Coordinating Outfits for Family Portraits

Recently I posted on Instagram about how to choose outfits for your family session. I've seen this as a source of stress for lots of parents (which is why I offer a complete Style Guide for all my clients), but it doesn't have to be that way! Some dominant colors, some accent colors, and a little extra dress-up - because why not? Let's go:

1. Choose one main color

First, settle on one color for each person. The goal for coordinating a family is to visually break up the colors and shades so that you’re not all wearing the same color on top and bottom. The more we can mix that up, the better. So think about planning each outfit with “dominant colors” and “accent colors” in mind. A dominant color is the color that you see the most in an outfit. When you’re planning each family member’s outfit, aim for each person to have a different dominant color. Tie it together next:

2. Choose an accent color or two

An accent has a smaller piece of visual real estate than the main, or dominant, color. Choose a couple accent colors that complement the dominant colors. Each person can then tie in and vary the accent colors alongside each other.

Example 1: Dad #1 has a blue shirt with khaki pants, Dad #2 has a light green shirt and khaki or brown pants, son has a yellow shirt and a blue pants, daughter has a green dress with a yellow belt or tights. Or, Mom has a long blush dress with a blue band, belt, or sweater.

2a. On Choosing Colors

I recommend choosing softer, lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on your love for each other. Shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown, and white are lovely together. A softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments.

graphic: "Complementing Colors" outfits in various blue, green, yellow, blush pink. "Accessorizing" headband, belt, bow

3. Put it all together

As another example, Mom is wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and beige heels (blush being her dominant color), then her partner wears a navy jacket with a white button-down and gray pants, with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square (navy becomes their dominant color). Your daughter wears a soft blue top with a white tulle skirt (a soft blue is her dominant color) while your son wears light khaki pants with navy suspenders and a white button down (so white is his dominant color).

choosing family outfits - family of four in various shades of blue
choosing family outfits - family of six in shades of blue and yellow
choosing family outfits - twin children with complementing blue and pink outfits
how to family outfits - family of three in various shades of blue

Final Tips

You don't have to be matchy-matchy (unless you want!) for a beautiful portrait session. Often, Mom or Dad picks their outfit first, and centers all the other outfits and colors around it. Also, as you've seen above, don’t feel like you need to put all your children in the same type of outfit. For example, one could wear a dress and flats, while the other wears a skirt and boots. One could wear a bowtie, while the other one wears suspenders. Mixing up the wardrobe pieces will bring a great visual interest to the photos, so you can share with your family for years to come.

Finally - don't be afraid to dress it up! If ever you needed an excuse to get fancy, portraits are a great one. There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your closet, a lot of clients love Rent the Runway or other similar services (I just heard about Le Tote) because it’s an affordable way to feel like a million bucks.

dress it up - man and woman in tuxedo and black gown hold hands on a path
choosing family outfits - family of three sits in pinks and blues
choosing outfits - family of three in various shades of blue, cream, and grey