Coordinate Family Photo Outfits with Tips from a Family Photographer

BY: Aimee Algas Alker |

When planning a family photo, outfits can quite easily add to the stress. Should we match? What if we match too much? How do I exactly replicate the combination I found when I searched for "family picture outfit ideas"?

To help with the conundrum of what to wear for family pictures, I spoke with Jaci Ruben, owner of Gloss Photography Studios in Chicago and Milwaukee, to get her tips on choosing family photo outfits that are cohesive, but don't make you look like you're starting a family dance team.

Better in Blues

Why this works: This family chose a relatively "safe" color scheme: denim blue as their central hue and neutrals for the rest of their clothing. But they kept their look from going bland by wearing layers with texture (the father's sweater and the mother's scarf) and patterns (stripes on the baby's pants, the starry hat, and the scarf). According to Jaci, "this is the easiest to pull off: everyone in jeans and wearing layers of the [chosen] color scheme."

The Scarf as Centerpiece

Why it works: Jaci says that outfitting large families for photos can be more difficult. In these situations, she often shares a tip she garnered from an interior decorator years ago: "Start with one pillow or throw blanket that has all the colors and design elements you love. . . . Essentially, I want one person from the family to be that pillow or throw blanket." In this case, it's the woman in the white shirt: each of the other family members has "pulled" elements from the scarf she's wearing: a green shirt, a blue sweater, a purple scarf. "They really took my direction, replicating the colors in solid separates throughout."

The Sum of All Parts

Why it works: While this family also chose denim blue as their main color, their approach was a little different. They looked at their outfits as a whole—almost as if they were choosing one entire outfit. The blue unifies them, but so does the fact that the other colors in their outfits go together well: you could see someone wearing them all in one outfit. Also charming: the colors in their outfits match the background; even the pink in the mother's skirt is picked up by the graffiti behind her. "This one is one of my favorites" Jaci claims.

Camel Colors

Why it works: Layers are also a good way of adding depth and interest to family photo outfits. They're also using shades of the same neutral as their central color, which makes the furry green vest work without taking too much attention.

Red, White, and Blue

Why it works: Another of Jaci's favorites, she calls this approach to family photos "classic." Keep in mind that patterns (as in the girls' outfits) don't have to match exactly as long as their colors do. Solid pieces (such as the parents' sweaters) can pull their colors from the patterns. Jaci especially likes putting patterns on the kids, so the focus can be on them.

Finally Jaci shared some dos and don'ts for more comfortable photo outfits:

  • Don't wear graphic or cartoon tshirts; they are distracting

  • Don't wear anything strapless (tops) or short (skirts) as they can be uncomfortable, don't always photograph well, and limit possible poses

  • Do choose a single color that appears somewhere in each family member's outfit to help being cohesion

  • Do accessorize with jewelry and scarves—it ties looks together and adds interest

  • Don't be afraid of color and patterns: they "add depth and fun!"

RELATED READS: Picture Ideas and Tips from the Pros

Don't wear new clothes, do smile. These (and more) family picture ideas and tips to make your next portrait shoot a smashing success!
9 Clever Photo Book Ideas to Spark Your Imagination9 Clever Photo Book Ideas to Spark Your Imagination

From focusing on your pet to documenting your travels, here are nine photo book ideas that will get you printing in a flash.