Family photography: what to wear?

Parents walking and laughing with a young baby in a pink corduroy dress, with nicely co-ordinating outfits for a family photography session

What should we wear for our family photography session? It’s one of the questions I get asked all the time, and I thought it was worth writing a separate post about. 

I want the whole family photography experience to be really enjoyable for you. Your clothing is a really important part of your planning. The right outfits can make everyone feel comfortable and relaxed, as well as really elevating the photographs. It is worth putting a bit of thought into this ahead of the session. So wear something that you feel really good in, but that still feels like you: aim for being the best version of your normal selves!

When I had my first lifestyle photography session for my own family, I spent ages choosing outfits for my children. Then I suggested clothing for my husband based on this. I left myself until last and then also ran out of time. My own outfit ended up being a bit of a last minute decision. It wasn’t awful, but I did always wish that I’d planned it with a little more time. So I always recommend that you put yourself first, start with your own outfit and then fit the rest of the family around you! 

But this doesn’t really answer the question of what to wear for your session, so let me delve into that a little more. All the photos in this post are what I consider to be really good examples of what to wear for family photography, so have a look at these, and read through the advice.

A family photography session at the beach with beautifully coloured clothing, blues, greys and a pink cardigan

What do we actually wear? 

So what clothing does actually work well for a family photography session? Here are a few key tips:

  1. Dress for comfort. Make sure that clothes fit well and avoid anything too tight or too baggy.
  2. Consider the weather! If your children are warm and dry, then we can concentrate on having fun and creating a lovely session for you all. If it’s cold and you want to avoid wearing coats, then think about layering up thermals underneath gorgeous knitwear instead. Also, bear in mind that it might be wet or muddy outside, so avoid clothes that won’t work! I want you all to relax and have some fun, not worry about mud stains on knees. 
  3. Consider the location. This has an impact on your clothing choices in lots of ways. Your clothing needs to be reasonably practical and comfortable. You also want your clothing to look vaguely appropriate for the location: if your session is at your own home then you can all be in more relaxed clothes; you could be barefoot and informal on the beach; if we are exploring the woods then you’ll need proper shoes.
  4. Think about colours. Wearing co-ordinating colours can bring a sense of unity to the photos. You don’t want to all match, but you want to look like you all fit together. Think about an overall colour palette, tones that work well together. For example, if one child is wearing very colourful clothing and another is in neutral colours, then this will look unbalanced in the images. I know that a lot of people really struggle to visualise what might work in terms of co-ordinating clothing, so I’ve put together a Pinterest board with images to help, that you can see here.
  5. Consider your backdrop. If we are at the beach, then the background is going to be mainly blue, so think about clothing that will look good in front of this. A neutral colour palette (earthy tones, browns, whites, greys) is always beautiful, as it harmonises with the backdrop of the sea. But also, a pop of colour can also look really incredible. You can use a colour wheel to help visualise what would work – this tool is fun and helpful if you want to play around with different combinations. Complementary (opposite) colours will always work really well. E.g. if your family session is on the moors, then you’ll have a lot of greens and greys as a backdrop: orange, or deep red tones would look really gorgeous against this. 
  6. Add visual interest with textures. I really love beautiful textures in clothing: chunky knits, honeycomb patterns, natural linens. Adding different layers and textures to your outfits is a great way to add interest.
  7. Ultimately, the most important thing is that you are all comfortable, and look and feel like yourselves in your images. This is about creating images that capture what your family looks and feels like to you. It’s about capturing real moments, the connections between you all, the love that you have as a family. So, above everything else, be yourselves. 
A young boy in a bright orange t-shirt laughing holding parents' hands at the beach
A family in the woods in evening light, with an imaginary campfire and sticks
Family photography at home, mother and son playing on a sofa
A family on a pebble beach together
Mum, Dad, young boy and baby laughing on a bed together
A family laughing together in the woods

What not to wear!

Finally, there are a few key things to avoid.

Try not to wear anything with pictures, very bold patterns or prominent logos. This can be really distracting in an image, and draws attention away from your faces. Keep clothing simple – plain colours work best. You can add texture with lovely fabrics like wool or linen. If you do decide to wear patterns, choose smaller, subtle patterns that complement the overall colour scheme.  

Keep your pockets empty – a large phone in a trouser pocket never looks good! You don’t want to create any additional bulges anywhere really, so bear this in mind and pop everything in a bag that we can put down somewhere nearby. 

There are definitely times when you’ll need to wear coats, but generally I recommend trying to avoid this. Warm layers can help, and some lovely coloured knits will look so much better in your photographs.

If it’s sunny, then the light can bounce off very bright colours and create unwanted colour casts on your faces. While bright colours can look really lovely and help you stand out from the background, this is just worth bearing in mind. Richer, muted tones can be a safer option.

Avoid brand new clothes, especially for younger children. Itchy labels, stiff new clothing, clothes that don’t quite fit properly; there is a lot of potential for things to go wrong! For a great family photography session, you want everyone to be comfortable and relaxed.

And finally, take off smart watches, they don’t add anything to an image! The same goes for hairbands on wrists. Do this a few hours ahead of the session so you can avoid any marks left on your skin.

Your family photography session

I hope that this guide has helped you plan what to wear for your family photography. It’s something that I’m asked all the time, and it’s hopefully useful to see some examples. I’m always very happy to chat this through with you as well, so don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions.  

Putting some thought into your outfits can make a big difference to your whole experience. It can take your photographs from special snapshots of family life, to pieces of art that will grace your walls for years. However, it’s also important to remember that ultimately, you can wear whatever you like for your session. My photos are primarily about capturing emotions, connections, the love and joy that you share together as a family. All of this can be photographed with you in any clothing you like. More than anything, I want you to be comfortable and feel relaxed. So please don’t worry too much! 

There is more information about my family photography sessions here. Or you can complete my contact form to access my online brochure. I’d love to hear from you!

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HELEN LISK PHOTOGRAPHY

 

01392 927646

 

Exeter, Devon

 

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