What to Wear in a Family Photo Session

The most common question I get asked before a family photoshoot is about what to wear.

The nature of natural-light/lifestyle photography means that your photographs will likely have several, varied background — and unpredictable ones if you choose an outdoor location. But choosing this type of session also means that your personality and tastes can show through the camera.

Consider these points when selecting outfits for parents and baby:

  1. Think about how you will use the photos. Are you making a family album, planning to order large canvasses to hang on the wall, or simple framing the pictures for grandma and grandpa? Carefully consider your No. 1 desire for the finished product and tailor your outfit choice to fit that need. You probably won’t want to dress in all red if you plan to hand the photos in a green room. You may want to have a longer session and change outfits if you plan to use the photos for multiple purposes.

  2. Contrast with your surroundings. Light neutrals almost always make for good pictures. No matter what background, a solid, light color will come out well on camera. But maybe beige and pastels aren’t your style. If you choose an indoor shoot — a nursery or bedroom, for instance — you will have complete control over the backdrop. If you know your nursery is full of clean, white space or solid dark walls, you can be free to choose an outfit with a fun print. Just make sure you choose contrasting colors; wear bright, vibrant colors with a white wall, light colors with a dark wall. This will help the print stand out against the clean canvas of the wall/floor/bedding. (Sometimes a bright print can work outdoors, if you know your location is a clear field of grass or a similar uniform backdrop, but it’s risky!)

  3. Complement each other, but don’t match. I recommend dressing the family in complementary but not exact matching outfits. So if baby is in white, maybe mom is in tan or light blue. If baby is wearing red, maybe dad is in white or grey. Only one person in the family (probably baby) should wear a print if you choose an indoor session. Multiple prints will make the pictures look too busy, and exact matching prints will run together.

  4. Casual vs. formal. How casual or formal your outfits are is completely up to the client. However, make sure that everyone in the family is in the same level attire.

  5. Try on outfits before the session. There is nothing worse than ordering a special outfit for baby and then realizing 20 minutes before the photographer arrives that it doesn’t fit right. It can be hard to find a perfect fit for a newborn or even an older infant. Don’t underestimate the cuteness of a simple onesie or the beauty of a simply swaddled baby — your baby’s natural beauty will shine through the camera … unless they are drowning in ill-fitted shirts and dresses.

  6. Consider letting baby wear their birthday suit. If you want to capture the raw beauty of your baby wrapped in only a blanket or your arms, make sure to loosen their clothing and diaper about an hour before the session. That will ensure no lines or indentations show up in your photos. The photographer will be sure to capture just the right angle to avoid exposing the personal bits.

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