6 Not-Professional But Totally Useful Tips On Choosing Outfits For Family Photos

by Katie Cloyd
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I am a little bit obsessed with family photos. We take them at least once a year, and I spend weeks planning our outfits and themes. I love pulling together different pieces that we own and combining them with a few new things to create a look that I love.

Now, I’m not a professional stylist or photographer, but given my experience having approximately a zillion family photos under my belt, I think I have a pretty decent eye for what will look nice on a family in a photo. If coordinating outfits is not something that comes naturally to you, but you think you’d like to give it a go, here are a few things I’ve learned through trial and error that might make it easier for you. (And some of my own family photos to show you how I put it into practice!)

Choose a color scheme that gives you some options.

Google and Pinterest are your best friends for this step! This year, I wanted my family to coordinate on Thanksgiving so we could take a decent snapshot. Instead of trying to find clothes to fit a color scheme, I looked for a color scheme to match our existing clothes. I knew I wanted my daughter to wear her adorable metallic rose gold dress, so I looked up “color schemes with rose gold.” I found a swatch that an interior designer had pulled together from paint samples, and drew inspiration from it! I searched our closets for clothing in the suggested shades, and we ended up in clothes that were comfortable, not too “matchy,” but looked nice next to one another in a quick family photo.

Dress one person in a pattern and coordinate with solids.

Last year, I found the cutest fall-colored striped sweater for my then-four-year-old son. I used the stripes to inspire the rest of our family photo outfits. Everyone else wore solids or tiny patterns that pulled from a single color in his shirt. Even though he is the only one in a pattern, your eye doesn’t always go to him in every shot—he just makes everyone’s outfits feel like they make sense together!

Matchy-matchy family photos might be cliché, but they can be done beautifully!

Maybe you are super into the idea of completely matching your family members. That can totally work! Did you happen to see Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Kyle Richards and her husband Mauricio Umansky’s holiday family photo with their gorgeous daughters this year? They made the cliche jeans-and-white-shirts thing look elegant. Make sure you change up the shapes and necklines of the shirts, and vary the tones of denim, and suddenly the seemingly tired 1990s theme is brand new again.

Don’t forget fun family photo themes like pajamas, winter coats, messes, or swimwear.

There’s nothing cuter than a family photo in jammies or bundled up in coats and cute winter hats. Sit on a fluffy blanket, snuggle in and make each other laugh. Your photographer will be able to capture some sweet shots that just show how much your family loves one another.

You can also do a messy family photo shoot! We did mud one year, and I’ve seen people do paint splatter, cookie making and even water balloon fights.

For summer photos, don’t forget swimwear—especially if you have a pool available for photos. Pool floats, bright beach towels, flowy bathing suit cover ups, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and even snorkels can make for some adorable photos.

When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with neutrals.

If you don’t want to or don’t have time to shop, plan a color scheme or come up with a grand concept, just don’t! Any combination of white, cream, denim, khaki, brown, navy blue, gray, black, greige, and even burgundy, blush and a lot of muted greens will serve you well. Grab some stuff your family already owns, and lay it all out together. You might have everything you need for family photos already!

Get super fancy.

Do your sons have suits or blazers they’re going to outgrow soon? Did you buy your daughter a formal dress for a dance or special occasion this year? Maybe you wore the sparkliest, fanciest attire to a formal wedding and you really want to pull out that amazing jumpsuit one more time. As long as everyone in the photo is the same level of dressed up, the colors don’t really have to “match.” Get another use out of your best clothes by using them for a family photo. If you really don’t love the colors together, you could always go for an elegant, timeless black and white shot. (I don’t think we can pull off Kandi Burruss-level fancy, but a regular people version of fancy attire photos is next for us! I can’t wait!)

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