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What to wear in Family Pictures

Deciding what to wear in Family Pictures can be a daunting task. What colors to wear? How can we coordinate, but not be match-matchy? I’ve got some great tips to think about, and at the bottom of the post, links to other ideas to help you on your way to get fabulous family pictures!  I have our family pictures taken at least once a year, if we are going on a fun family trip, I may squeeze in a second (often taking them myself–you can too–see the link at the bottom). I may run all over town looking for the perfect items to wear, but this past year, I mostly used what we had at home for our casual At Home pictures (below). It was my boys favorite ever because they got to wear their favorite athletic clothes!

What to Wear in Family Pictures

{more from this session HERE}

I simply LOVE planning out clothing to wear in our family pictures. It’s a challenge…that I enjoy. Here is my family below in our turquoise, yellow, and navy clothing family pictures last summer in California:

{To see more from this session, CLICK HERE. See how I decorated with these pictures HERE.

Image taken by my awesome friend Shari Hanson in Huntington Beach, CA}

I have so much to say about planning family portrait clothing, so listen up!

Trying to figure out what you are going to wear for family portraits can be stressful. It used to be that everyone wore white shirts and khaki’s and that was that–simple. Sadly, that doesn’t say WOW in family portraits, it doesn’t show a whole lot of personality, and everyone has done it (ok, almost everyone). Besides that, white washes people out, so I generally suggest staying away from white for anyone in portraits, unless used as an accent, or placing colorful accessories over a white top. Here are my top 10 tips:

1. Decide on a Color Scheme

The first thing I ask when someone seeks advice on colors to wear, I ask where they plan to hang the portraits in their home, and what colors are in that room. For some people, this doesn’t make a difference. But for others, if they plan to hang the prints in their family room that is painted red and black, and you plan to wear orange and brown, it won’t work very well. If your room is neutral (like mine) and you’d like some color pop from the portraits, and you just need help deciding on colors, here are a few thoughts.

Design Seeds is a site full of fabulous eye candy. The artist finds beautiful images, and pics a color palette out of those images that you might not otherwise notice. It can be applied to home decor or clothing, I think of it when picking out color schemes for portraits. It helps your eye to see color patterns that go together.

color sprigcolor dessertstreet hues

{Image source for all three}

You can do a search by color palettes or themes (spring, fall, ocean, edible), and you can sit there for hours drooling over the beautiful photography, but find an image/colors that resonate with you, and go with that! My home is fairly neutral in nature with lots of color accents. I also have our family portraits taken once or twice a year, so I’ve gone through lots of color schemes. I really need to look through these to decide on our upcoming family portrait colors!

2. Select one focal piece

If you have a color palette in mind, or even if you don’t…shop around to find one patterned piece that you love. It can be a little girls floral dress or a boys plaid shirt, but if you find one central piece, it helps to plan everything around that. Since us moms like our kids to be the focal point, I’d suggest this focus piece to be on one of the children (not an adult). That doesn’t mean that they will stand out the most, after accessorizing (my next  point) it will all flow together.

3. Pick 3

It’s a good idea to pick 3 colors to work with as your main colors, then consider grays, whites, blacks, or browns as freebie’s. Not necessarily all of them together, but one or two that work with the 3 colors you chose.

4. Layers & Accessories

Cardigan, necklace, headband, scarf, button up shirt, tights, hats, ties. Layers & accessories add dimension, pizazz, fun, texture and therefore richness to the overall look. In the past, I have had the problem of purchasing all of these in my color palette (while keeping the receipts very close by) and once I have the clothing planned out, start throwing in accessories to see what works. If I have 2 girls, they don’t both get yellow headbands, but one yellow and  one blue to spread out the colors. If you notice on my boys in the image above, they both have undershirts to provide another layer. Boys have fever options when it comes to layers (and seem more difficult to dress). I often try to put my 2 boys in two types of shirts and layer them differently. One a button up with t-shirt underneath, the other a polo type with T underneath and maybe sleeves rolled up into each other. Below, I found a vest that fit.

