A DC Tog in Dixie: What to Wear to a Family Photo Shoot

The time is set. The place is chosen. The seemingly impossible task of coordinating schedules for your family photo shoot is complete. You are ready.

Except for that minor detail – you don’t know what to wear.



Whether it comes the day before the shoot, a week out, or at booking time, I almost always get the same question: “What should we wear?”

Don’t get me wrong; I love picking out clothes. If I had my way, I’d outfit the entirety of Austin myself (picture lots of high-wasted jeans and colorful beanies). But clothing is an important reflection of who we are, so I try to keep my suggestions to a minimum.

That being said, there are a few rules to follow that will make your photography session more enjoyable, and the pictures even more beautiful. The good news? These tips will make even your DIY photography better, so no need to wait until your next session with me ;)

Rule #1: Avoid white.

This is the first thing I tell people. It some ways, it seems counterintuitive. After all, head-to-toe white is the traditional bride’s uniform, and they certainly get their fair share of photos taken.

Unfortunately, wearing white is the best way to look not only washed out, but also (don’t be mad at me) boring. And even if you look great in white, a white shirt or dress acts as a giant reflector, taking in all the sun’s light and leaving none for everyone else. Do yourself and your wonderful, talented photographer a favor and stick to colors!

Claudia's Family -13.JPG

Rule #2: Coordinate.

Since you’ve already decided to avoid white in favor of color, which colors should you choose? I’m a fan of literally any color, but it’s always helpful to coordinate.

Coordinating means two things. First, coordinating does not mean everyone wears the same color, unless you’re very interested in recreating a 1980s-style awkward family photo, like this alarming display of denim. It DOES mean finding 2-3 colors and sharing them, using bits of each in everyone's outfit. Claudia’s family nailed it on Mt. Bonnell with coordinated red, black, and gray in the photo above.

Patterns = perfection

Patterns = perfection

Second, find colors that complement each other. I’ve linked here the best article I’ve found on how to do this, and though it’s meant for engagement sessions, it works well for family portraits.

Pro tip: Patterns are WAY more fun than solid colors. Check out Shelby and Yuma KILLING it to the left. 

Rule #3: Keep it comfortable.

If you have small children, you probably don’t have to be told twice. But if you’re shooting with me, we’re heading outside, so you can leave the church attire at home.

That’s not to say sweatpants and T-shirts are the way to go, and your definition of “comfortable” could be a sundress, or even jeans and heels. But remember that my sessions are meant to capture you and your family at your most natural, organic, and happy. If you can’t get down in the grass and play with your kids, you might want to consider a wardrobe change.

And if you really can’t leave the heels at home, take a pro tip from Melissa in the shot below: Walk in flats and bring your heels for the posed shots.

Keep the heels in the purse until you need them!

Keep the heels in the purse until you need them!