You've picked your photographer (hopefully, me!). You've chosen your date. You've paid your session fee.

Now... what do you wear?


I've known some families who have put off having their pictures taken because of this very question.

And guess what... the more people you add, the more difficult it becomes to put all the pieces together.

The good news is... it doesn't have to be that hard.

Let me show you how.

The first thing you're going to choose is a color palette.


You want to choose about 3-4 colors that work really well together and also match your living room decor if you choose to hang a photo on your wall. A great way to think about this is to notice what colors you generally steer toward and what could be complementary colors to those. Honestly, this could be as easy as looking in your closet and pulling out your favorite dress.


If you need a little help, Pinterest is GREAT for finding color palettes. Here is one I found by typing in "earthy tones color palette". Choosing 3+ and not 2 colors will prevent it from becoming too matchy-matchy.


MOST of these colors will mix and match well together. Keep in mind a couple of your favorites and move on.


With a couple of caveats...

You want to be mindful of the backdrop you will be photographed against. GREEN is a very popular color to wear (and one that I personally adore), but if you are wearing green and intend to be photographed against a natural environment with green trees and grass, etc, then you won't pop out from the background as much as you will if you're wearing a contrasting color like pink, rust, beige, or mustard, to name a few.


BLACK is notorious for hiding details. If you are wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and you cross your arm in front of you, your arm will essentially disappear from your body. Generally speaking, I would avoid straight black. Gray is perfectly fine and photographs super well... but we'll get to neutrals later on.


Oh, and one more thing: There are always exceptions to every rule. 🙃


Here are a few examples of great color palettes that helped to differentiate the subject from the background

Family wearing an orange, yellow, green striped color palette sitting on a log
Teenage girl wearing a pink outfit for her senior photos
Family walking outdoors wearing orange, blue, and white
Young adult portrait wearing cobalt blue sweater in an urban setting

Want to keep things super simple?


If you don't feel like thinking about it too much, you can always choose a color palette that is very clean.


Beiges, whites, browns, and pastels photograph beautifully, won't ever go out of style, and are impossible to screw up.


Throw some jeans on the boys, add cute shoes, and voila... done!

Cute family wearing a neutral color palette for their outdoor family session

Ok. Feeling good?

Great! Keep moving.

If you're a family, the first person you're going to start with is MOM.


Hear me loud and clear here: Mom needs to feel FANTASTIC.


She is the one whose body has been through the most changes in life. 9 times out of 10 she will be the one who will have the hardest time finding something to wear, and so you need to START with her and build all the other outfits around hers.


My recommendations are as follows:


First, you really cannot beat a good dress that is cinched at the waist and flowy on the bottom. It looks amazing on every body type, photographs beautifully, and accentuates (and hides) in all the right places.


If a dress is not your thing, that's ok. But I want you to at least consider saying "yes" to the dress.


As far as solids vs. patterns, that is entirely up to you. A beautiful floral shirt, dress, or kimono all photograph nicely. If you are going with a solid colored outfit, I would look for ways to add texture and interesting details. What jewelry could you add? If you have a tan line from a watch, consider adding a bracelet. Possibly add a large-knit cardigan if it's cold.


Here are some of my favorite places to shop for women:

Baltic Born

Style and Shoppe

Old Navy

Quince

Morning Lavender


Every so often, you can even find some good stuff at Kohl's or TJ Maxx right here in Lebanon.


Whatever you find, you need to feel amazing in it and it needs to be practical enough to move around, possibly pick up children, walk on uneven surfaces, etc.

Woman dressed in a beautiful long flowy gown stands next to her husband wearing blue collared shirt and jeans

NEXT, WE BEGIN TO ADD YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS

Go closet diving


When it comes to dressing the other family members, I would first start with what is in their closet already. Remember, it needs to be within the range of your color palette. It doesn't need to match exactly; as long as it is complementary to Mom's outfit, you should be fine.


This is what you're looking for:

✔️The colors work with mom's outfit

✔️It fits them well

✔️They LIKE wearing it--we're not dressing them up in a way that feels foreign to them


Here are a few more recommendations:

Make sure you've got at least one pattern so you don't wind up looking very color blocky.

Dress dad in a simple, solid-colored Henley, t-shirt, or collared shirt (preferably not a polo) with his favorite pair of pants.