5. Mom’s, don’t give yourself the leftovers

You know how some moms will go around the dinner table and make sure everyone has all of their food situated before they sit down, and then their food is cold? Don’t be that mom when it comes to clothing for your family portraits. Don’t pick everyone else’s out, then just grab something from your closet that only looks “ok” on you, but matches the color scheme. You need to feel AWESOME in your family pictures! If anything, I’d pick something that you think looks fabulous on you, then plan around THAT!  It’s tough enough to get mothers IN pictures, so when you are in them, you want to feel and look good! My friend Reachel has great ideas on dressing for your body type on the sidebar of her blog, Cardigan Empire.

6. Split up the colors

If I’ve got 6 people in my family, and have selected 3 main colors, I don’t want all of those colors on top, nor to the people that are close in age–I want to split them up. I want to weigh some color towards the bottom in one or two of them as well.  I do this with shoes, skirts, and pants. There are so many more options now with those fun colorful jeans. I did also purchase a pair of red converse for my son for our pictures last December that hasn’t been worn much since–but darn-it they looked awesome in the picture!  You aren’t just investing in a photographer, but in the clothing to enhance your awesome family (see red shoes below).

{More from this Christmas Tree Family Session HERE. Images by my friends Heather and Tricia}

7. Use Polyvore to create a style board

You’ve seen the fashion/clothing boards on Pinterest (I’ve made my own “what to wear in family portraits” pinterest board here).

They’re great, but don’t always have the perfect configuration for your family, and you may not care for some of the pieces. Have you wondered how to make them?  Well I did just that using Polyvore, but the details may need to be a post for another day. I created my own “set” and typed in the beginning basics of color/clothing item I wanted, and was able to drag them around the board. It searches from a database,  you can even type in from the stores you shop from. I was trying to arrange our clothing for the above family pictures. I knew I wanted red, green, and navy as our main colors, and I made this style board last year:

Originally, I wanted to wear a red hat. I even found one, and decided I didn’t like the way it looked on me. Since I had planned to have a bold red accent piece, I switched out the hat for the scarf. I had also originally planned to have a little yellow in the mix, then decided I had too many colors and wanted to simplify. I also couldn’t decide if I  wanted the stripes and the vest on my son or husband, so kept them as alternatives while I figured it out. I had 4 people set as to how they were  going to dress, but wasn’t sure about the other two. I kept this image on my phone and referred to it while I was shopping, to remember what I already had. With my youngest daughters vest, I turned a boys t-shirt inside  out and cut it down the middle, no one was the wiser!

8. Lay it on the floor

Once you have gathered items in the colors you’ve picked, I try to find a spot in my home that I can keep it all out. I like to lay the pieces on the floor, and look at it from afar, take a picture of it, so I can see it from a different perspective.

{Image taken with my tripod–and I ran–more image HERE}

9. Split up the pairs

If you have natural pairs in the family: mom and dad, Brothers, sisters, Mom and baby, try to split up the colors, as they will often be standing near each other. When I have babies, I know I will want to be holding them (helps me look thinner) so I see my baby as my “pair” and aim to not dress us alike. My husband is my obvious other pair, and as the two tallest, I have to make sure he and I are also not “matchy-matchy.” This part can get complicated, so do your best, then let it go!  Hopefully the photographer will notice this and split everyone according to the colors. But ultimately, the natural/candid shots that I like to take won’t be so planned out.


{More from this family picture session HERE}

 10. Plan ahead

Make sure you start this planning when you book your session (hopefully a few weeks before it takes place). Be thinking of it, look around in your home/closets, shop well in advance so you aren’t stressing at the last minute.

There you have my top 10 tips to think about when planning what to wear in family portraits! Come back tomorrow to figure out how to choose a location for your family portraits that will reflect your style and personality. Make sense? Any questions???
Do you have Family Picture Sessions on the brain this fall?

More clothing board ideas here.

