Family photo shoots are often an investment that you make to mark the completion of your young (or not so young!) family.
These are photos we can do at your home, in my studio or at a favourite location of yours to help you treasure your family unit forever. Hopefully, you are taking these photos because they are going to end up proudly on display in your family home for all to see. And if so, you want them to be works of art in themselves, and images which represent not only you and your family, but possibly even your home and your style. But there may be another reason why you are having the shoot, maybe they are going to an invite to a wedding or a family Christmas card, so you can think about colours and themes which blend with the purpose.
With this in mind, I thought I would give you some tips on how to dress for the shoot. And I have three main words for you. Comfort. Coordinate. Colour. Remember the three c’s and you can’t go far wrong!
The most important thing is that you’re comfortable. So please don’t spend too long worrying about what everyone should wear and trying on all your outfit combinations, or you’re going to end up more nervous for what should be a relaxed and enjoyable experience. Children need to be comfortable and not having a tantrum and their clothes.
Start out with a basic color palette for everyone and go from there. You can do this with a neutral and a few colorful brights, or try a softer palette that has different tonal ranges of the same shades. Personally I don’t think that neon or overly saturated colours photograph very well and are too stark a contrast to surroundings.
A colour palette of softer shades is great, you could add in one child in a patterned dress but not several. For instance, a teeny tiny polka dot tie on a little boy next to his sisters bold color blocked pattern can look very complimentary.
While I would advise people to stay away from bright whites (as bright areas of white clothing draw the focus away from the subjects) I do think that everyone in white on the beach is lovely.
I personally love a semi casual look. I tell people to think about what they might wear to an afternoon at the theatre. Nothing too dressy, but something they take pride in wearing. Outfits that make them feel beautiful.
Next, look to your skin tone. If you are about to pop on your favourite red winter knit, have a look in a mirror (in natural light if possible) and look for any colour reflection underneath your chin. Does the colour of your top give your skin an altered appearance? Does it make your normally rosy complexion ruddier. Does that grey top make you look washed out, or does that rusted colour give your skin a sallow appearance?
Use colour and contrast to bring out the best in your features and skin tone. As I’m writing I just noticed a woman walk into the coffee shop with black jeans and a black top – nothing too fancy at all! But my attention was immediately drawn to her face and blue eyes by the lovely white scarf with little bluebird pattern.
Textures play a key role in adding detail and depth to a photo, especially when working in a soft or neutral colour palette. When I say textures one of the ways to achieve this is with different clothing materials and accents, such as tweed, crochet and embroidery details, lace, hand knit items, smocking, ribbons and ruffles.
Shoes matter …
Shoes matter as they may well end up in the pictures! Especially if you’re walking or the children are running. Please don’t wear trainers – unless we’re talking about some funky Converse that go with the feel of the session. The choice of shoes can make or break an outfit. Slipping on a pair of hip, distressed boots or some colorful ballet flats can tie everything together and complete the feel of the session. Think about coordinating those bright and colorful shoes with other accessories and clothing in the photo. Match little sister’s bright turquoise shoes to the sweater or scarf her mum is wearing. It ties everything together without looking too matchy matchy.
Don’t date yourself …keeping a timeless look extends the life of your photographs.
This is more of a personal choice, but I tend to choose clothing that is timeless. Whatever your style is, make sure your choices won’t look terribly dated years from now (or months in the case of some quickly passing trends). I personally love to use classic shapes, then add interest with accessories, layers and textures.
Movement …clothing that flows and moves with child
When shooting in wide open locations and it involves children, I love to have some movement and flow in their clothing and accessories. Little ones are fond of jumping, dancing, and being wild. Nothing better than a twirly, whirly dress to accentuate all that beautiful movement and childhood innocence. Something as simple as a scarf trailing behind or a playful super hero cape can be fun for the boys.
Think about your location
Make sure your wardrobe complements the surroundings. For example, at a location in a field with a rustic barn in the background would be perfect for a little girl dressed in a simple, vintage style dress with Hunter wellies, pig tails and carrying a little vintage pail full of wildflowers. That same look might be out of place in an urban setting with a graffiti wall in the background.
Many times I’ll select a location first and then create the wardrobe, accessories and props to fit with the vision I see for the surroundings and session vibe I want to come out of it.
A few things NOT to do
– Avoid anything with logos, graphics, characters, labels, etc. These tend to take the “finished” look of a professional portrait down a few notches and will date a photo quickly.
– Avoid lots of stripes
– If anyone needs a haircut, let the hair cut grow out a week or so in order to look most natural.
– Don’t make everyone wear all the same color – matching is boring and dated.