5 Questions to Ask When Choosing What to Wear in Family Photos

Whether you are taking candids at home or hiring a professional photographer, trying to determine what to wear for family photos can be challenging. As a personal stylist, I get this question often. Having just taken our family photos for the year, the time is right for some tips on selecting what to wear that represents your authentic personal style and is reflective of your family right now. After all, that’s what we’re documenting for, right?

One more thing, right now, Poplin readers save when booking a photo shoot with the Happy Film Company. Take a look at my recent post with our family photos and all the details.


5 Questions to Ask When Choosing

What to Wear in Family Photos

  1. What’s the Purpose of this photo shoot?

    It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday. Sometimes, it’s useful to take a step back and ask yourself (and anyone else involved), what are we doing this for? This applies to all aspects of life, but is especially useful when thinking about your family photos. Are you taking photos to document who you are right now or to leverage this genius excuse to actually get everyone dressed up? Are you doing it to have something to look back on with fondness from a super fun day or see a perfectly choreographed shot, regardless of what it takes to get there? If kids are involved, it’s a good idea to have a sense of that going into it. Of course, we’re all looking for a fun time and great shots (which is where the Happy Film Co. comes in). Be thoughtful. What’s your real priority here?

  2. Are you looking for timeless or current?

    This one is particularly meaningful to me, as a personal stylist. After all, I can wear something current and hip or opt for something that will better stand the test of time. Right now, I’m deep into mixing and matching patterns, as you can see with our photos. I could have chosen to do that in our photo (which I did) or I could have opted for a sleek, navy blue and black number that would make me look sophisticated and likely have that same impact twenty years from now. Both choices are valid. For me, though, I really love seeing photos from the past that really communicate the style of the time, even if it isn’t awesome in present day terms. Think about what matters to you and help that drive your choices.

  3. Are you going for matchy- matchy or effortlessly coordinated?

    As with all of these questions, there are no wrong answers. Embrace who you are and what you like. The goal is to be sure you are being intentional about your choices. It’s pretty common for folks to go with a matchy-matchy approach, as in we’re all wearing red sweaters. This works well for families who get joy from seeing those images of a cohesive group. After all, your family is your team. Another option, is effortlessly coordinated. That’s the route we went. Go for a color scheme rather than one or two colors. When working with clients, we often end up with a color palette in her closet. For example, olive green, salmon, cream, navy, animal prints. They all work together, whether or not you have two pieces that are the same color in the photo. Make sense?

  4. Is this you on a special occasion or your everyday looks?

    This is a big one and will have a significant impact when planning what you wear AND the vibe of your photo shoot. If your family is super casual, you might want to take this rare opportunity to get everyone dressed up. This can be worth it because, well, when else will you do it? But, if you or your family are wearing clothes that make them uncomfortable and/or you don’t feel like yourselves, that’s going to have an impact on the energy at your shoot. Let’s face it, it’s already unnatural to have someone taking photos of every move you make. Going for a nicer version of your everyday looks can make the shoot less of an event, so the kids feel more natural. We rarely wear especially, “fancy” clothes for our shoots. My husband and I would love it, but the kid, not so much. Although, we really lucked out when he was going through a blazer phase. Think about the personalities involved (adults and kids) and what makes the most sense for you.

  5. What is flattering?

    What kind of personal stylist would I be if I didn’t wrap things up with what ACTUALLY makes you look good? Now that you’ve narrowed things down, think about what colors and cuts are actually flattering on your body. If you ever wear heels, please do so in your images. They change your posture, minimize your stomach, all the things, Dear Reader. Also, think about your body type. Where do you want the eye to go? To the area you are trying to minimize or one that you want to show off? I carry my weight on the bottom which means the bold print of my skirt is not ideal for me. Although, it’s an a-line, so that’s helpful. I knew if I wanted to wear it in the photos, I definately couldn’t wear it with a black top and flats. Instead, I opted for a top that had LOTS of visual interest (a tie neck, an unexpected color, a subtle print) AND the shape helped, too because it is voluminous. Voluminous choices mean that my top half looked bigger. In contrast to my bottom half, things were more balanced. Although, I will say that if I had gone with slimming black pants and colorful but more tailored blouse, I would have looked ten pounds lighter. It’s the choice I made. That’s the key . Make these choices rather than looking back later and wishing you had.

Now, it’s time to get this party started. Schedule some photos on your calendar, embrace your personal style, your body and celebrate your life. These are challenging times and having that support system around you is the most important thing. Documenting it, whether you go casual or formal, is worth your time and money. Enjoy and please, share your photos!