Congratulations! Today is the day I do you a solid and make family pictures a little bit easier. The other day a friend of mine said to me, “I love the look of coordinated clothes in family pictures and I would love to be able to do that, but I don’t know where to start.” This can be a major source of stress for clients and I get it. Okay, no I don’t. I secretly LOVE finding coordinating clothes for my family to wear for family portraits. To me it’s like a fun clothing version of Master Chef. “Take these three colors and find coordinating outfits for your whole family in 30 minutes! Ready: GO!” I would kill it in that competition. Hopefully, by the end of this blog post you will have the tools you need to kill it on Master Wardrobe Coordinator Season 1 (Working title.), too. Here are my four simple steps for finding your perfect portrait wardrobe:
Step 1: Pick a Style (Consider the setting. Consider the season. Consider the reason.)
Have you ever seen a couple out on a date and it’s clear (based on their wardrobe) that one of them had no idea where they were going on their date? That person usually looks super annoyed and out of place. The same thing can happen with your family portraits if everyone in your group isn’t wearing the same style of clothing. For example, if you’re wearing an evening gown, your daughter will look like a slob in shorts and a t-shirt. If you’re not sure what style to choose, consider the setting. Would casual clothing be appropriate in your portrait location? Consider the season. Is it sweater weather or sweating weather? Consider the reason for your portraits. Do you want them hanging on the wall? Will your style clash with the decor? Will the portraits be used for Christmas cards? Answering these questions will help you narrow down your options very quickly.
Step 2: Pick a Color Scheme
There are several ways to decide a color scheme. Again I would encourage you to consider the setting, season, and reason. What colors are popular right now? What colors might everyone already have in their wardrobe? It may work best to just pick three colors and go from there. Or maybe you have an outfit in mind for yourself and you want everyone else to match it. There are a lot of helpful tools on Pinterest (including my What To Wear For Family Portraits board) and sometimes inspiration can strike when you just type in some colors you like. If you have a large group, sometimes it’s a good idea to just stick with a wide range of colors like jewel tones, pastels, or primary colors. One thing to avoid is everyone wearing the exact same outfit. (For instance, red t-shirts and blue jeans.) A matchy-matchy wardrobe will create more of a corporate retreat or summer camp look than a family portrait look.
3. Pull From What You Have and Fill in the Blanks
Once you have decided on a style and color scheme, raid your closets for anything that fits your criteria. You may be surprised by what you already have. Take a close look and figure out what’s missing. Then the best part: go shopping! Shopping is much easier when you know exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a good idea to start this process a couple of weeks out from your portrait session so you have time to have items shipped to you.
4. Lay Everything Out Together
I like to lay everyone’s wardrobe out on the floor or my bed and see how it looks together. Sometimes I end up switching things up because it just doesn’t quite mesh. Don’t forget the shoes! Take a picture and send it to others who will be in the family portrait (such as extended family or older children no longer in your home). Have them do the same, if they want. It’s helpful and reassuring to know that you’re not going to clash with the rest of the group. At the very least, send it to your photographer so she can start visualizing your session.
Ta-done! You did it! Just for fun, I dare you to go try these four steps right now. I’ll bet you could have the perfect wardrobe picked out in less than a half hour.
Are you ready for a few more tips? Because I have them. Tips guaranteed to have you and your family looking your best.
Tip#1: Avoid all logos and words and try to keep prints at a minimum. Usually a 3 to 1 ratio of those wearing solids to those wearing prints is a good rule of thumb. Otherwise, the photo could look too messy. I like to have at least one person in the group wear a print that includes all of the colors in the color scheme.
Tip #2: Grown men look most masculine in fitted pants and close-toed shoes. Shorts and flip flops are really only appropriate for beach portraits. Women tend to look more elongated and have better posture in heels. (Consider the location and whether or not you will be able to walk comfortably in heels.)
Tip #3: Consider your insecurities. When I see a photo of myself, my eye immediately goes to those areas about which I am most insecure. Everyone does it. I know that even if the lighting is great and all of our wardrobe choices are fantastic, I’m not going to print a picture of me looking large and in charge. So, when you’re choosing your portrait wardrobe, consider your insecurities. Not a fan of your upper arms? Avoid sleeveless or capped-sleeve tops that will draw attention to your arms. Insecure about your belly? A suit jacket is a nice way to hide your belly and class things up.
Tip#4: Go neutral. If the idea of finding the perfect colors to fit your wall at home, your grandmother’s mantel, your Christmas card, and your son’s graduation announcement is too overwhelming, go neutral. This is an especially good idea if your setting is very colorful.
Tip #5: Go black and white. The easiest family portrait session we ever had was when we all wore our favorite sweaters and I made the photos black and white. I stopped after step 1! It was so freeing!
The truth is that this is not a life or death decision. Sure, it’s lasting and you’ll be creating memories, but hopefully those memories will be of the joy of being together and not the stress of agreeing on a color scheme. With my four simple steps, I hope you’ll find it much easier than creating the perfect seven course meal from a mystery box of ingredients. I believe in you! Let the games begin!