This is my #1 most asked question, so if you’re completely lost then don’t worry. You’re not alone! Let me help point you in the right direction.
Before we get into it, if you have a session booked with me, please remember that I’m here for you EVERY step of the way. This means that if you need to meet up with me at the mall or your favorite clothing store, I’m totally up for any excuse for some pre-session retail therapy! You are also more than welcome to text or email me photos if you’re stuck or unsure. I also have a few pieces I have collected for my clients to use that might give your wardrobe that extra pop it needs to be fabulous so let’s talk if this part has you all stressed out!
First things first: let’s talk about things you should NOT do.
1. Matchy matchy.
Long gone are the days of everyone wearing denim jeans and matching black or white tee shirts. We will get into how to use color palettes in a bit, but for now, don’t dress everyone in the same thing. Unless they’re twins or you’re purposefully going for the Thing 1 and Thing 2 vibe, it’s just going to date your images.
Look, I love fashion. I’m not the most up to date on all the fun trends out there, but I love to check out what T-Swift and other celebs are bringing into style as much as the next girl. But keep those one piece rompers and crop tops out of your family portraits. You remember looking back at photos from the 70’s and 80’s and being able to tell EXACTLY what time period these were from because they’re so horribly outdated? We generally want to avoid this. Let’s choose some classy, timeless pieces and mix it up with some fun accessories for visual interest. This doesn’t mean we are choosing boring things, but lets choose shape over trend.
3. Logos and characters
That huge Aeropostale logo and Wonder Woman symbol are both designed to catch your eye. It’s fun in everyday life, but you don’t want to look at your family portraits and immediately see a character or brand. You want to see the person WEARING it. Unless you’re purposefully trying to tell the story of your child’s obsession with Elmo or Spiderman, they need to keep characters at home.
4. Bright and neon colors
Here’s the thing with color: they can work FOR you or AGAINST you. Bright and vibrant colors are so fun and CAN photograph really well, but this is scary water to tread because they can also throw color casts into your skin that are gosh-darn-near-impossible to remove in editing and will cost you in post processing fees. If you want to incorporate some color, let’s do it in moderation and away from where the light might reflect it back into your skin. More on this later, too.
Ok, now that we have the ground rules, let’s talk about where to start.
1. Find a color palette. I have a great Pinterest board for this, located right here. I HIGHLY recommend considering what colors are in your house and near where you want to display your images for this part. But also consider time of year. Spring sessions aren’t the best mix for reds, blacks, golds, and plaids, but they’re fabulous for softer pastels, creams, and grays! Likewise, you probably wouldn’t use vibrant pinks and ocean blues in the fall, but in summer they can be so fun! If you get stuck on this part, look to nature. There’s a reason its so beautiful. Earthy tones are flattering 100% of the time and MUCH easier to coordinate than bolder tones. Choose some neutrals and then pair it with one or two of your favorite colors.
2. Work with your family within this color palette. If we are doing a family session, this isn’t all on you. Let your husband have a say if he wants to shop for himself. Kids will value the experience more if they feel confident and excited about their outfits. Give them the color palette and some guidelines and make it a fun experience. You don’t have to do this part alone. This will also keep you from accidentally staring at that color palette too long and making everyone match. You’ll just want to make sure any colors you add are either tones that absorb light (rather than reflect it) or they are not near the face where the light can bounce the color back onto the neck or chin.
3. Layer. Layer. LAYER. Hey, did I mention layers, yet? Sure, you can’t go wrong with a pair of dark wash jeans and a solid tee shirt when you’re in a pinch. But imagine your husband sporting those great jeans and tee shirt with a well fitted button up shirt and a vest overtop. Bonus points for a well tailored sports coat. Sweaters and scarves will forgive a multitude of those imperfections us ladies all overanalyze about ourselves. The key here is to look for textures and shape. Chunky sweaters are cozy and cute, but they need to be fitted and show off those curves rather than hiding them and adding unwanted weight.
4. Have fun with accessories. Vests, scarves, jewelry, hats, jackets, etc will all add depth and are a fun way to be a little more expressive without being distracting. Just make sure you aren’t using loud pieces like extremely chunky jewelry or reflective sequined vests.
5. Patterns and solids were meant to be mixed. Its SO easy to go overboard with textures and patterns so if you’re completely lost, choose solids and then add accessories to make it more interesting. But patterns are very popular and can add some great visual interest when done right! An easy rule of thumb for family photos is to only choose patterns for one or two family members. I recommend staying far away from stripes of almost any kind, but plaids and florals are very much in style! Look for patterns that are softer and not as big and loud. Remember, you want to wear your clothes, you don’t want them wearing you and you don’t want to look like all of your outfits are competing with each other. When I had my family photos done, I chose a dress that had a floral pattern to it and used it to make my color palette. It made everything much easier for me!
One last note: talk to your photographer if you’re unsure of something. Most of us care DEEPLY what you show up in and we want to this to be as stress free as possible for you! We might also have some suggestions for you based on the location and time of day/year we are shooting. 🙂