Trying to figure out what you are going to wear for family portraits can be stressful. It used to be that everyone wore white shirts and khaki’s and that was that–simple. Sadly, that doesn’t say WOW in family portraits, it doesn’t show a whole lot of personality, and everyone has done it (ok, almost everyone). Besides that, white washes people out, so I generally suggest staying away from white for anyone in portraits, unless used as an accent, or placing colorful accessories over a white top. Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Decide on a Color Scheme
The first thing I ask when someone seeks advice on colors to wear, I ask where they plan to hang the portraits in their home, and what colors are in that room. For some people, this doesn’t make a difference. But for others, if they plan to hang the prints in their family room that is painted red and black, and you plan to wear orange and brown, it won’t work very well. If your room is neutral (like mine) and you’d like some color pop from the portraits, and you just need help deciding on colors, here are a few thoughts.
2. Select one focal piece
If you have a color palette in mind, or even if you don’t…shop around to find one patterned piece that you love. It can be a little girls floral dress or a boys plaid shirt, but if you find one central piece, it helps to plan everything around that. Since us moms like our kids to be the focal point, I’d suggest this focus piece to be on one of the children (not an adult). That doesn’t mean that they will stand out the most, after accessorizing (my next point) it will all flow together.
3. Pick 3
It’s a good idea to pick 3 colors to work with as your main colors, then consider grays, whites, blacks, or browns as freebie’s. Not necessarily all of them together, but one or two that work with the 3 colors you chose.
4. Layers & Accessories
Cardigan, necklace, headband, scarf, button up shirt, tights, hats, ties. Layers & accessories add dimension, pizazz, fun, texture and therefore richness to the overall look. In the past, I have had the problem of purchasing all of these in my color palette (while keeping the receipts very close by) and once I have the clothing planned out, start throwing in accessories to see what works. If I have 2 girls, they don’t both get yellow headbands, but one yellow and one blue to spread out the colors. If you notice on my boys in the image above, they both have undershirts to provide another layer. Boys have fever options when it comes to layers (and seem more difficult to dress). I often try to put my 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 underneath and maybe sleeves rolled up into each other. Below, I found a vest that fit.
5. Mom’s, don’t give yourself the leftovers
You know how some moms will go around the dinner table and make sure everyone has all of their food situated before they sit down, and then their food is cold? Don’t be that mom when it comes to clothing for your family portraits. Don’t pick everyone else’s out, then just grab something from your closet that only looks “ok” on you, but matches the color scheme. You need to feel AWESOME in your family pictures! If anything, I’d pick something that you think looks fabulous on you, then plan around THAT! It’s tough enough to get mothers IN pictures, so when you are in them, you want to feel and look good!
6. Split up the colors
If I’ve got 6 people in my family, and have selected 3 main colors, I don’t want all of those colors on top, nor to the people that are close in age–I want to split them up. I want to weigh some color towards the bottom in one or two of them as well. I do this with shoes, skirts, and pants. There are so many more options now with those fun colorful jeans. I did also purchase a pair of red converse for my son for our pictures last December that hasn’t been worn much since–but darn-it they looked awesome in the picture! You aren’t just investing in a photographer, but in the clothing to enhance your awesome family (see red shoes below).
7. Use Polyvore to create a style board
You’ve seen the fashion/clothing boards on Pinterest.
They’re great, but don’t always have the perfect configuration for your family, and you may not care for some of the pieces. Have you wondered how to make them? Well I did just that using Polyvore, but the details may need to be a post for another day. I created my own “set” and typed in the beginning basics of color/clothing item I wanted, and was able to drag them around the board. It searches from a database, you can even type in from the stores you shop from. I was trying to arrange our clothing for the above family pictures. I knew I wanted red, green, and navy as our main colors, and I made this style board last year:
Originally, I wanted to wear a red hat. I even found one, and decided I didn’t like the way it looked on me. Since I had planned to have a bold red accent piece, I switched out the hat for the scarf. I had also originally planned to have a little yellow in the mix, then decided I had too many colors and wanted to simplify. I also couldn’t decide if I wanted the stripes and the vest on my son or husband, so kept them as alternatives while I figured it out. I had 4 people set as to how they were going to dress, but wasn’t sure about the other two. I kept this image on my phone and referred to it while I was shopping, to remember what I already had. With my youngest daughters vest, I turned a boys t-shirt inside out and cut it down the middle, no one was the wiser!
8. Lay it on the floor
Once you have gathered items in the colors you’ve picked, I try to find a spot in my home that I can keep it all out. I like to lay the pieces on the floor, and look at it from afar, take a picture of it, so I can see it from a different perspective.
9. Split up the pairs
If you have natural pairs in the family: mom and dad, Brothers, sisters, Mom and baby, try to split up the colors, as they will often be standing near each other. When I have babies, I know I will want to be holding them (helps me look thinner) so I see my baby as my “pair” and aim to not dress us alike. My husband is my obvious other pair, and as the two tallest, I have to make sure he and I are also not “matchy-matchy.” This part can get complicated, so do your best, then let it go! Hopefully the photographer will notice this and split everyone according to the colors. But ultimately, the natural/candid shots that I like to take won’t be so planned out.
10. 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/closets, shop well in advance so you aren’t stressing at the last minute.