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What to Wear for Family Photos | Northern Virginia Photographer


Business & Tips

What to wear for Family Photos! This has to be my most asked question and biggest client pain point, for sure!

As someone with a family who also needs to be documented in photos yearly, I get it! Outfits can be so hard, especially if you are the mom who is planning them all. It’s easy to go shopping and then get completely overwhelmed. Or start looking online and have no idea if anything will be any good. Head to Pinterest, and OMG, you’re overwhelmed with choices!

I love helping you out in this department though. To maximize your photo session, I always like to help you with outfit choices if you need it. There’s no point in spending your good money on photos if you don’t look amazing for them!

Outfits don’t have to be hard if you use these simple tips though. Read on!

What to wear for Family Photos

Start with Mom’s Outfit

I always recommend coordinating everyone off one person’s outfit, usually the mother. Then plan everyone else’s look off of hers. It’s a lot harder if you pick a fancy or printed dress for your toddler and then you’re left questioning what you should wear. Do it the other way around and have children complement the parents.

Mom Outfits for Family Photos

Some of my favorite places to get women’s clothing are:

Pick something you feel confident in, that fits you well (regardless of what the number on the tag says!), and that if you saw a picture of yourself in it in ten years, you’d still want to look at it. I typically don’t recommend anything trendy that could look outdated in a few years. Pick something classic that also feels like “you” so these photos are a good representation of who you are.

Here’s a photo of me in a Baltic Born dress (called Athena in “Lagoon” color) that I wore for our family photos in fall 2019.

Baltic Born Athena Dress | What to Wear for Family Photos

It was a great choice! I’ve had a few clients borrow it and wear it before too. It’s also maternity friendly.

Everyone always asks me where I got my girls dresses in that photo. They were from a custom boutique in Colorado and sadly I could never find them for sale online or anywhere else!

Another tip for moms: consider the ages of your children and your outfit choice. Is picking a very low cut top a good idea if your 18 month old might grab at it? Or a skirt that your kids will want to pull up/play under? Jewelry is nice, but if you never wear it, I wouldn’t wear a necklace or earrings that your baby may grab at. Don’t pick shoes you can’t chase after a toddler in either! Just some advice from someone who has seen it all! 😉


Coordinate, Don’t Match for Family Photos

The best tip is to stick with a color pallet and coordinate together, not match. Everyone does not need to be in the same color with the exception of all white. I don’t recommend everyone be in the same pattern, like plaid or florals as it’s usually too overwhelming. I recommend no more than two people in the same pattern (i.e. your sons in the same patterned shirt, daughters in the same floral dress, etc.). If you want two people to wear the same color, make sure it really is the same color and doesn’t clash.

Here’s some family outfit inspiration that I’ve really loved from my clients.

Another Baltic Born dress in action on an expecting mama.

Here’s a few color pallets I love!

Color Pallet Ideas for Family Outfits | What to Wear for Family Photos

Spring is a great time to go for neutrals, grey, and pastels. Summer is a great time to wear florals or all white. Fall is a good time to wear jewel tones, mustard/oranges, and deeper colors. I do not recommend dark colors ever though, like black. I also recommend avoiding neon colors or very bright colors that may photograph differently than they look in real life. Neutrals or softer tones are always the way to go to complement skin tones and to look nice in a natural, usually green location.

I also recommend dressing like you’re going to the same place. If you’re in a flowy dress that’s more formal, I wouldn’t put anyone in jeans and t-shirts but would suggest khakis and button down shirts instead.


Dress For the Season & Comfort

Are you having photos in spring? Then it’s probably not the time to wear a knit beanie or knee high boots and a thick sweater. Dress seasonally, but also consider the weather in your area. Sometimes spring sessions are still quite chilly and once I even had a late October session in Charlottesville be over 100 degrees!

I love what this family wore for a session in December.

Family of 5 standing in grass together in coordinated outfits | What To Wear for Family Photos

Here is a lovely color pallet that was for a late spring session.

family of 5 standing together in green location | What To Wear for Family Photos

Here’s what my family wore for our fall 2020 photo that I took. We went with grey, a pop of aqua on me and grey and white for my daughters with everyone in jeans.

family of 4 sitting in grass in front of lake | What To Wear for Family Photos

Here was a great look in fall 2022 back in Ohio. Their outfits just happened to match the landscape of the background perfectly!

It’s important to be comfortable in your clothing for photos, especially for small children. The last thing we want is kiddos peeling off layers or complaining they’re too chilly. If you know your daughter will tug at tights or complain about a certain type of shoe, just don’t do it!


Consider Your Home Decor

When thinking about what to wear for family photos, I often ask clients what their home looks like. Where do you plan to hang or display these photos? And will they match? If you’re wearing bright red but your home is decorated in greys and blues, the photos will probably look “off” in your home. You don’t necessarily have to wear the same exact colors your home is decorated in, but coordinating them so they “match” your home is always nice.

woman sitting on couch with photos above her

Above is my photo gallery ledge in my living room as an example. All the photos are of us in pretty neutral colors with the exception of that one in the snow!


Things Not To Wear to Family Photos

Hats, unless it’s very specific to your style (i.e. a cowboy hat for a session on your own farm). I do not recommend baseball caps ever or hats for children who usually just take them off. I also recommend men do not wear hats prior to a session so their hair is not creased.

Anything with words/logos. Please do not wear a golf shirt or something with a Nike swish on it. Words are distracting and look tacky!

Something that doesn’t fit. If you will be tugging/pulling at your clothing during the session, it’s the wrong choice. The same goes for children! Make sure to try clothing on well in advance, not days before a session and then you’re left scrambling at the last minute.

Dirty or worn shoes/tennis shoes. Shoes can make or break an outfit. If it’s warm enough and you’re unsure about shoes, go barefoot!


Key Points on What to Wear for Family Photos

Pick a simple color pallet (i.e. grey and pops of pastels). When in doubt, neutrals look good on everyone and in every photo location.

Pick mom’s outfit first and make sure she feels great in what she wears. Pick everyone else’s outfit to coordinate with her.

Make sure everyone’s clothing fits properly, is flattering, and is seasonally appropriate.

When in doubt, ask me for help. Again, I’m always happy to assist you in this area. Many of my clients text or email me their outfit ideas ahead of time. I’m happy to “approve” outfits or give feedback on your wardrobe choices!

I hope these straightforward tips have helped you in thinking about what to wear for your family photos!

Happy outfit planning!

xo Melissa


Montgomery, Alabama Family Photographer

Are you looking for a family photographer in Alexandria or Northern Virginia? I’m your gal! I specialize in photography for families with small children, maternity, and in-home newborn sessions. Please contact me for more information on booking your session!


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What To Wear for Family Photos | Melissa Sheridan Photography

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