The Mom’s Guide to Choosing Outfits

The Mom’s Guide to Choosing Outfits

The session has been booked and now it’s time to start choosing your family’s outfits. You open the closet door and are hit with a massive case of overwhelm. What colors should we wear? Do we need to match? Is this dress going to make me look fat?

In this edition of Katie Smith Photography’s Mom Guide, we are tackling one of the most common questions when it comes to family portraits- What do we wear?

MYTH: Everybody needs to match.

When you think about family portraits, do you think of everyone posed on the beach in their white tops and khaki pants? Do you cringe because that’s just not your family? Do you want a look that seems both effortless but also put together? The trick is coordinating- harmonizing colors and tones while each family member has their own style.

I have two methods of coordinating outfits:

Method 1: Choose a three color palette. Pick two neutrals and an accent color or pick
two complimentary colors and a neutral then mix and match everyone’s outfits.

Method 2: Choose a patterned outfit for one child and use it as color inspiration for the rest of the family. Calico prints, small polka dots, and plaid will make this easy.

Choose colors that are in season.

For spring portraits, use light colors and pastels. For fall portraits, use earth tones and gem tones.

Spring family portrait coordinating light blue, yellow, and white outfits

Also consider your home’s décor so your portraits don’t clash with your curtains or upholstery. In my family portraits, we’re wearing light blue and light pink on the beach. The light colors worked beautifully with the light colored sand and sky. Once printed, the portraits subtly play off the blue cabinets in my kitchen.

Wear something that makes you feel good.

The suggestions below and just that- suggestions. The absolute, most important piece of advice that I can give is to wear something that makes you feel confident and beautiful.

Solid colors, long sleeves, and heels are more flattering.

Most people will want to look slimmer or at least not have the camera add ten pounds. Lighting and posing will play a big part but your outfit is just as important.

Avoid wearing patterns, tank tops, and clothing that is too tight or too loose. You want an outfit that will show off your silhouette. Avoid contrast between you and your spouse or between you and the background. For example, don’t wear white if your spouse is wearing navy.


Once you have the basics of everyone’s outfits, spice it up with cute shoes, headbands, scarves, hats, or vests. If you want to wear a hat in some pictures but not all, don’t forget to bring a brush. Layers like cardigans, open button-up shirts, and jackets will give your photos dimension.

A note about jewelry: Coordinating pieces of jewelry always adds an extra touch to your photos but if your earrings catch in your hair or your necklace flips backwards or the clasp slides to the front, it will be a small thing that drives you nuts later.

Avoid distractors like large graphics, big patterns, and bulky jewelry.

Maintain harmony by avoiding distracting elements like graphics, large floral prints, and bulky jewelry. Always wear dark socks with jeans.

Try this: Lay everyone’s outfit on the bed and squint. Is it a harmonious blur or is there something that stands out? If something stands out, replace it.

Be ok with getting dirty.

Don’t wear brand new white sneakers in the grass. Don’t wear a white dress beside the river. Wearing an outfit that you can’t get a little dirty will restrict the poses we can do. Be comfortable sitting, kneeling, and even laying down.

Choosing the right outfits doesn’t have to be hard. My clients are always welcome to text me photos of their outfits or have me come over and we’ll raid your closet together.

Want more photography advice? Check out these other Mom Guides.

Mom’s Guide To A Tear-Free Photo Shoot
Avoid cheesy smiles and meltdowns with the photo session tips.

Mom’s Guide To Hiring A Photographer
Get the photo session you’ve always dreamed of by booking the photographer that is right for your family.

Since 2009, Katie Smith has captured family memories with modern posing that helps parents look great and kids have fun. She knows picking outfits is stressful and is always happy to help choose outfits.

When not behind the camera, she enjoys board games, reading, and napping.

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