 Join me today at these other sites on the web for more inspiration with Taking Family Pictures:

Infarrantly Creative–Decorate with Pictures

Capturing Joy–What to Wear for Family Portraits

The Idea Room–How to Enjoy and Not Just Endure Family Pictures

The House of Smiths–The Best Backdrops and Settings for Family Photos

Capturing Joy–How to Take your Own Family Pictures

{If the direct links above don’t work, click on the home page}


If you love photography and want to learn more about your camera, enter the giveaway this week to win Say NO to Auto or Get Focused

Kristen Duke

Kristen Duke

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Kristen Duke
Kristen Duke
Kristen Duke
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  1. Hi Kristen. Thanks SO much for this post. It has been a big help. I will definitely be using this post for my family portraits in the future. Thank you for sharing your knowledge :)

  2. Amazing! I am seriously loving these. Do you mind if I link back to you on my blog in the future? This gives me a lot of great dressing ideas for the family pictures we need to take, lol!
    Michelle recently posted..Mermaid Hair TutorialMy Profile

  3. Wow-this was so insightful! I always end up with pictures too matchy-matchy, even when it’s just my two girls. This is a lot to think about-thank you so much!

  4. I have identical twin girls. We dress them alike a lot! (it cuts down on the fighting over clothes). When you say to break up pairs, should I have them wear different things? I was kind of planning on having them wear the same outfit…

    • Kristen Duke says:

      It’s totally up to you. If you regularly dress them alike, then it fits to do that for pictures. I’ve seen a changing trend with twins that I know where they don’t necessarily dress them the same, but coordinating–same shirt in different colors, different styles/same color. That’s what I like to individualize them some while still coordinating with their life buddy. I like to see that, but again, if you normally dress them alike, then do that for the pictures! Here is a link to two sisters that I have photographed a few times. They are very close in age, so not twins, but their mom does a great job of coordinating with colors while giving them their own personal touch. Hope that helps!

  5. Love this! I will have to keep this post in mind for my next fam pictures!! Thanks for your nice comment on mandis blog! Gotta love all the trolls, right?!

  6. Jeanne Nelson says:

    Thanks for the great information! We are planning an extended family picture with 18 – includes small children and 2 new babies. I was not happy with the positioning of our family members last time around. Do you have any thoughts for us?

  7. Thank you so much for this post! Totally pinning it and sharing it on my page! Such valuable info!
    Jess from Cox’s Corner recently posted..Halloween Blocks and Giveaway Winners!My Profile

  8. Love ALL your different colour schemes. How fun! I keep buying clothes that coordinate for my family to have a shoot – but Just gotta convince the husband again.
    - I have a folder on pinterest too for “what 2 wear – photoshoot”. Hope u don’t mind me pinning this too. Well written and beautiful examples of your lovely family :)

    • Kristen Duke says:

      My husband doesn’t get super thrilled about it, but he knows how much it means to me, so he trys to be happy! It’s fun to think of a new color scheme, but I’ve done so many, need to figure out what for this year!

  9. This is the best what to wear post with many examples that I’ve read. You have the cutest family! :)
    Emily recently posted..Where Tyrone WorksMy Profile

  10. Shara Rust says:

    I love this post! I found you through Pinterest. And would LOVE your help on getting my colors coordinated! I’m bad at visualizing what it would look like. We are getting our family pictures taken in a couple weeks and I cannot decide on what I want to do. I do really like your yellow/orange scheme. Here are the details I have and maybe you can help me out with the rest? I have 3 kids. 1 girl (age 7), 2 sons, (ages 4 and 2). I know for myself, I am wearing white skirt with white top, brown belt, brown cowgirl boots, and a dark blue denim jacket (which is a crop jacket – if that’s a word.) We are taking them in a field with large grass and we may take some by a wood fence. I do like the orange/yellow colors. It goes with fall – I just don’t know where to put the colors and on who. Make sense? Could ya help me?
    Also – your name sounds soo familiar. It’s driving me crazy. We have some mutual friends, I see. Amanda Towery and Alisa Vasquez. I am also from Austin. Our paths have to have had to cross at some point or another, right?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Shara! I know Amanda through the school she works at. Alisa…through church friends.

      With the outfit you plan to wear, I’d do yellow or orange in an accent with a necklace or scarf. For your daughter, it’d be fun to have her in a dress with flowers or pattern in blue/white/orange/yellow or even a solid yellow or orange. With the boys: I like to have my two boys one in a plaid or stripe, the other in a solid (depending on what sister wears). If one wears a polo, the other wears a button up. Maybe as a “jacket” not buttoned. I like a bit different in styles.

  11. I love this article so much! I love the photos, I love all the ideas shared, and I love everything in it! Thank you so much for sharing this perfectly wonderful article.

