October 18, 2020

What to Wear to Your Family Photo Session | San Diego Family Photography

Gone are the days of white shirts and blue jeans for the entire family, and thank goodness. “Coordinated individuality” allows for far more depth and nuance in your family’s look.

What to wear

1) Mom, let’s start with you.

Pick something for you, first. Something you love and that makes you feel beautiful. Find that, then plan your family’s outfits around it. Savor everyone having to revolve around you, for once. ❤️

Why is choosing for you first so important? Because there is a fundamental, unavoidable fact when it comes to family photography…. if mama looks beautiful, everyone looks beautiful. When it comes to your final images, how you feel about how YOU look in them will ultimately determine your satisfaction with your photographs overall.

2) So, what should you wear?

There is almost nothing so universally flattering in portraits as a long and flowy skirt or dress. It’s just so…flowy and flattering and romantic. It almost always photographs beautifully. That is, only if it’s something you feel good in too.

So, if you love long and flowy too, or are open to stepping outside of your comfort zone, go find yourself a beautiful long dress or skirt. If that’s just not you, go with what IS you.

A quick note about sleeves: the camera loves to accentuate upper arms, so if you’re at all self-conscious about them, I recommend a sleeve that reaches at least halfway down your upper arm. I find 3/4 sleeves to be especially flattering.

What to Wear to Your Family Photo Session | San Diego Family Photographer

3) Ok, you’re starting with your outfit. But what about colors?

I would suggest choosing three main colors to work with. This will give you more flexibility when it comes to dressing the entire family. It will also really make your pictures pop! You want to coordinate, NOT match. By this, I mean choose the color(s) you want to work with and find different pieces that incorporate some or all of the colors you’ve chosen. Keep in mind that not every person has to have on every color you have chosen. Split the colors up. It makes the photo more playful and less uniform.

Mom, since you’re starting with your outfit, one way to do this would be to choose an outfit with 2-3 different colors in it, and then coordinate your family’s clothing around that. In the photo below, mom has chosen a dress with red/mauve, mustard, and dark green, against an off-white background. For her family, she coordinated with outfits containing mustard, mauve, and off-white.

Mom wearing dress with kids for photo session

4) Think classic:

These photos will be hanging on your walls and treasured for years to come. By choosing simple, classic clothes you will help give your images a timeless feel. You don’t want to look at a portrait in twenty years and be able to nail down exactly when it was taken based on the trends you’re sporting. And heaven forbid you say, “what was I thinking!?”

La Jolla Beach photographer

What to avoid

1) Busy patterns and distracting logos:

Personally, I enjoy having an outfit in the mix that has all the colors in it. However, not everyone in the photo should wear patterns as it will get a bit busy.

Obvious brand logos will also distract from the image, as will writing on clothing.

And it probably goes without saying, but absolutely no characters on clothing.

2) Neon or very bright solid colors:

Solid tops in bold, bright colors like fuchsia can create an unflattering color cast on faces. Deeper or more muted colors are a much safer (and more flattering) choice. And neutral colors? Always in style!

3) Bulky and oversized clothing:

Those oversized, bulky cardigans are in almost everyone’s closets right now, but one thing you definitely don’t want to add in photos is bulk! Trust me, you won’t like how wide and shapeless you appear. Instead, emphasize your strong points, and create shape. One great way to do this is by creating a waist, even if it’s an illusion (like just placing a belt over your lower ribcage, which is the narrowest part of your torso).

A note about shoes

As I alway tell my clients, don’t worry too much about your shoes. Most of the time, they won’t show in the pictures anyway. Instead, keep in mind that my sessions involve a lot of movement, and go for practicality over fashion.


A couple colors that coordinate, a pattern here and there, maybe a little layering and tex somewhere – you have a lot of flexibility when choosing how your family will look in your photographs. Keeping these suggestions in mind, moms, choose something that makes you feel comfortable and beautiful, and then plan your family around it. And that always photographs well.

Have questions? Need ideas? Drop me an email at michelle@lovemichellephotography.com and I’m thrilled to help. Your session includes unlimited wardrobe assistance, so ask away. ❤️