What to Wear for Family Portraits

As a portrait photographer, the most common question I am asked by my clients before a portrait session is:

” What do we wear?”

One of the most stressful parts of having your family photographed is figuring out what everyone is going to wear, particularly, if you have more than one or two children (can I get an, “Amen” from my fellow over-populaters?).

So, what is the best thing to wear for family photos?

Should everyone match or should everyone be dressed differently?

Can you just buy black shirts and jeans and call it good? (no, you cannot)

The best clothing looks are COORDINATED and often layered vs. matchy-matchy clothing that looks unnatural and forced.

Because we are photographing families as a group, it is important to avoid loud plaids and stripes or large patterns that will detract from the faces of the subjects. Think dressing in a similar TONE rather than everyone in the exact same color.

For example, if you want to dress someone in dark gray, make sure everyone is in darker colors or if you want to wear pastels, have everyone in lighter colors.


If you’re going to go Sunday best, think suit coats for the boys rather than just white shirts–you’ll thank me.


You may also want to start with a palette of colors like this mom did with black and camel being her palette of choice.


The most common mistake clients make is mixing light and dark together in tops and bottoms.

It is important to remember that light color advances while dark color recedes; that’s why I LOVE to wear dark gray or black. Hide that booty!


Light colors or white attracts the eye first and can make whomever is wearing it look bigger.

Attention Mom! Your mood sets the tone for the entire shoot so make sure that you feel confident in what you are wearing. A few suggestions for body confidence:
• The more skin you show, the heavier you tend to appear. You need to be very slender/toned to carry off sleeveless.
• 3/4 length sleeved button down blouses (with a collar) and V-necklines are universally flattering.

• If you’re carrying a few extra lbs. go with a tailored item of clothing vs. loose and flowing. Tailoring in a garment will give your body structure and line.

• Wear clothing that fits–not too tight and not too baggy (which makes you look heavier)

• Wear clothing that fits–not too tight and not too baggy (which makes you look heavier)

• Pencil skirts flatter pretty much everyone.

• SHOES! A killer pair of heels will lengthen your legs. (Tell your husband I said you need new shoes. You’re welcome.)




Sunday-best doesn’t have to be boring. Clothing details such as lace sleeves, a bejeweled collar and sassy shoes keeps this more traditional family portrait formal, but still interesting.

Work with, not against, your body type:

Pear Shaped (bottom heavy)
• You can get away with drawing more attention to your neck and décolletage with a dramatic necklace or detailed blouse/jacket.

• Dark rinse jeans or black pants can help camouflage the junk in the trunk.

• Avoid a maxi skirt which will just emphasize your hips at their widest point.


Did I mention shoes? The layered-casual style of the clothing for this family portrait perfectly depicts the cool, rock ‘n roll vibe of their family culture.

Apple Shaped (top heavy/busty)

• A V-neck is your best friend (and you might consider being fitted for a new bra–a supportive bra is good for 15 lbs of visual “weight-loss” in a photograph.)
• Simple, clean-lined tops with no ruffles or extraneous material up top.

• If you have great legs, a skirt, dress or skinny, skinny jeans with a looser top may be your best bet.

JARVIS_FM-LG-9474_20x30A palette of navy, royal blue, shades of gray and a shot of turquoise with the addition of some metallic shine in the little girl’s shoes plus texture in her dress, all combine to unify this beautiful family portrait.



• A sport coat over a button down gives structure to your body and hides that extra 15 lbs.

• If hubby is resistant to “dressing up” for this whole event, let him wear a button down shirt with jeans and flip flops or Converse sneakers for a dressed-up version of his normal casual vibe.

Wood Family Portrait

Dad pairs dark rinse jeans with sport coat and tie which keeps the whole combo from being too stuffy.



Kids look great in everything, the only concern is coordinating with the rest of the family for the group photo.
• Layered looks give us options to try photos with clothing items on/off for variation in the portraits.

The most important part of choosing clothing for kids to to let their personality shine through.

If you have a girlie-girl, let her be uber-dressy, even if everyone else is more casual. Let your Tomboy be her sporty/preppie self by putting leggings under her dress and letting her wear Chucks instead of heels. If you have a Poindexter, let him rock a bow tie, while his Skater/Surfer little bro. can work his Vans.


Boots with tulle and suspenders with bare feet. Don’t be afraid to mix it up!


Dressy doesn’t have to mean stuffy! No matter how they are dressed, Allison will bring out your kid’s personalities.


As the only girl in the family, this mom highlighted that face with this fabulous pink dress tucked in among her handsome boys.


Pattern and texture can totally work in a group portrait if you coordinate the color palette well. The shot of blue in the boy’s sneakers add some fun to this family portrait.

Selecting clothing can be stressful, there’s not doubt about that. But rest assured that the time you invest to select the right clothing will pay off big time in the final result!