What To Wear For Your Family Photo Shoot

With spring finally approaching in Chicago and family photography sessions starting to book up with both new and returning clients — there’s a good chance whether you’ve booked with me or another photographer that you’ve got some questions on how to prepare.

“What should we wear for our family session?”

This is the number one question that I get asked every single time that I book, so I thought it would only make sense to create a blog post on the subject! My desire is to make things streamlined and simplified whenever and wherever I can, especially when it comes to working with my clients. I always want to ensure that they’re enjoying every single step of the process, so by doing the work for them (like creating a template of sorts for what to wear on camera), my hope is to give them one less thing to worry about so they show up to their family photography session feeling confident and well taken care.

So lets dive in to What to wear for your family session!

1. Let go of the notion that you all need to match for your family session. Aim for a color palette instead.

In my opinion, intense matching (think everyone in denim jeans and a white top) can often times take away from the real magic and emotion from your photographs. People will be more focused on how coordinated everything is and far less drawn to the feelings, play, and joy that’s being captured between you and your loved ones. Also, it just doesn’t evoke real, every day reality as it’s probably not likely that you and your family wear the same thing. Right?

Release the pressure that it all has to look this perfect, certain way. The best thing you can do for the investment in your family photographs is to simply stick with a color palette (all while avoiding neon colors!), and let the rest of the pieces fall where they may.

Some great palettes to keep in mind that work well on camera:

* all color palette images via Pinterest


Cool Tones

Warm Tones

2. Stay true to your own personal style.


This might sound obvious, but you’d be so surprised how many times clients will show up to a session feeling self conscious and insecure in what they’re wearing, simply because they thought that’s what they should be wearing. Or because they saw someone else on Pinterest wearing it and they loved the way it looked (even if on a day to day basis, they’d never reach for that item in their closet). I’m guilty of this, too! The best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and the investment that you’ve made both with your money and your time, is to truly LOVE what’s on your body. Maybe it’s a $300 dress from Anthropologie, but maybe it’s that $10 blouse you snagged at Target. As long as you feel like your most authentic self, that will radiate through your images.

3. On that same note, this is the perfect time to elevate and play dress up.

How often do you really have the reason to get all dolled up? Maybe a few times a year, right? A wedding, the holidays, your anniversary.. Your family photography session is also the perfect excuse to take things up a notch and to put on that dress that hangs so pretty in your closet, but rarely gets worn. Same for the rest of your family — a suit doesn’t have to scream “corporate”. It can still be relaxed and effortless. but add a super special touch to your images. Just make sure that you’re dressing for the occasion. For example: if your session is in the middle of a forest, wearing a cocktail dress wouldn’t make much sense. Much like if you were taking photos at the beach, you wouldn’t wear heels. So keep that in mind.

4. Avoid any type of clothing that distracts — like typography or graphics.

The last thing that you want when looking through your family photos or sharing them with others is for people to only be commenting on what your and your child’s shirt says. Again, you’ve invested your money and your time into this session to capture authentic, raw loving moments — not to get the message across that your little one loves Star Wars :) Stray away from anything that takes away from the emotion (words and graphics), and instead let the personalities and the love, love, love do all of the talking.

5. Layers are your friend when it comes to dressing for your family photography session.


Layers add so much dimension to images, which is a great thing! Now just like with everything, moderation and balance is key. If you’re doing a winter session, no need to show up looking like you’re about to go down a Black Diamond ski hill. Layers give you the opportunity to add and take away during the photo session, which switches up the texture and contrast to your images, and also gives you some variety. Here are some tips for how to incorporate layers into your session:


Winter Family Photography Sessions: Rather than wearing your winter coat to your session, try this instead:

Women: Double up on tights by either wearing them under your jeans/pants, or wearing two pairs under your dress/skirt. Wear a thermal shirt underneath your top layer to keep you warm, high boots to keep your shins shielded from the cold, a knitted hat to keep in the heat, and a scarf to keep your neck warm. Little by little as we start to shoot, you’ll notice that your body temperature is rising because a) you’re interacting with your loved ones so you’re picking up excess body heat, and two — you’re playing! You’re not just standing still, you’re moving your body.

Men: Wear a thermal under a sweater and a structured blazer on top. Depending on what your wife/partner is wearing, do the opposite (if she’s wearing a scarf, rock a hat. If she’s rocking a hat, wear a scarf). Too much of the same thing will cause distractions and take away from the emotions within the images. For shoes, wear high top leather boots and opt for some wool socks.

Kids: The same exact thing applies for the kiddos as it does for the men/women, mom/dad/partner. So just layer them up the exact same way you did yourself, ensuring there’s balance with who’s wearing what.

Spring Family Photography Sessions:

This is always an exciting time because the weather is finally taking a turn for the better, and we’re all so excited to bring out our spring clothes. Layers for spring could look like a light scarf/wrap, a structured blazer, a flat brim hat, or some type of fitted jacket (denim, leather, etc)

Summer Family Photography Sessions:

Layering in the summer is always a bit tricky, but get creative and double up on accessories here! Some layers for summer could look like a swim suit underneath a sheer dress, multiple necklaces of different lengths, a sun hat, sunglasses, a beach towel, etc.

Fall Family Photography Sessions:

The absolute best time to layer is within the fall — I’m sure we can all agree on that :) This pretty much consists of taking a little bit from winter layering and matching it with spring. A sweater with a scarf, a dress with tights and a jacket, a flat brim hat with a leather jacket, a knit beanie hat, etc.


6. Lastly, reach out to your photographer for their opinion if you’re unsure!

We are always (always) here to help support you and to ensure that your session turns out the best that it can. If you’d like your photographer’s opinion on what you’ve chosen for your session, send a photo of the gathered looks via text or email and ask for their feedback. I can 100% guarantee you that they won’t mind — in fact, they might actually appreciate it so that they know what they’ll be working with. (and by “might” I mean they definitely will ;)

The bottom line is to remember to have SO much fun with this time in your life, and to not overthink it too much. Just channel your true authenticity, know what makes you feel like the best version of you, implement some of these tips, and you’ll be golden.

x, Cassandra