I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween yet, but in the photographer’s world, this is prime family photo season as families across the globe scramble to put outfits together for the annual Christmas card photo in an attempt to “get it over with” before things get crazy. With the big boys out of the house and more harried schedules for all of us, our annual family photo does, of course, bring a teeny bit of stress; but it’s a tradition that yields images we’ll cherish for years to come and often the only ones from the year that capture all of us together (looking half decent). In a perfect world, our annual family photo would be one of the beautiful unplanned, uncoordinated moments in our home where no one’s looking, no one’s matching, and the magic of our love casts an aura across the lens, but let’s face it. Those moments are hard to capture. So, a coordinated family photo it is for us.
So, the big question for so many families is…what do we wear? Oooh, oooh, I know this one! (hand waving dramatically) Pick me! Pick me! Coordinating outfits for family photos is one of my favorite things to do–so much, I’ve been known to take over this job for many of my friends’ photos (they willingly give it to me). Today, I’m sharing a few tips for choosing clothes for family photos as well as four themed style guides, and tomorrow I’ll be back with tips on attempting your own photos if hiring a photographer isn’t in the budget. Last year, Heidi got stuck in traffic on the way to our family photo shoot, so I handed the camera to a friend who was tagging along, and ten minutes later, our photos were done. It doesn’t have to be a big production.
A few things to consider…
Will the photos be displayed in your home?
If you intend to enlarge and display photos from your shoot, you’re going to want to consider the color palette of your home in choosing outfits. A selection of bright and fun jewel tone clothes, for instance, probably wouldn’t be the best choice if you’re going to display a large image in a living room with muted earth tones.
DON’T GO MATCHY MATCHY!
When I used to do more family photography and a family reported they were considering white shirts and khaki pants for all, I’d A: Get it together to keep my sarcasm in check, and then B: Calmy guide Florence toward a less 1989-Olan-Mills look. Sometimes it sounded like, “Hell no, Flo.” Might I suggest the following rules: Do not have everyone wear primary colored polos. One polo is okay. Five colored polos says,”We are going on a rainbow golf outing, and our mom is forcing us all to wear these.” Two people wearing jeans is okay. Six people wearing the same shade of blue jeans with black turtlenecks says, “We are in a cult, and this photo is going to show up in an Internet meme in T-minus-two-days.” BREAK IT UP.
Throw in something unexpected.
Mix prints. A bright pop of color. Have someone wear a graphic tee. Bright pink with light pink. Wear a dress, but skip the dress shoes for sneakers. Break the rules. I love throwing something unexpected in our outfits–it keeps it from looking too perfect. One year, Austyn showed up to our shoot wearing camo shorts, and while I didn’t love it at first, it added such a great unexpected element and made our photos more fun. As if chasing Dash that year wasn’t fun enough.
Choose clothes that represent your kids’ personalities
If your kid dresses like a skater, let him dress like a skater for the family photo. If your daughter loves wearing Chuck Taylors, choose the Chuck Taylors to go with her dress for family photos. If your little one is wonderfully wild and crazy, let it show in the photos. Dash’s sweater in last year’s photo had a giant tiger on it, and I love it because it’s so him. In other words, don’t button up the things you love about your family for the photo…let it loose in the clothes you choose. You can coordinate and dress it up a little while still hanging on to everyone’s personality.
Keep it casual.
The best photos are ones that maintain a natural feel and ones where everyone looks comfortable. If everyone’s dressed like they’re going to a prom formal, likely no one’s comfortable, and it will show in posture and strained facial expressions.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are four color palettes with sources that show how outfits can come together with a coordinated feel without being too matchy. Note the unexpected elements in each ensemble–pops of color, leopard print touches, sequins and mixed shades. Now, can you guess which set is my favorite?
E A R T H T O N E S
M O O D Y B L U E S
T H E F U N F A M I L Y
C L A S S I C C H R I S T M A S
Old Navy Jade Sweater