  12. Awesome tips for family photos!

  13. nancyeileen says:

    Suggestions for a family photo shoot welcoming home a US Marine soldier.
    Any thoughts on this would be appreciated!

  14. susannah says:

    these are great – thanks

  15. My daughter birthday is July 4th and we are going to take a family portrait, what would you recommend for the 4 of us to wear? I have a red, white and blue striped dress for my little girl, but not sure what I should do for my husband, daughter or myself.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      see if you can find a subtle plaid for your husband. A red dress/’skirt with blue necklace or vise versa is cute for you, maybe look at florals or another solid color for other daughter.

  16. Thank you so much for these tips! I have been stressing the last couple of weeks about outfits…I’ve even had some pretty crazy dreams about it!:). Now I’m excited to get going on our color palette and find something that works for us!

  17. michelle says:

    love this post, kristen!

    i have yet to find something about dressing a family of 6 with FOUR girls!!! i’ve done the family photo a few times and feel like i’m running out of ideas. my husband and i always like to wear jeans in the picture and i think i’m going to wear a off-white v-neck tshirt with a good sized pale bluish-green beaded necklace. my daughters are 10, 8, 4 and 2. we are taking the pictures outside in july. i’ve never done bright colors and think that would be fun, but i’m not sure how many to use, how many patterns to bring in, etc.

    thanks so much!!!!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      With 4 girls, I’d do different colored solids with 2 and patterns with the other two. Stripes one, floral one. Mix up dresses and pants. One pattern and one solid in a dress, the other pattern and the other solid in pants. Just my thoughts!

  18. Hi, I need help! I have a photo shoot for a family of 22. 6 families total..we are doing the shoot at a beach and need help coordinating color schemes so it doesn’t look to busy. Do you have any suggestions?

    • A lil more details:

      1 Family of 3: Parents and one teenager
      1 Family of 4: Parents, 1 toddler, 1 preteen
      1 Family of 8: Parents, 1-7 month old, 1 teenager, 4-kids ranging from 5-9
      1 Family of 5: Parents, 1 toddler, 1-7 year old, 1 teenager
      1 Family of 4: Parents, 2 mid-twenties..

      Ok that’s a family of 24 not 22, oops!

      • its also going to be at a beach! Sorry I keep leaving out details that are important!

      • I know I’m not the one you asked, but I do have professional experience. For the beach, wear lighter colors, like beige, pastels (but not yellow), and even white. Ideal would be if they could all wear Khaki pants or shorts, and various solid color shirts. No stripes or patterns.

        Since beach shots are by nature more casual, sandals are good. No hats, as they will shadow their face and may block others’ faces. Shorts and short sleeves, or long sleeves rolled up.

        Bring beach mats or beige towels, and have some of them sit or kneel. Have heads staggered, use pyramid or circular composition, and try to arrange immediate family members together. Since it’s casual, have them rest their arms or heads on other family member’s legs or shoulders, to give a feeling of closeness and affection.

        Hope this helps.

  19. EXCELLENT ADVICE!! I’ve been a portrait photographer for over 30 years, and I can’t think of anything to add! In fact, I’m going add some of this to my own advice I when I consult my clients!

  20. Hello Kristen,

    All of your information is beyond helpful, but I still need some advice. I am heading to Florida next week & of course am planning a family picture :) I am trying to figure out a color scheme. I will be hanging the picture in my living room which is red, black & gray. The picture more than likely will be taken on the beach & I would like a color that would add a little pop to my living room… any suggestions?

    • I forgot to say who would be in the picture not sure if that really matters, but it will be me, my husband, our daughter & our son, plus they are both bringing one friend each. A total of 6 people 3 girls & 3 boys.

      • Kristen Duke says:

        Am I way too late answering this? I don’t always catch all the comments!!! Email me if you need something!

  21. Have a question I have two daughters and trying to figure out what outfits will be the best for their photo’s of them together…I have two options. One set is 2 dresses that are is solid turquoise blue and the other is turquoise blue with other colors and designs in the skirt portion but turquoise on top. Then another option is the exact same dress…one wears pink and the other turquoise. Any help you can give will be very much appreciated or any advice. I just want them to look cute together:) Love your idea of accessorizing and layering.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Lisa! It’s really a personal preference, and I think both are a great option, but I like #1 better. Solid with a pattern in similar shades. Have fun!!

