Family Portrait Styling Tips

‘Tis the season for family portraits.  We all want to capture joy and love in our families portraits, however coordinating wardrobes for a group can be stressful for many.  I enlisted the help of two talented local photographers I often work with, Susan Stockman and Cathy Pirello to share wardrobe styling tips for those of you who are penciled in for upcoming family photo shoots.

  • For family photo wardrobe suggestions I start with location.  Is it urban? Rural? Woodland? What are the textures that are there such as brick, concrete, old wood? This really helps define the style and color.  Then I tell them to make sure what they wear is location friendly (i.e. don’t bring high heels for a shoot in a field) and comfortable.  If you aren’t comfortable it shows.  So don’t be afraid to dress your family down it might make for a happier photo.  – Susan

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Photo credit: Susan Stockman Portrait

  • I also think it is important to blend as opposed to match which is probably the most challenging concept for a client to understand.  This is where a wardrobe stylist can really help! Megan has put together some great combinations that are flattering, comfortable and work with the location and feel of the shoot. – Susan

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Photo credit: Susan Stockman Portrait

  • Finally, sometimes clients have a wonderful wardrobe and coordinating location but are puzzled when it comes to Christmas card selection feature their photographs.  If you can select a style of card prior to your shoot it can give you a starting point for color and maybe even location. – Susan


Photo credit: Susan Stockman Portrait

Once you decide on a location, choose clothes that fit everyone well.  Pick outfits that everyone feels confident and comfortable wearing. -Megan

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Photo Credit: Cathy Pirello Photography

  • I start family photo styling sessions by first shopping the closet of each family member.  I look for common color themes that work with favorite pieces that fit well.  Once we choose the common neutral palette, we can look for the coordinating pop color and patterns.  Then if needed we can shop with purpose for any missing items to finish the looks. – Megan
  • For my own family photos I used navy, tans, and gray as neutrals already in our closet to build our looks around.  Each year I pick 2 pop colors or patterns to add interest.  Sometimes only one person is wearing the pop of color and the others are wearing complimentary patterns and/or colors.  I almost always add texture or pattern for interest.  As you can see from our photos everything from polk-a-dots, floral accessories, stripes, or prints can work well as an accent. -Megan

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Photo Credit: Cathy Pirello Photography

  •  Wear colors that complement rather than going for the matchy matchy look. Another good rule of thumb is to have one individual be the “peacock” so to speak. I attached one of our family photos (photo credit Kauai Bliss Photography) where I am the peacock and everyone else is wearing colors that have been pulled out of my dress.  The last photo is an example of when matching can work. The boys all match but the Mom is the “peacock” simply because she is wearing complementary colors.  -Cathy
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