What to wear for beautiful family portraits

Trying to figure out what you are going to wear for family portraits can be stressful. It used to be that everyone wore white tops and denim, and that was that, simple. The problem is that this doesn't show your personality (and who wears white t-shirts and denim these days?!), and it has been seen many times before. With more relaxed lifestyle portraits there is so much more choice available. Decide on clothing that matches your style; colourful, classic neutrals or quirky vintage pieces, the options are endless. Talk with your photographer who will be able to assist you with the look and location to help get you beautiful family portraits.

Here are 10 top tips to help you:

1. Decide on your Colour Scheme

The first thing to think about when you are choosing colours is where you plan to hang the portraits in your home and what colours are in that room. If you plan to hang the prints in a family room that is painted green and cream, and you plan to wear red and black, you need to think again about your clothing choices.

If your room is neutral and you'd just like a pop of colour from the portrait, take a look at Design Seeds website.  The artist finds beautiful images, and picks a colour palette out of those images that you might not otherwise notice. It can be applied to home decor or clothing. It helps your eye to see colour patterns that go together.

You can do a search by colour palettes or themes (spring, autumn, ocean, edible), find an image / colours that appeals to you and go with that.

2. Select one focal piece

Shop around to find one patterned piece that you love. It can be a little girl's floral dress or a boy's plaid shirt, but if you find one central piece, it helps to plan everything around that. Since mums like the kids to be the focal point, then use this piece on one of the children. That doesn't mean that they will stand out the most - after accessorizing everything will flow together.

3. Pick 3 colours

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

4. Layers & Accessories

Cardigan, necklace, headband, scarf, button up shirt, tights, hats, ties. Layers & accessories add dimension, fun, texture and therefore richness to the overall look. It's a good idea to lie out all your outfits and start throwing in accessories to see what works. If you have 2 girls they don't both need to get the same colour headbands -try two variations in colour. Boys have fewer options when it comes to layers (and seem more difficult to dress). Try to put 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-shirt underneath and maybe sleeves rolled up into each other.

5. Mum's - don't leave yourself until last

Don't pick everyone else's out and then just grab something from your closet that only looks "ok" on you because it matches the colour scheme. You need to feel GREAT in your family pictures! If anything, pick something that you think looks fabulous on you, then plan around that!  It's tough enough to get mums IN pictures, so when you are in them, you want to feel and look good!

6. Split up the colours

If there are 6 people in the family, and you have selected 3 main colours, don't put all of those colours on top, or on those close in age - you want to split them up. Put some colour towards the bottom in one or two as well. You can do this with shoes, skirts, and trousers. There are so many more options now with coloured jeans, footwear etc.

7. Clothing boards on Pinterest / Create style boards and magazine style templates on Polyvore

You can see fashion/clothing boards on Pinterest, they're great for ideas, (here is my 'What to Wear' board for families looking for inspiration http://pinterest.com/pictorial/what-to-wear/) but sometimes they don't have the perfect configuration for your family. You can make your very own style board using the website Polyvore - it has a wealth of fashion ideas and styles.

8. Split up the pairs

If you have natural pairs in the family: Mum and Dad, Brothers and Sisters, Mum and baby, try to split up the colours, as they will often be standing near each other. Try not to dress mum and baby alike as they will always naturally be a "pair". Husband and wife is the obvious other pair, so make sure they are also not too similar in colours. This part can get complicated, so do your best, and then let it go! The photographer will notice this and split everyone according to the colours. But ultimately natural/candid outdoor shots won't be so planned.

9. 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/wardrobes, shop well in advance so you aren't stressing at the last minute.

10. What not to wear

Don't wear clothing with large logos, writing or pictures on them. When you look at your photographs you want to be looking at faces and not be distracted by what is printed on the clothing. White trainers/shoes are also a distraction. If you are out on location and the weather is colder, rather than have large unflattering padded coats on, wear lots of thinner layers. Children can wear a vest, t-shirt, long sleeved top and a jumper, then a scarf and hat if needed.

Finally for more timeless photographs that won't date as clothes go out of fashion wear plainer, classic items.

Hopefully this guide will help you to think more about your clothing choices for your photography session and help to get images for your wall that you will love.

Want to have a no-pressure chat about whether or not Pictorial Photography is right for your family portraits?  e-mail me, sarah@pictorialphotography.co.uk and let me know what you are thinking!

Happy Co-ordinating!

Carol from SPEAK's Profile Portaits

Archive Post

Carol and I met at a wedding fayre in Kelso earlier this year, I was fascinated by her zesty stand which featured a massive bowl of fresh, bright lemons.  Her stand was for SPEAK which offers professional workshops for individuals (including best men, fathers of the bride and grooms!) who want or need to successfully present themselves.

I chose to attend one of the workshops myself as public speaking is something I have had trouble with. This might seem rather strange to those of you who have attended a wedding I've photographed as you will know that I don't have any problem in standing up to direct a group of 200+ wedding guests into a group.  I guess it only overcomes me during 'set' presentations,  I think it all started at university - I'd stand up to do a talk and my knees would start to wobble, this would then move up my body to my hands, shaking the notes, eventually even my jaw would start to shake making my voice wobble, REAL,L,L,Y emb,arr,ass,ing, agggh!

Carol was brilliant, her experience and knowledge shines - she taught me how to express my ideas and to give information in a really clear way.  I'm actually looking forward to putting my new techniques and presentation into practice, something I thought I'd NEVER again want to do.

Here are some photographs from a portrait shoot Carol commissioned, the photographs will be used for advertising and promotion for the new SPEAK website and in publications featuring SPEAK.

Carol said:
"Dear Sarah, Thank-you, You take a good photo whether indoors or out, even though I was tired on the day, you capture my animated enthusiasm in a 'thoughtful' context.  You have real talent and wonderful eye."

Thank you Carol :)

Do you have trouble talking in public?  Visit http://speak.uk.com/ for more information on the workshops with Carol, I'm highly recommending them (incase you hadn't realised).