lacy pattern on her top, just like her mom. Dad went with a solid blue shirt that matched one of the stripes in the girls’ leggings/dress:
Once again: a mixture of patterns and solids, a variety of textures, a unifying color scheme. Coordinating without matching!
This mom chose a favorite floral-accented dress for their family photos. She pulled the navy blue from her dress for her baby’s shirt, and dad’s shirt has some navy detailing in the placard.
What to Wear for Family Photos: Neutrals
Another timeless option is black and white. This family was celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary so the women chose gold accents and jewelry to symbolize that golden anniversary. Adding in the black tops and the black stripes on the grandfather provided a nice change from the “everyone wearing white” trend that was so popular in the 90s and early 2000s. And white sure does make your tans pop in the summer!
This couple also chose black, gray and white for their photos. Neutrals are always a timeless option when deciding what to wear for family photos!
White and pastels always look so fresh for summertime portraits! This couple was expecting a little girl so dad’s shirt featured some pink in the plaid pattern.
What to Wear for Family Photos: Matching Categories of Color instead of a Specific Color
So far we’ve been talking about picking a color scheme based on a particular color. Another option is to simply pick a color category and have everyone choose colors within that category. What do I mean by a color category? Pastels. Brights. Jewel-tones. Primary Colors. Dark Colors. Neutrals. Those are broad categories of color. As long as EVERYONE is in pastels (or brights, etc.), they don’t need to be wearing the same colors.
As you can see, this family chose to wear rich, brightly colored clothes. Some of them are in warm colors (red, orange, magenta) and others are in cool colors (royal blue, turquoise, green). But since they are all wearing brights, it still works. This particular group was part of a larger group of 36 family members who have been vacationing together every other year since the 1970s. I love how no one matches and yet the entire group looks great together!
I hope this inspires you to schedule YOUR family’s photo session and helps you to figure out what to wear for your family photos too.