What to Wear for Family Photos

How to plan outfits for family photos
NOTE from 2019: I wrote this post back in 2015 and have added a few of our family pics since then to the bottom of this post to give you more ideas.  I still think through these exact things today, even 4 years later, but, I’ve also added a few more tips!

Over the years I’ve had people ask what to wear for family photos, and I never really answered them because I didn’t know what to say.  Usually it’s just been Benson and me and we didn’t put much thought into what we wore together.  Then, Addie was born and, regrettably, we still didn’t ever take professional family pics.  Finally I looked at her one day when she was over a YEAR old soaking in how cute she was, thinking about how she’ll never be this age again, and getting frustrated that I couldn’t ever capture great pictures of her expressions because a) I’m not a good photographer, and b) she moved too much and too quickly.  Haha, gosh, those little people!

So, we finally did it!  Professional pics!  The shoot happened to be in October so we used them for our Christmas cards too.

Of course came the challenge of what to wear.  Most of you have probably already planned your outfits for family photos, but I included my thought process anyway for future reference!

What to Wear for Family Photos - How to Choose Outfits that Coordinate Without Being Matchy

a.  I scoured Pinterest for family photos and asked myself, “What do I like about what they’re wearing?  What do I dislike?”  Not groundbreaking, but helpful nonetheless.

Likes:

  • When they coordinated but didn’t match
  • When the overall vibe was lighter rather than darker and dramatic
  • Combinations of soft neutrals like, grey, white, and navy (rather than black) and muted tones rather than saturated ones (like mustard yellow rather than hot pink or bright red)
  • When 3 colors were used, with maybe just one accent color.
  • White!  I saw family pics with grey or black as neutrals, but I realized my very favorites were when white was one of the colors.  I also felt like for our family with medium complexions and dark hair, incorporating white would help lighten the vibe of the pictures.
  • A little bit of pattern, but not so many patterns that they clash.
  • When everyone was wearing different colored bottoms.  It made the photos more interesting.
Dislikes:
  • When everyone was wearing blue jeans.  I preferred being coordinated rather than matchy-matchy, so everyone wearing the same bottoms felt too uniform to me.
Some of my likes might be your dislikes, or vice versa.  That’s all just personal preference, so there’s not really a right or wrong in that regard!
Our colors ended up being white, blue, and tan.  And, since Addie’s puppy and the pink in her shoes made it in, I guess a little pink too.  😉  I wasn’t sure if the third color would be tan or grey, but based on the pieces Benson and Addie had in their wardrobes as well as what seemed like would pop more, I chose tan.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you like being more uniform, coordinated but not matchy-matchy, or have no preference at all?
  • Do you prefer lighter and brighter pics, saturated pics, or darker vibes?
  • Do you like more neutrals, muted colors, or saturated colors?  Maybe neutrals with a pop of a saturated color?  Neutrals with a pop of a muted color?  etc.
  • Do you like all solids, all patterns, or want some patterns mixed together?
How to Choose Outfits for Family Pictures - Coordinate Without Being MatchyFamily Photo Outfits - Dad and Toddler
b.  What are my goals for the shoot?

I wanted to capture Addie and our family in our most natural mode.  I didn’t want us glammed up, rather how our family would be on a normal day.  I mostly wanted to remember our current relationship with Addie, and that included things like us lying on the grass, her climbing on us, and us swinging her around.  We knew we would be at a park on grass and dirt, and that meant we wore more casual clothing instead of getting dressed up.Your goals might be the opposite.  You might want to have everyone dressed up!  Perhaps in a future family shoot we’ll dress up a little more, because those kinds of pics are fun to have too.  Or maybe you just want a nice family picture where everyone is together and you look cohesive, fancy or casual aside.  Just focus on coordinating colors and don’t worry about whether someone is in a dress or jeans.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you want to capture with these pictures? (playfulness, togetherness in a house, glamorous, festive, etc.)
  • What activities do you want captured? (sitting in a house–like, just one big family shot; playing in a field; walking around downtown, etc.)
  • What kind of attire would function best in those situations? (jeans for playing; n/a for sitting in a house, etc.)

We got some great pics of Addie during that time, and I’m grateful!

Since then, we’ve had at least 4 more rounds of family photos, and I have a few more tips to share.  Here are some additional strategies for you to plan what to wear for family photos!

