Tips on choosing outfits for your family photos

Every year, like many of you, we have family photos taken.

And every year, like many of you, I obsess over what to dress my family in for said photos.


Okay, maybe obsess is too strong a word, but I do think about it for a while.

Choosing clothes that coordinate and allow personalities to show and don’t require purchasing entirely new wardrobes is a process. Fun for some, stressful for others. It falls into the fun camp for me and so I thought I’d throw out a few tips for choosing outfits for your family photos.

start with a consistent color palette

You don’t need everyone to match, but it always looks most aesthetically pleasing when colors coordinate. Choose one color and vary the tones (as we did this year with monochromatic grays), or several colors that work well together (like jewel tones or classic red and green).

Keep your setting in mind when picking outfits

Choosing outfits based on location seems pretty obvious, but it can also be a source of inspiration.

Last year, we had photos taken at a Christmas tree farm and so I added accessories like scarves and hats and cookies and hot cocoa in cute cups as props (see a photo here). This year, we were at a more formal location and I love the gray and white of the steps, so it inspired a slightly fancier outfit selection. Let your location help you decide on a color/style direction.

choose clothes that are not completely out of the norm, but maybe a little special

My boys wear athletic shorts and sweatshirts everyday so stepping it up to jeans is a big move. My nephew, on the other hand, is a fashionable thing and doesn’t think twice when he’s asked to wear a suit and tie. How formal/informal you go depends on your family, personalities and how much bribing you’re willing to do to get your kids to wear what you’ve picked out. I’m all about dressing nicely for pictures, but I also don’t want to completely lose the kids’ personalities.

On the morning of our photos, our No.3 would having nothing to do with the sweater I bought for him. It was a fight I fought for a minute and then (wisely) Ryan reminded me to let it go. If he’s wearing something completely uncomfortable, he won’t be himself in the pictures. That’s not what I want. So we compromised and pulled a sweatshirt from his closet that still worked with our colors and made him happy.

shop your closets and fill in the gaps with an item or two

Sure, buying a whole new family wardrobe sounds fun, but if you are limited by budget, try shopping your closets first and then fill in with a few purchases.

I like to start by choosing my outfit first (because I’m vain and want to wear something I feel good in), and think of husband/kid options that will coordinate, taking into account what we already have in our closets and drawers. If you don’t have much budget, try adding a new accessory like a cute hat or pair of tights (like Audrey’s polkadotty ones).

And most of all, smile and be yourself – which also means letting your kids be themselves (said the mom who does a whole lot of bossing and hold still and smile normal, please! every single time).

Happy picture taking!

9 Responses to Tips on choosing outfits for your family photos

  1. Bethany November 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    Love this, great advice, especially about picking stuff that’s not completely out of the norm!

  2. Kara November 16, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    The “smile normal” comment has me cracking up! I am always saying that to my children!!
    You have a beautiful family, Emily. :)

  3. Shara Lee November 16, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    I appreciate your tips, but more so, your honesty…beginning with your outfit, #3’s attitude (been there!) and the bossing around (soo..been there). It’s refreshing to know I’m not the only one. Keep up the good (& practical) posts.

  4. Angela November 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    Great tips!! It’s always such a challenge! Where might I find your booties? The color is what I’ve been searching for this season. Thanks!

    • emily November 17, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

      My booties are KorkEase Natalya. I bought them last year and the color is no longer available (so unfortunate because it is a great taupy/brown!)

      • Jama Wantz November 17, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

        I have the Natalya in black and wanted the brown so bad after seeing them on you! They are sold out but I did find them on eBay. Worth a look. Love your work, website, style! Xoxox

  5. Christa | BrownSugarToast November 13, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    Really great tips!! Always love your family pictures. :)

  6. Susan November 13, 2015 at 6:24 am #

    Good tips! I always cringe when I see the family photos where all 20 people are in khakis and white shirts. It looks so much better when there is a little variety but a consistent palette.

  7. Jenny@EvolutionofStyle November 13, 2015 at 5:35 am #

    What a timely post – we’re getting family pictures taken this weekend, at a Christmas tree farm no less! Love your shots – always a high drama day it seems, no matter how well I plan. ;-)

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