There are so many options when it comes to choosing outfits for family photos. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what Not to wear. So, here are my top tips on what to avoid wearing to your next photo session with me.
Okay, this may seem obvious, but it’s important. Avoid clothing that is either too tight or too big. Fitted, but not tight clothing looks more polished and flattering than loose, baggy clothes, which can make you appear heavier.
I know this one can be hard if you’ve picked out the perfect outfit for your child only to realize they hate how the material feels. Trust me. I’ve been there. But this is so important. When kids don’t feel comfortable in clothing, it impacts how they feel. In my experience, kids are happiest at sessions when they like what they’re wearing; they also feel more comfortable and confident. This translates into relaxed and happy expressions. Also, watch out for clothing that doesn’t fit well. Even a slightly outgrown outfit on kids will be noticeable and detract from your photos.
Moms, watch the length of your dress. You don’t want to wear a dress that will hike up too high when you sit or lift your child up in the air. Avoid tight-fitting fabrics that restrict your movement. Also, choose your undergarments carefully. Make sure bra straps don’t show or slip out of place as you don’t want to worry about making adjustments during your session.
Dads, don’t dress in pants that are too tight to sit comfortably in or shirts that will ride up when you lift your child up in the air above your head.
This is a big one and often overlooked. Make sure that everyone has well-fitting, comfortable shoes—especially toddlers. Do not dress your kids in shoes they’ve never worn before or broken in. Trust me. Otherwise, be prepared for meltdowns and bare feet during your session. This happens more than you’d think.
Speaking of uncomfortable shoes, this goes for moms too. Keep in mind that many of the locations I shoot in require a bit of walking to reach. Typically, my sessions are also very active and involve playful games and lots of movement. You don’t want to be grimacing in your photos because you wore uncomfortable shoes. If you’re set on wearing heels, plan to wear flats first and then change into heels.
Finally, make sure that shoes coordinate and don’t clash with each person’s outfit. Watch out for dirty or different colored shoe soles that will show in photos when the kids are sitting down on a blanket or your lap.
When it comes to choosing clothing colors for your session, this is a bit of a personal preference. However, if you’ve hired me to photograph your family, you already know that I aim to capture images that focus on emotion and family connection. Bright colored clothing, such as royal blue, hot pink and bright orange or red, take the focus off your family. If you want your photos to have a classic and timeless feel, I recommend avoiding extremely bright colors.
Also, keep in mind that very bright colors can create color casts that detract from beautiful skin tones.
Although this is my personal preference, I recommend avoiding black and too much dark navy or bright white shirts. Black clothing tends to get lost in the shadows, shows lint easily and can sometimes look harsh or even take on the appearance of other colors in the environment. This often occurs during golden hour sessions, when the light is very warm. Bright white also sometimes takes on color casts and may appear blue or grey in your photos. Cream, off-white and ivory are better choices.
Finally, avoid dressing one person in a completely different color, especially when that color is much darker or in stark contrast to the rest of the family. This draws attention to that color and will look out of place in your family photos. For example, if everyone is wearing light colored neutrals and soft pastels, don’t dress dad in a bright pink polo.
Avoid stripes and small and busy patterns. They don’t photograph well.
Keep the focus on your family, not the words on their shirts. And please, no cartoon characters.
Aim for complementary and coordinating colors and textures instead of overly matched outfits, which look forced and dated. I know it can be popular to dress siblings in matching outfits, but personally I prefer when each child wears his or her own outfit. Not only does this allow for individuality, but it looks better in photos because it provides some visual separation between people. This is important because when I photograph families, everyone is very close together. If you’ve had a session with me, you know I often say, “closer, closer, no space between anyone!” If both mom and dad are dressed in the same shade of green or blue for example, they will blend together in the photos. Instead, choose a different shade of that color. For example, if dad is wearing a deep blue, mom could wear a more muted shade of blue. If your heart is set on matching dresses for your daughters, you can create separation by layering. Let each child choose a knit cardigan in different, but coordinating colors.
Planning a spring family photo session against a backdrop of blooms? Don’t dress in clothing that is dark and drab. Likewise, if you have a fall or winter session planned, don’t wear a sundress or a Hawaiian shirt. It’ll look out of place in your photos. And please don’t dress your baby or child in an outfit that was meant for a different season. If your child is freezing or too hot, he will be unhappy during your session.
This one applies especially to dads and daughters. If the only time your husband wears a button-down shirt and dress pants is to a wedding, he’s probably not going to feel relaxed and carefree at your session in either. Instead, consider a henley or good quality cotton t-shirt paired with tan or khaki pants or jeans.
And as much as I love dresses on moms and girls alike, if your daughter hates them, choose a romper or pair a cute blouse with pants.
Often, we’re so focused on the big picture when it comes to getting everyone dressed for family photos, that we may overlook the details. But details really do make a difference.
Avoid ALL of the following:
When it comes to hair accessories, I’m all for subtlety. That cute bow that came with your daughter’s dress? Make sure it’s small enough that it doesn’t detract from her beautiful face. When you look at your photos, you want the focal point on your daughter’s eyes and expression, not the boat-sized bow balancing on her cute curls. Similarly, scarves and jewelry should accent an outfit, not overpower it.
Hairstyles – Avoid up-dos or pulling hair back too tightly. This will look stiff and too formal.
Make-up – Keep make-up natural and avoid bright lipstick. I do recommend an extra layer of mascara for moms to really help eyes stand out. Opt for lipstick that stays in place and won’t leave marks on faces when I ask you to kiss your kids. Avoid eye make-up and lipstick on little girls who look most beautiful au natural.
I hope you found these tips helpful! You may also enjoy my tips on What to Wear for Your Spring Family Photo Session, What to Wear for Summer Family Photos, and What to Wear for Summer Newborn Photos.
Want to receive all my tips for what to wear? I’ve created a beautiful Wardrobe Inspiration Guide for my clients that you can get by joining my mailing list. Just fill out my Contact Form and mention the free guide and I’ll send it to your inbox.
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Winner of the Westfield Area Most Loved Family Photographer award by Hulafrog two years in a row, Debbie Camba Photography is a New Jersey Family Photographer based in Scotch Plains. She specializes in capturing candid and meaningful moments that reflect the love and wonder of childhood and family life.
In 2022, Debbie was awarded a Master Photographer Certification by the National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP) for demonstrating excellence in the craft of child and family photography.
She photographs outdoors and in homes throughout Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield, Mountainside, Cranford, Summit, Madison and the surrounding area, including Basking Ridge and Bernardsville, as well as Morris County and Middlesex County. She is available in other locations upon request.