Family Photo Shoot Clothing Top Tips

Top Tips for selecting clothing for a family photo shoot - make it stress free!

Believe it or not my favorite part of having a family photo taken is picking out what everyone is going to wear!

I look at it as a creative challenge.  I have always loved working with clothes.  In the 5th grade I learned to sew in 4-H and made the majority of my own clothes from that point on until I was married with a couple of children!  I loved my summer job of working in a dress boutique and then decided to carry on my love for clothes when I majored in Clothing & Textiles in college!  And having been a Creative Memories consultant  for 19 years I have seen A LOT of family photos!!!

Over the years of clothing our family for numerous family photos (We have 16 different family portraits hanging in our Wilkes Family Gallery) I have learned a few tips and techniques for making everyone look like a cohesive group without looking matchy, matchy and boring!

Family Photo Gallery

The first step is to choose a color scheme.

I usually base this decision on what the fashionable colors are that year or the location of the photo shoot.  This year purple and grey are the in colors so I knew I could easily find clothes in those colors and it’s a great combination!  I used the purple and grey with black and denim.  I really consider denim to be a non-color, a neutral.  We were also having an urban background for our photos so I thought those colors would work well.

Choose a formal or casual style of clothing – mixing styles does not work well (i.e. dad in a suit and son in a t-shirt and jeans) I usually let the location of the photo shoot help determine the style of clothing.  When we had our family photo taken at the beach we went with a casual jeans, blue and white color scheme.

Beach Family Photo

When we had our photo taken outdoors with the fall leaves we also went casual with earth tones. (o.k. so the striped vest on me is pretty ugly!)

Fall LEave Family Photo

We tend to leave the more formal attire to the studio shoots.

Black and Red Formal Family photo

Avoid sharp contrasts in clothing and match-matchy clothing – i.e. everyone in black t shirts and khaki pants.  By adding in the small patterned  sweaters on the girls in the photo below we softened the contrast of the black and khaki.  Having everyone in the same style black shirts and khaki pants is slightly boring and it also causes the eye to go to the bodies and not the faces.  Adding in a small amount of texture and small pattern can break up the monotony and create some interest.  Although everyone is in black and khaki in the photo below it is in different combinations.  I’m in all black,  Jim and Logan are both in black pants and khaki sweaters but they are different styles and textures.  The girls are in matching outfits but since there are only two of them and four of us – it works without looking overly matchy, matchy.

Black and Khaki Famly Photo

Select a foundation piece.  That foundation piece is usually what I am going to wear for the picture – mommy needs to look good!  In this year’s picture we had a combination of denim, purple, grey and black clothing.  Tessa’s outfit is grey and Jim’s shirt is grey but a lighter shade and a very tiny check.  I am in purple as is Logan and Cali but they are varying shades of purple which creates interest as does the ruffle on my sweater but without being overwhelming to the photo and distracting form people.  Clark’s argyle sweater, while being a larger pattern, works well.  I don’t know what it is about argyle but it really works.


The fact that we were in an outdoor urban environment (we are actually standing in front of a dumpster!) also lent itself to more interest and pattern in the clothing.

The Squint Trick:  one trick I use to make sure nothing I have selected for anyone to wear is going to overpower anyone else is to lay it all out on the bed and then squint.  It’s a trick I use when selecting fabric for a quilt too.  You want the colors to blend and compliment one another without being overpowering.  If anything sticks out while squinting you want to get rid of it – find something else.

When the children were younger and even a little older I picked out what everyone wore in our family photo.  O.K., I admit it I have pretty much picked out what everyone was going to wear in every family photo we have ever had taken!  But this year I wanted the photo to be more reflective of their individual personalities – the people they had become. Although I did retain veto power!

This required a little bit more work on my part because I had to take them each shopping to pick out what they were going to wear. A trip to Forever 21 took care of Tessa. Her highly developed fashion sense is reflected in the cute little cream colored skirt she put under her shirt, over the top of her jeans and the big wide purple belt shows off her teeny, tiny waist!  Clark picked out his sweater when we were at H&M in Seattle.  I did pick out Jim’s shirt from Eddie Bauer and Logan’s from the Gap.  I needed one of the boy’s in a purple shirt and there was no way Clark was wearing purple.  Logan, my more cooperative child, liked the shirt! Cali was a bit more of a challenge.  It took numerous trips to various stores before we nailed her selection down.  We threw the yellow hat in at the last minute for fun because it is so reflective of Cali’s fun personality.  I thought it worked great in the photos!


 Avoid overexposure of skin. Remember that the most important feature of a family photo is everyone’s lovely face!  Your eye is automatically attracted to flesh so avoid low cut clothing and sleeveless tops.  You want to keep people’s eyes on the faces and off those other areas!  Exposed flesh makes you look bigger so keep that in mind too!

Large Group Tips – another consideration in clothing selection is the number of people in your photo.  For a family photo like ours you can add in some pattern without it being too distracting.  If the family photo was a large group of people – more than 8 or so, numerous people in prints or patterns could be extremely distracting.  For a larger group I would go with variations on a theme – everyone in the same color scheme but just vary the shade/tone of the color and the style of the clothing.  Don’t put everyone in white polo shirts and jeans – instead have some people in white polos, white button downs, frilly white blouse with varying shades of denims.  Even adding in a few white bottoms in a skirt etc. with a white or blue top will create cohesiveness without distraction for a large group.

Don’t forget your shoes.  They will show in some of the photos and you want to make sure they coordinate with your outfits.


