It’s that time of year again! Many families are heading out to the fall foliage to get that one great portrait for holiday cards. For some people (the moms, let’s be honest), it’s also time to start stressing over the perfect outfits for each person. Knowing what to wear for family photos can make the difference between a good picture and an amazing one!

Luckily, there are a few general principles to keep in mind when you’re putting together your family’s “look”. Since I have been photographing Liz’s family for years, and because she is amazingly fashionable, I will use her portraits for examples!


What to Wear for Family Photos

Dress Yourself First

If you’re reading this post, you are the person who cares most about this. You need to feel fabulous in your chosen outfit! Let’s face it, kids look adorable in anything. Start with yourself and find something you love. Everyone else can build off of you. The better you feel inside, the better you will look in the photo – this is objectively true, since your confidence affects your facial expressions and your body language.

Coordinating, Not Matching

Not long ago, it was all the rage to put the whole family in matching outfits – white shirts and khaki pants, for example. Current trends favor a cohesive but not matching look. Find colors that complement one another and spread them throughout the group.


Solid colors are ideal. Avoid patterned fabrics in general, or try to limit them to a single family member. If you are using a pattern, sometimes it’s helpful to choose that outfit first and coordinate colors around it.

Notice the single pattern here – Liz has drawn the various shades of blue from the little girl’s dress and used them for everyone else’s solid colors.

Notice the various textures in the shawl, blouse, jean jacket, sweater, etc.


Maximize the various textures in each item of clothing – think cable-knit sweaters, woven scarves, corduroy pants, etc. You want to create subtle visual variety for the eye to explore.


This is an important one! The more layers you create in each outfit, the better. Layering clothing and accessories helps to lend depth to your photos and makes them fundamentally more appealing to look at. Think cardigans, sweaters, and jackets.

Accessories Matter

Shoes! Please, remember shoes. You can coordinate a dazzling array of earth-toned, layered, textured clothing, but the first thing someone will notice in your photo is the teenager’s neon yellow sneakers. And don’t forget socks! They tend to peek out, no matter what you intend, so avoid the bright white ones.

Necklaces, scarves, and headbands can be a great way to add visual interest to your outfits. They can also be opportunities to spread out your chosen colors among the family members.

Practical Considerations

Sometimes you need a reality check when choosing what to wear for family photos. Does your kid usually hate hats or headbands? They will still hate hats or headbands during our shoot. Does your teenager ever take your fashion advice? Either negotiate a bribe for their cooperation, or find a different look. Everyone will be happier!

Do you have a toddler girl that someone is going to be holding for many of the shots? Think twice about putting her in a big floofy dress. Adorable for solo shots, but awkward for adults to hold in an attractive way. You’ll spend a lot of time adjusting the dress in the parent’s arms, and still might be displeased with the final photo.

Notice the older girl’s belt, the mom’s necklace, and the toddler’s boots. Each adds a little something!

The little girl’s dress is a light cotton fabric that is easily held, and she is accustomed to wearing headbands. The teenager is accustomed to choosing her own clothing – sometimes compromises are necessary!

As an extra exercise, look back through each of these examples and find the other rules they are following (notice the single pattern in the shawl, or the layers in the accessories photo). For more fantastic examples of coordinated family outfits, check out this blog post.

Choosing what to wear for family photos can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! Keep these tips in mind while you’re shopping and rifling through the closets. Plus, choosing a full-service photographer like me means extra help before the shoot. That includes texting me photos from the store and asking if things go together! I am always happy to help.

Haven’t books your fall family photo yet? It’s not too late! Reach out and let’s talk.