What to Wear for Your Family Photo Session - Emma Lee Photography

What to Wear for Your Family Photo Session

Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot

You did it!

You snagged a family photo session with your favorite photographer (me!). Now that it’s in the calendar, you’re left to pick your looks! Get ready to look your best on camera with the tips below. I’m giving you all the industry tips for what to wear for your family photo session. Every occasion is a special occasion with your family, so I make sure to treat every family session as such. My family portrait sessions have a knack for being fun and bringing out your natural family dynamic. Think lots of loving looks, laughter caught on camera, and the honest mix of chaos that comes from all of you being in the same place at once.

The key to looking your best for your family photo session is threefold and it starts with defining the vibe of your shoot. To get some clarity on the vibe, ask yourself what you plan on using the photos for! Will they hang in your home over your headboard? Will you frame them as gifts for grandma and grandpa? Or will you be sharing on social media and mailing every cousin a copy as your Christmas card? Whatever your answer (try: all of the above), these questions can help you decide if you want your family to dress casual, kitchy, or timeless!

Dressing casually can show off more of your individual personalities,  great for hanging around the home and sharing with friends. Dressing in formal looks will keep your photos timeless, perfect for gifting to mom and dad. Finally, dressing in a fun kitsch theme can highlight your character as a family. Picking the vibe lets you settle on the next two pieces that come with tackling what your family wears for your photo shoot: color and style!

Start here for insider tips

Choosing the cut and layers of what you wear comes after you settle on a color palette for your family. However, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to color. So, here are some insider tips from a photographer herself on what will look best on camera:

Select softer, lighter tones and muted shades. 

A soft palette will keep the focus on your faces. Above all, soft colors will let the way you feel about each other highlight your portraits. Stay away from black because the color doesn’t reflect back detail into the camera and can get lost in shadows or dull your pictures! The camera loves softer shades of pink and blue and light neutrals like creams, heather gray, and brown leather. Plus, these soft color palettes always fit perfectly into the natural outdoor photo locations the PNW has to offer.


Emma Lee Photography Family Portrait

Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot

Mix, don’t match.

I get it. You finally picked the color that flatters everybody best so why not pick up a shirt for everyone in that same color? I’ll tell you why: because on camera, the matching color can turn into one big color patch with smiles and shoes sticking out of it. A uniform look for everybody in the family, from an artistic standpoint, can overwhelm the composition and more importantly, can take away from your individual personalities on camera.

The best way to prevent this is by picking 3-4 colors to mix and match the family in with an accent color if you’d like to add some character. A mix of patterns and textures are welcome but keep in mind that they adhere to the color theme and simply play up the visual interest–not add another color element.


Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot


The Hong family hit it right on the nail by encompassing all of these tips. For example, we’ve got everybody in neutral creams, a classic dark pant base, and a coral accent on the matriarchs. On a second glance, you’ll notice the men’s shirts all have their own patterns and yet they don’t distract from the composition or compete against each other. The result: gorgeous pictures that show off the kids, their love for each other, and enough variety to bring the dimension of the whole family to life!


Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot

Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot


Now that you know what colors to look for in your closet and while out shopping, here are some more insider tips from a pro (who gets paid to make you look and feel your best) on what styles will flatter you and your family best on camera!

Let’s start with Mom:

A surefire tip for making certain you will love the way you look in your photos is choosing silhouettes that flatter and compliment your natural features. Don’t be shy to show off your beauty and accentuate your favorite body parts!

Dresses and skirts look the most stunning on camera because they compliment every female body. The flow and drama of longer, full-length flowy dresses can create an amazing look and bring movement to the composition. The longer hem also makes moving around and posing with your little ones easier (versus crouching down or running after them in a cocktail length). And of course, if you are an expecting mother, the long maxi length creates an impeccable silhouette for showing off your growing bump!


Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo ShootEmma Lee Photography Family Portrait


When it comes to sleeves and cuts, there are two tips to keep in mind when choosing styles. Thin straps or strapless style tops and dresses are the least flattering and can appear to widen your upper body on camera. The most flattering cut is always the ¾ length sleeve. It has a slimming effect on all bodies. Consider this when deciding on what to wear!


Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot


I recommend booties or heels, always. Don’t worry about your session location! You can always wear a pair of shoes for hiking from the parking lot to the beach and simply switch into a flattering heel for your photos. Shoes with height will flatter and elongate your legs, with closed-toe shoes being the best option to create a continuous line from hip to toe and do the most for elongating your figure. If you’re in love with a peep-toe shoe, a great pedicure will definitely be worth your while. You won’t regret this detail in the years to come!

Looks for Dad:

Let’s be honest. Dad has it easiest when it comes to narrowing down look options. A classic button down, short or long sleeve, is easily dressed up or down. Think buttoned and tucked in with a belt for a classic look versus untucked or unbuttoned for a casual feel. Polo shirts are a nice middle of the road option and the more comfortable choice if your husband can’t be bothered with buttons.


Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot


When it comes to bottoms (casual shorts or slacks), fitted pants will always look best on camera. You want a neat pant on your partner to be sure the focus in the frame stays on your expressions and not his wrinkled pant cuffs.

Closed-toe shoes are the most sophisticated and brown leather dress shoes compliment any outfit, including yours.

You can elevate his look with layering and accessories. Something as simple as a bow tie or blazer does a great job of adding personality and a level of class if that’s the vibe you’ve decided on. Otherwise, a sweater is a perfect layered look for a more casual vibe.

Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot

The Kids:

I know you want the kids to stand out and be their cutest selves! The real tip here is making sure that whatever they come dressed in is comfortable. Enough so for them to play in because we are going to have fun! Consider outfit options they can run around in and be swept into your arms (or into the air) easily without too much of a fuss.

For the little ones:

I recommend keeping it simple! An adorable tulle skirt for your daughter can be dressed up or down with mary jane shoes or sneakers. You can opt for a button up shirt or casual cotton tee and sweater for your son. Keep an extra outfit ready to go at your shoot for options or in case of accidents on the drive over. If you have siblings, it’s okay to dress them the same granted they wear different color or pattern options!

Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot

And the bigs:

Your older kids will have their own opinions on how to dress themselves so stick to the palette and let them choose what they feel the most confident in. We always want to make sure you and your family feel your best in your looks for your shoot! Do steer them away from their favorite graphic shirt or anything with an obvious logo. A solid color or low contrast print will offer a more timeless look in your family portraits.


Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot


To sum up the main points:

  1. Consider how you’ll be sharing, where you’ll be framing and hanging, or who will be seeing your photos to determine the vibe of your family’s portraits.
  2. Soft, muted shades of color photograph best and compliment your family as a cohesive ensemble.
  3. Pick styles that flatter and fit you.
  4. Make sure your kids are fuss free and comfortable to capture their biggest smiles!

I can’t wait to see what you and yours come up with for your photo session! They grow up so fast and I’m all about capturing those real moments for you to remember for years to come. Tell me what your dream family portrait vibe is for your session in the comments below!


Emma Lee Photographer Family Photo ShootEmma Lee Photographer Family Photo Shoot

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