Outfits for Family Portraits – Fall Edition

September 15, 2022

It’s that time of year … the weather is cooling off, the holidays are coming up and families are starting to think about Christmas cards and family photos.   Our annual fall family mini-sessions are also coming up in just 2 weeks and with that, I always start getting questions about what to wear.   I do have a Pinterest board that I’ve updated each year (although not yet this year) for inspiration on outfits but I thought I’d share some ideas from my own clients over the years.

First, I’ll start with a few tips that I’ve always used when putting together our own family photo outfits:

  1. Start with the person that is hardest to dress – I know this is often the mom of the family because we are most critical of ourselves and finding clothing we feel comfortable in can be hard.  If you are the mom (or if you are passing this information along to your mom), go shopping for yourself first.   Once you find something that you love, build everyone else’s clothing around your choice.   Or maybe you have the most precious dress for your baby girl that you just love, use that to build everyone else’s outfits around.
  2. Choose comfortable clothing and try to envision the session and whether it will be practical.   If you have small kids that you may have to bend to pick up or chase, you may not want to do high heels and a skirt – save that for when they are a little older.  When it comes to dressing the kids, if they aren’t comfortable, they won’t be happy and the session could go downhill quickly.  If your husband is uncomfortable or hot, he will be less likely to relax during the session.   SO MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS COMFORTABLE!
  3. Coordinate, don’t match.  Go for a palette of colors that complement each other, but don’t match completely.  White shirts and jeans is outdated – you want your photos to look timeless!  If you do want to go monochromatic, throw in textures.   For our family photos last winter, we decided to do winter white and neutral but did multiple different textures.   Here is my sister’s family from those photos:

4. Think about what you plan to do with the photos.   If these are photos you want to display year-round, you may not want to do holiday clothing.  Bright red and green will look cute in December, but will look out of place on your wall in June.  If your house is full of white, gray and neutral colors – you won’t want to hang photos with bright colors on your walls.

5. Be careful of too many colors and too many patterns.    This is a hard rule to really describe and it’s something that’s easier to “eyeball” than really explain.   This family mixed patterns perfectly – the balance between the size of the patterns, the colors and the type of patterns was perfection and I love how their photos turned out!

6. If all else fails, just keep it simple.  More than anything else, you want the personalities of your family members to shine in the photos and if you stress too much about clothing, by the time you get to the session, everyone may start melting down!   Remember that if you want your kids to look happy in the photos, you’ll need to relax and try to enjoy yourself so they don’t feed off of your energy!


With all that said, here are some family images I’ve taken over the last couple of years that I think make great inspiration for your outfits this year!


And what about the larger, generational sessions?   This can be some of the hardest to put together since it’s usually a few different families working together to dress their own kids and themselves.  Here are some inspiration photos for these:

This is another from our family session last winter.  We choose to do neutral and winter white but also casual because we have teenage boys and men who hate taking photos and hate dressing up.  So we mixed textures and went with jeans so everyone would be happy.

This family did an amazing job with their clothing choices.   They went with navy and green, threw in a couple of simple plaid patterns and made sure everyone was comfortable in their clothing.

Although I’m not sure which outfit was chosen first, this would be a great example of a mom choosing a dress and basing everyone else’s clothing around it.  Let’s just pretend that Chelsea chose her floral patterned dress first, then everyone else just went with simple, comfortable clothing that coordinated with her dress.

This family stuck with mostly neutral colors – navy, light blues and grays,  with a pop of mustard.

This would get a great example of choosing dresses that you love for your kids and basing everyone else around their outfits.

And finally, in these generational sessions, you want to make sure each individual family’s outfits look nice together because we will definitely be doing groups separately as well.

I know it’s a lot and it can definitely be THE most stressful part of a family session, but I’m always here to help.   If you would like advice on your options, feel free to email or text me photos of your clothing and I’ll be happy to help you make some decisions!