This is the most commonly asked question I get when clients are booking their shoot with me. I get asked it so much, I decided to write a blog about it as a reference for anyone who is planning their family shoot.
A few key things I like to think about when selecting clothing for the family to wear:
1. The first thing you should consider is the location. For indoor portraits, color is less important to consider since I have different backgrounds that I can switch out to match better with what you decide to wear. However, with outdoor shoots, you should consider what could potentially be your background. Are you at the beach? If so, stick with more nautical colors. White, Blues, grays, some gold or yellow or even reds are best. Here's one of my favorite beach sessions I did with a family a while back. I love how the mom (because we all know it's mom who chooses the outfits!) matched everyone's colors without being too "matchy".
Alternatively, if you are not at the beach and are say at the park or other high foliage area, consider some of the colors that might potentially be your backdrop. There are no hard rules here but outside of the beach environment, I generally say "bright" is best. Reds, Pinks, Blues, Greens, the brighter the better. Tans and light browns are okay, but generally wash you out and make you blend in with brown backgrounds. Here's one of my favorite color combos that a client came up with when I said to consider dressing "bright".
2. Consider season, or better yet-the season you want to portray in the pictures. This doesn't mean you have to go all out with Christmas hats for Christmas but rather if you are doing a fall session in leaves that have turned, it's best to stick with longer sleeved shirts, jeans and boots as opposed to shorter dresses and shorts. This seems obvious, but we can get some unseasonable weather all throughout the year which might make it tempting to dress with the current weather conditions rather than the ones you are portraying in the photos. This is the same for all seasons.
Here's a good example of a client who's family dressed for the fall season even though it was a bit warmer that day:
3. Consider what others in the photo will be wearing. When I am picking out clothing for my own family, I like to start with one piece of clothing that speaks to me and build from there. Maybe its a pair of shoes that your daughter owns, or a tailored jacket that really slims you, whatever it is start with that piece and build out. Along these sames lines I like to see families keep patterns to 2-3. What that means exactly is that if one person is wearing stripes and another is wearing another bold print then have the rest of the group choose more neutral complementary colors without prints. You can add a printed accessory like a scarf or tie but tops and pants should be solids if 2 or 3 others are wearing prints. Don't be afraid to have fun with those 2 or 3 people who are wearing prints however. Mix stripes and polka dots, plaids and paisley.
4. Keep it simple. Picking out something to wear shouldn't be stressful. Like before mentioned, if you have one piece that speaks to you, build the rest of the outfits around that one piece. Keep the color scheme simple. 3 is a good rule of thumb for colors. Say your one piece that is speaking to you is a pretty floral top with pink and gray. You have two colors picked for you already (pink and gray) choose another color (white usually looks good with those colors) and keep everyone else's outfit within those colors. Now this certainly isn't a hard rule. In fact, if you worry too much about it your photos can come off as too "matchy" and planned so use this as a very lose suggestion.
5. No logos. This is the only "rule" I am sincerely passionate about. Logos of any kind can be extremely distracting in a photo. Your photo shoot should be about you and your family and not about selling a brand.
6. Do the opposite. Earlier I said to go "bright". Alternatively, doing no color can also be just as striking and can usually be a lot easier to coordinate with multiple people in a shoot. All black or all white makes a clean and crisp statement. It's also very easy to add a pop of color on select individuals when everyone is dressed in similar colors. Here's a family I shot that went with white colors which looked amazing against the fall foliage.
7. Make sure you are comfortable in anything you chose to wear at a shoot. This is the most important tip as shoots can be a bit nerve wracking as it is. While I try to take a lot of the pressure off the shoot by being my charming self ;), I know that the last thing you want to worry about is hurting feet from tight shoots or having a cranky child try and rip their itchy sweater off. At the end of the day, if you and your family are comfortable in what you are wearing, nothing can take away from feeling good during the shoot and it will show. Except maybe a pesky logo! ;)