  22. Hi Kristen, Thanks for these tips, they will definitely come in handy as I plan for family pictures in a few weeks! I came across your article after googling “what to wear for family portraits”. I thought you would want to know that another article that I came across was identical to yours and did not refer or link back to your blog – seems unfair not to give you the credit. Here is the link:

  23. Love your tips for family portraits! Wondering if you can help me decide on coordinating outfits for my family for fall outdoor pictures. Mom, Dad & three kids. Girl (17 years old; blonde); Boy (13 years old; dark brown hair); Boy (3 years old; light brown hair); Dad (dirty blonde hair); Mom (dark dark brown hair). I was thinking of everyone wearing dark jeans, then using dark plums and browns. Any ideas?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I think plum and brown sound great–I’d throw in a third color, maybe navy blue or a mustard yellow, using some white here and there. With colorful skinny jeans, and skirts as options wit the girl, I’d look for some colorful (yellow maybe?) jeans to break up the dark jeans on the bottom. A plaid or stripe for the boys. Really, find one patterned shirt that you love and build the rest of the family outfit around it!

      • Thanks for the advice!! Yesterday I found two faux leather moto in dark plum and one in light tan. Thinking I will wear one over a dress with boots, and the 17 year old will wear the other one maybe with jeans or a dress. That should help break up the jeans look. Also thinking about adding a little fedora type hat on my 3 year old. As of now, thinking of leaving dad and 13 year old boy in dark jeans and shirt….will look for one with a pattern…..and then have a little more fun with the other 3 outfits. Thanks again!!

  24. Have you done a post yet on how to create a style board on polyvore? I’d love to see that. Thanks for all the great ideas!

    • I am having fall outdoor pictures taken of myself, my husband, son (6 y/o) and daughter (3 y/o). I am going to have my daughter wear a navy and white sleeveless dress (possibly with a jeans jacket), my son wear a solid navy sweater (with half zip collar). Do you think the kids will coordinate well together? I’m not sure what my husband and I should wear. I’d like to introduce another color, but not sure how, or where, and I don’t want us (parents) to be the focal point of the picture? Any advice?? thanks!

  25. This is great! I’ve looked at so many sites recommending people wear all black, or closely matching outfits (like everyone in jeans), and it just looks so unnatural and totally unlike me. Your advice shows how to use color in family portraits so that it works, and you don’t end up with the weird “we all dress like twins” thing.

  26. This is great, with the holidays coming up, there will be some family pics, and I LOVE Cardigan Empire!
    Claudia recently posted..Outlander giveaway!My Profile

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  28. Dominique says:

    We are doing Christmas card portraits. I’m freaking out an what i want my hubby and daughter to wear. I think i’m going to wear red sweater with black or white pants i bought my daughter a lovely red dress. but i don’t want red to be overpowering and i’m stuck worst part the pictures are in two days!

  29. We are having a 3 family shoot (10 of us) at the end of April. My husband my 3 year old son and me. My parents and 3 brothers. And my husbands parents. We have 3 hours all together and the photos will be taken in our back yard. We have railroad tracks, woods, fields and a barn. I’m trying to come up with a color scheme and I’m going crazy. I really want each little family to have their own color scheme but I want them all to match for the big family photos. Any suggestions?

  30. Thank you for this! I am a family photographer as well, and I send my clients to this post when they ask about outfit ideas. Great post, and great information! Thanks again!
    Nicole recently posted..Greenville, SC photographer | Project 365 | Around the homeMy Profile

  31. Hi! I hope it’s okay but i used this info in a PDF I created for my website! I did mention twice in the document that the information came from your blog! Please let me know if this is okay! Thanks! I did modify it a little bit(took out the parts talking about your family! If you’d like, I can send you the document so you can approve it before I post it! I made sure to give you credit for it! :)

  32. Ӊi there colleagues, іts fantzstic piece of writing ɑbout teachingand entirel explained, κeep it up all thе time. recently posted.. Profile

  33. Samantha Truskowski says:

    I am going to be taking family pics soon!!!!!! And is it okay to have me and my husband wear one color, my son and daughter to wear one color, and my oldest daughter and fince to wear one color!!!!!! So is it okay????


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