It's the most common question I get after booking a family photo session; BUT WHAT DO WE WEAR?!? And I think for a lot of families it's the most stressful part, and maybe even a top reason that people hesitate to do photos altogether. They just don't want to deal with it.
I happen to love putting outfits together for photos; and I was doing it before I ever had kids, or even a nice camera, of my own. My first ever real job, at 16 years old, was at Nordstrom, and after graduating college in 2008 I went back for one sale and ended up staying for a couple of years. I've seen a lot, A LOT, of different takes on what to wear for family photos. The good, the bad, and the ... well, you get the idea.
If you don't know where to begin, here's how. It's my 5-step method for dressing your family for photos.
NUMBER 1: Figure out what you want to do with your images once you get them. Cute holiday card? Big canvas for your living room? New gallery wall? Coffee table album? Social media material? All of the above?
If you want a cute, Christmasy, holiday card this year, awesome - go big! Do bold reds with buffalo plaid, and puffy vests, but realize that it's not ideal as a large canvas, all year-round, in your beach-inspired living room. Once you know your end goal, that helps guide the rest.
NUMBER 2: Choose a group of colors and add in some neutrals. We've lived through the 90s, and while they gave us some good things (okay, admittedly, I'm struggling to come up with a good list off-hand, but I'm sure they did...). Family pics with everyone in black shirts with jeans or white shirts with khakis can stay in the past. Instead, choose a group of colors and let the members of your family show a little personality. Instead of everyone in the exact same khaki and white - choose the full spectrum of beach tones.
You can pick groups of tones like earth tones, jewel tones, classic primary colors, beach tones; or just pick a couple of favorite colors, but do lighter and darker versions of each. For instance, instead of everyone in navy and red, do navy and light blues with cranberry and pinks - then add in a little grey and white (or some other neutral colors) to mellow it out.
NUMBER 3: Mom chooses her outfit FIRST. We've heard it, and we've experienced it: "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Moms, the first person you're going to look at when you get your gallery, is you; and if you don't like what you chose to wear, you aren't going to love your photos, simple as that. Buy a new outfit, new shoes, get your hair and make-up done. Wear something you can move around in, something you can hug and kiss and swing your kids in. Wear something that fits. And then let go a little. It's still 100% worth being in photos even if you don't love your current size, because your kids need to see that you were there too, hugging and kissing them, and swinging them up in the air.
NUMBER 4: Shop your kids' closets first. Kids tend to be more comfortable in clothes they already own, especially younger kids. Use what they've got first and then add in new things if need be. BUY THINGS THAT FIT THEM! I get it, it's painful to buy new stuff when kids grow so quickly, but kids can move around much better in clothes that fit. When kids are in clothes that are too big their little hands and fingers sneak up into the sleeves and their cute little legs and bums disappear in pants that are cinched a full 4 inches or pool a bunch at the bottom.
(NUMBER 4 and a half): Give your husband some say. Husbands/Dads are all over the map when it comes to photos - love them, hate them, and lots of skeptical in-between. Give him some space to wear what he feels good in. Send him to this blog post to get the vision. Describe the colors you want and your end goals for the photos and let him do him. If he knows his co-workers are going to get Christmas cards with these photos and there will be a large canvas hanging in the living room, I bet he'll bring his A Game. Maybe that means he gets something new too, maybe he'd rather you just choose something for him.
NUMBER 5: Choose different types of clothing items. Choosing a variety of colors gives the individuals in your family a bit of their own flare, and so does choosing different kind of clothing items. Put girls in dresses and skirts so that not eveyone is wearing jeans. Add in jackets or boots. Throw a vest or bowtie on your little guy, if he'll go for it. Put your little gal in a romper (bonus points for chunky thigh exposure). Not everyone needs a bunch of accessories of layers, just mix it up a little so you're a bit less uniform.
**A special note for large/extended families: I tend to recommend a simpler color palette for large groups, and choosing different clothing items within that simpler palette is the easiest way to give large groups some great character and a bit of individuality.