What to Wear to Your Family Portrait Session

San Juan Capistrano Los Rios District Family Portrait Orange County Photographer


Picking the right clothes for your portrait session can often be a difficult thing to do. However having a cohesive look can make such a difference in the quality of the photos that it deserves your time, consideration, and effort. Here are three simple methods to help you achieve your look. When you book your session with Cristina del Toro Photography, we include a complimentary over the telephone wardrobe consultation.
Method One: Build around a Central Piece of Clothing

Step 1: Consider where you will be hanging your portraits

Where will you be hanging the portraits? The family room or bedrooms? Use the décor in that area to inspire you as to the style and color of your outfits.

Step 2: Start with one person’s wardrobe

Start building the clothing selection with one person. It is usually best to start with the person in the group that has the fewest amount of clothing of who it is hardest to go shopping or select outfits for. Make sure that the selection goes well with your décor style in the room you wish to hang the portraits. Look through their closet for a great piece you want them to wear for the photos or buy an outfit for that person and go from there.  This could be a fun sweater, a fun dress, a fun hat or scarf. This is especially true if you pick and outfit with multiple colors.

Step 3: Build around the first person’s clothing

Now you can build the rest of the group’s outfits with complimentary colors found on the first outfit. For example, if the first outfit has stripes use some of the same color stripes to pick solid colors and build other people’s outfits.

Method Two | Pick a Color Scheme

Another method is to pick a color scheme for your wardrobe. You should still keep in mind the location where the portraits will be displayed. Consider the colors in the room and what would go well with the décor.
Option 1: Monochromatic color schemes, or shades of the same color, are a classic way to make your group look cohesive. Be aware that the “white shirts and khakis” option is dated and at least consider also the texture in your clothing selection for variety. Texture will add interest!

Option 2: Neutrals like jeans, grays, browns, blacks, and creams are always a great way to start building your family’s outfit. You can add some interest with leather, animal prints, metallic accents, and fur. Neutral colors are great if the backgrounds are very rich in color and busy.

Option 3: Deep, rich jewel tones like ruby reds, royal blues, purples, emerald greens, teals, and burnt oranges, are great in fall and winter seasons. Stick within the same intensity of color. Don’t put one person in baby blue and the rest in rich dark blue colors. The person in the light blue color would stick out like a sore thumb! You can also mix and match with different jewel colors such as have people wearing rich greens and some rich blues.

Option 4: Bright, vibrant colors like blue, greens, reds, and oranges are cheerful and dazzling in any portrait. Again, you can mix and match colors with the same general color intensity.

Option 5: A pop of color mixed with neutrals helps your portraits have more personality and flair. The pop of color could be a scarf, a pair of shoes, a tie, belt, or necklace — or all of the above — on top of neutral colors.

Method Three | Go with a Theme

A well-chosen theme can inspire accessories, hairstyles, props, and the general look of clothing for a portrait.

Consider the season for the portraits like fun chunky sweaters and winter hats with personalities can really set the scene for a shoot, especially for your Holiday cards. Also, remember that you don’t always have to get your family photos taken in the fall. A good option is to take the photos earlier in summer to vary your outfits and the look of the finished portraits.

Consider the shoot location to help you select clothing. If you are shooting at the beach, go for a less formal look. Shooting at a historic site with a lot of texture? Consider something less flashy and more neutral or monochromatic. Please feel free to consult with me your clothing selection.
Hats or other props can transform the look of an outfit. A fantastic pair of shoes or a hair accessory can really make your photos pop.

Final tips to remember

  • Stick to one style: Make sure everyone in the group is wearing one style of clothing such as classy, casual, or contemporary.
  • Avoid shirts that are totally white or very light: Shirts that are totally white (unless paired with a vest or jacket) tend to get washed out and loose detail especially when outdoors.
  • Keep patterns to a minimum : Patterns should complement each other, not draw attention away from the main subject of the photo, you! Use them sparingly. Consider only one or two people having outfits with patterns. Other people in portrait should wear solid colors. Colors don’t have to match, but they do need to go together. The emphasis of the photos should be on your faces, not your clothing.
  • Think about shades of black and white: Consider how your images will look in black and white. This is an especially important rule! Remember to keep intensity of colors similar. Don’t let someone wear a light-colored top when everyone else is wearing dark-colored top.
  • Keep in mind where you are going to be shooting: Consider what colors will look best in the background. Consider if you will be comfortable in the environment wearing what you are planning to wear.
  • Bring accessories and props: Don’t forget your scarves, shoes, hats and other items that you have decided to wear to the portrait session.
  • Consider fingernails and toes: Often you can see hands and feet on the portraits. Consider a pedicure and manicure or simply to have your nails clean and trim.
  • Empty pockets: You don’t want pocket bulges so remember to empty them.
  • Take off glasses (if you want): If you wear glasses, you can choose to wear them or go without them in the photo shoot. I favor going without as flash and sun flares can cause spots on the glasses that are not attractive.


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