Outfit Ideas for Family Pictures
c.  Start with the person who has the most limited options, then work through the family in order of least options / hardest to dress to most options / easiest to dress.
Whether it’s the people who are pickiest about what they wear, the person with the least clothes, or just whatever other limitations there are, start with them first.  The pic above is from 2017.  Addie was SUPER picky about what she wore, and I knew I could only get her to wear this bunny sweater or MAYBE one other outfit.  I wasn’t about to get all crazy on her and try to make her wear some brand new outfit I bought her.  So, I started with her favorite bunny outfit and her second favorite outfit (not shown).  I played with options for the rest of the family, building around either of those outfits and chose which one Benson’s and my clothes worked with.
Usually Benson is next in line because he is a minimalist and has very few clothes, especially compared to me.  This year I was pregnant with Ella, so while maternity style gave me less options than I normally have, I still had more than Benson, so I chose my outfit last.
If you have kids who are picky about what they wear, start with them first.  If the rest of your family doesn’t care about what they wear and perhaps YOU are the pickiest, start with yourself!  From there, go in order of who has the least amount of options / is the pickiest on towards the easiest to dress.
And guess what?  Even though the bunny sweater was Addie’s favorite, she threw an awful tantrum right before we left our house for this shoot and during most of the car ride.  Probably because we had to skip her nap for this shoot.  Can’t blame her.  But that is to say even with your kids’ favorite outfits, they might cry anyway!  We bribed her with fruit snacks and miraculously, she smiled through the whole shoot without coercing her.  We still to this day have no idea how we got genuine smiles out of her!  
d. Mix up the color of everyone’s pants/bottoms if you don’t want to be matchy.
I get this question often, and I have found that mixing up bottoms works WONDERS.  I’ve preached this truth for your own wardrobes (HERE), and the same applies to mixing up your family’s pictures.  If everyone is wearing blue jeans, then the only part of your outfits that are differentiated are your tops.  If the colors on the bottom are mixed up, the photos have a lot more variety.
How to Choose Outfits for Family Pictures
e. Add a print or two!  In fact, start with a print if you’re really stuck.
When you look through the last 4 years of our family photos below, in addition to noticing we are al wearing different colored bottoms, you’ll also notice there’s always at least one print.  I always talk about how prints provide visual interest in your own outfits, and this holds true for a family photo, too.
Prints also give you a template for a color palette, so they can be a great place to draw inspiration or direction from.  I always say you can pull any colors from the print and incorporate them to the rest of your outfit.  The print does the work of tying them together for you.  This works for family photos too.
For example, Addie’s dress has yellow, orangey/browns, and olive in it.  We pulled out all of those colors and used them in other people’s outfits.  We happened to find a onesie for Ella that had a print with the same colors, so that worked out nicely!
The year prior with the maroon/tan/blue scheme, Addie’s bunny sweater was our guide with its blue and pink.  I echoed the pink with my maroon top (not matching colors, but same color family) and dark blue jeans.  I also added my own print with the scarf.
If you get stuck, find a print and pull out those colors for others to wear.
———-
It can feel like a huge task to choose outfits for the whole family.  Just keep in mind:
  1. Start with the pickiest person.
  2. Figure out which of your family members is willing to wear a print, then see if you can find clothes for other members of your family in some of the colors from the print. 
  3. Mix up those colored bottoms as much as you can!
Hopefully this helps give you some good handles for how to move forward!

Where We Print Our Cards From

Family Christmas Cards With Minted
For the last few years we’ve printed our cards from Minted because they have a billion designs that are gorgeous!
Above is from our first year.  We often do a front/back card, though I think you can get almost any card front/back or just the front.  I liked being able to write a short little message about our family as well as include a closeup of Addie.  Cuz let’s be real–our friends and family really just want to see pics of her anyway!  (The template/design we used this year is THIS one.)
You can also get cards from Minted that don’t have photos and are just beautiful cards on which you can write a message to friends and family to keep them updated.  That’s better than having to handwrite a message on every card.  If you are feeling behind on your holiday cards, you can order today and still get them by 12/18!  And, even if that doesn’t happen and you still want to send cards, I have definitely sent “happy holiday and happy new year” cards haha!
If you’ve got any tips to add for choosing outfits for family photos, please add them in the comments to help us all out!

More Family Photos!

Family Photo Outfit Ideas

2016
We totally cheated and just used a nice pic someone took of us at a wedding. 😜

 

How to Coordinate What to Wear for Family Pictures Without Being Matchy Family Picture Outfit Ideas

2017
I’m pregnant with Ella!  And the answer is yes–I do just make Benson wear those pants each year.  He’s a minimalist so he has like 3-4 pairs of pants which limits our options, haha!  I’m also of the mindset, “If it ain’t broke…”

 

Outfits for Family Photos Without Looking MatchyFamily Photo Outfits

2018
Benson and I are both wearing the same pairs of pants from 2015.  But, yellow and grey and olive are in the mix now.  Plus a new little person! 🤗🥰

 


 

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