Remember – darker colors are more slenderizing than lighter colors!

Also avoid any type of writing, logo etc. on a shirt.  The first thing your eyes will see is the word GAP running across little Jimmy’s chest!

I hope these tips help the next time you have a family photo taken.  As an added bonus to Meg’s generous giveaway of a free Lifestyle Session I am going to add in a little something!

Whoever wins Meg’s amazing giveaway will also win a free Family Photo Clothing Consultation by me!  You can email me photos of the clothes you have selected and we can talk over the phone!  ($40.00 value) or if you are local and close by we can do it in person.  We want to make sure you are all looking your best for your photo shoot with Meg!

If you don’t win Meg’s giveaway but are interested in a Family Photo Clothing Consultation leave me a comment or contact me through my contact form above!  Cost:  $40.00

Leigh Anne
Hi – I’m Leigh Anne! I have been a homebased mom for 30 years since my first baby boy was born! I love working with women and helping to inspire them to achieve their goals and dreams while still maintaining motherhood and family as their number one priority. I blog about everything I enjoy – creating treats and meals in my kitchen, spending time in my garden, entertaining and party planning, reading, self improvement and tips and ideas on style and fashion.
Leigh Anne
Leigh Anne

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  1. Amber Wadsworth says

    You’re not going to believe this, but we are having family pictures on Saturday and I am working with the SAME COLOR scheme and have been shopping ALL WEEK LONG. I even picked out the same Old Navy argyle sweater for my son to wear. We are doing outside photos in Old Oregon City. Not only will I have the weather to contend with, but I’ll also have an 18 month old and a dog (still debating about that one) to contend with. Hopefully, the 3 older children will cooperate :) If they’re good enough to post, I’ll send one your way. Thanks fo the tips. I had been debating about adding argyle and stripes to the wardrobe because the photographer highly suggested solids only. But after viewing your pictures, I know I’ve made the right decision :)

  2. says

    Funny you should talk about this on your blog. I just finished selecting all our outfits. I agree about the color scheme without being matchy-matchy (must be the quilter in me)
    I’ll send you a picture to see how I did. Our color scheme is a fall orange. I bought me the shade sweater- I think they call the color Autumn or harvest. Husband’s shirt is plaid and son’s shirt is striped. Hope it all works (hard to find boys size 12 shirts without logos or dragons all over them!) The girls have matching denim skirts, the rest will wear blue jeans.
    I actually have 3 different tops, and can’t decide which one to wear for me! (Maybe I can change every couple of pictures?)

  3. Melanie says

    Love this, thank you for the great tips. We’re having some family pictures taken October 11th. They’ll be taken outside, on a country road with a beautiful canopy of trees above it. Hopefully the leaves will have changed enough by then (we’re in Indiana)! We have a 5yo daughter and 3yo son. I’m thinking denim bottoms for all of us. What top colors would you suggest? I don’t want to compete with the leaves…any advice would be great! Thank you!!

  4. Mary-Anne says

    How is it that you get younger and slimmer as the years go by? Love the framing of your family photos. I am currently having all the yearly Christmas photos matted and arranged in giant frames – probably 8 per frame. It’s fun to see the clothing trends change and how the five kids have grown over the years. Maybe our kids know each other at BYU?

  5. Valerie H. says

    Thanks for the great tips! We are having a family photo taken
    on Oct. 10th. I’ll keep your good advice in mind while choosing clothes.
    Your photo shoots show you were all having a fun time together.

  6. Valerie H. says

    Oh, I forgot to add to my comment above that last night I made your Black Angus Garlic Cheese for my family and it was SOOO good. It’s a keeper recipe
    for us. They all loved it!

  7. Amy says

    Thank you Thank you Thank you! for this great post. I just contacted my photographer yesterday to schedule our appointment and the first thing she asked me was “What color scheme are you looking for?”
    This helped me so much, thanks for all the wonderful ideas.

  8. says

    I saw your blog once before and thought I left a comment…I love this post, I love family pictures through the years. I also had 2 boys, then 2 girls, and my baby is Cali (not Calista, we already had an Alyssa-too similar). I also went to BYU, and its fun to see how my family could be a few years down the road.

  9. Deb Thompson says

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! This is exactly the info I was looking for when I googled “clothes for photo shoot!”

  10. Jaci Moser says

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!! I couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for on the internet until I stumbled upon this site! You should consider interior design, it shows how well you can put things together in these photos! I would have NEVER thought of purple as a color choice but you’ve taught me to open my eyes. Thank you again!

  11. Laura says

    Thank you for the great advice. I am one in an up comming family portrait of twelve, so I found this really helpful. Also you have great style and a beautiful family!
    Thank’s agian.

  12. Michelle says

    I am having pictures in the next month. we have 3 boys ages 8, 11 & 21. i was thinking of doing the little boys in black plaid, my husband and I in white tops, but cant think if what to have our 21 year old wear. All of us would be in blue jeans for a casual & fun setting. Any suggestions?

    Thanks, Michelle

  13. Allisha says

    Love the tips! I am getting ready to have family pics done and I also have 4 kids, two girls, 13 and 7 and two boys, 5 and 2.5. Is it okay to have the girls match, the boys match and then mom and dad match? Like a print on the girls, maybe argyle on the boys and solid on mom and dad? All with the same color scheme, or would that be too much?

  14. Rita says

    This was so helpful. The only family photos we have taken have been church and wedding photos. My husband and I have become grandparents and want to display our now family of ten. This gives me an idea where to start and make everyone comfortable with the clothing choices. Thank you.


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