If you're having trouble finding anything for them in their closet, you can certainly go shopping! I've provided a list of great shops for kids at the end of this blog post. Dads tend to already know where they like to shop.

Family standing outdoors wearing blue, orange, and cream color palette for their family photos

WHEN IN DOUBT, ADD NEUTRALS

Are you dressing a huge extended family? Don't worry about putting EVERYONE in a color.

Choose a few outfits within your color palette, and then put others in white, beige, gray, or charcoal.

It's easier... not only for you, but on the eyes!

Now it's time for a few tweaks


Lay out all your selected clothes. I want you to look for a couple of things.


First, do you have any clothing that is ALMOST the same color, but NOT QUITE? If so, those colors are going to clash. I'd suggest swapping one out for a piece of clothing that's a completely different color OR a deeper/lighter shade of that same color (or a pattern, if you don't already have one!)


Second, do you have two people wearing the exact same colored top, and are they likely to be next to each other in a photo? For example, are mom and dad both wearing white? In the same way that wearing green against a green background can cause an issue with subject separation, wearing the same exact color as someone else won't be pleasing to the eye because you'll blend into each other. Tweak those outfits. Add a cardigan or a shawl or a vest. Swap a shirt for a different one. Make everyone look like their own unique selves.


Lastly, take a look at your shoes. Please don't show up with sneakers unless they are beautiful glaring white sneakers straight out of the box. It's just not a good look, trust me.

Mom wearing pink and red floral dress stands next to husband wearing blue and daughter in a pink dress

Great color/subject separation happening here

A couple more things to watch out for


For some reason, tiny stripes make a weird optical illusion in photographs. Stay away from them.

Neon clothing can actually cast the color onto your face. Oompa loompa, anyone?

Logos on shirts are distracting.

Same for graphic tees.

I would recommend forgoing hats as they can cast shadows on your face giving you racoon eyes.

Be sure to iron out any wrinkles.

FAQs

Do all the colors need to blend perfectly together?

Nope! Let me be clear. If you have yellow in your color palette and your daughter is wearing a white dress, you don't need to worry about putting yellow on her somewhere. It's fine to have different people in different colors so long as they flow well together as a whole.

What if it's cold?

One word: Layers. Find ways to put hidden layers wherever you can. Tights, double socks, undershirts, cardigans, sweaters. It can really go a long way in keeping you warm. ALTERNATIVELY, you could go the cute coats and scarves route! Pea coats, trench coats, faux fur coats... I've seen them all pulled off successfully.

What if I want to wear heels with my outfit?

I would bring a change of shoes in case the ground isn't even.

White t-shirts and jeans is still a thing, right?!

😐

My kid likes a certain shirt but it's not one of my chosen colors. What do I do?

Pay him a dollar to wear a different shirt. 😁 Ok, just kidding (sorta). Here is the most important question: Does it fall into the range of the color palette, even if it's not the 3ish colors you originally picked out? If so, then you're fine! As you look for clothing, you may find that a different colored outfit pops out at you. That is perfectly fine and normal as long as it's still complementary or contrasting to the other outfits.

I've been through this


I have first-hand experience trying to dress my family for a photo shoot. In this photo here, I chose my own dress FIRST. Then I found pieces either in our closet, online, or even thrift store shopping to add to our overall look. Can you guess what our color palette was?


Everyone was happy with their clothes, except I had to talk my husband out of wearing a bright blue t-shirt after I'd already decided what everyone else was wearing. 😬


I get it... clothing is very personal, so sometimes "mom's opinion" doesn't always fly.


That's why every family who is photographed by me gets an opportunity for professional feedback.


Do you need to talk your teen out of wearing those sweatpants? Do you, yourself, need a second opinion? Snap a photo of your options and send it my direction. I'd love to help you out.


I've even done a few FaceTime sessions where we go closet diving together. It's fun!

Plus, it gets the job done in about 10-15 minutes flat.


Just remember that I might suggest that you tweak a few things! So the sooner you can reach out, the better. Chances are good that, if you've followed this guide, you're on the right track.


I won't be posting my phone number here, but if you've scheduled with me, you should already have it. Don't be shy!

Naomi Boyer's family walking outside wearing a rust, pink, tan, and grey color palette

Oh, and just in case you're looking for a great photographer

one that will help you out every step of the way....

I leave you with these recommended resources

Shops for Kids


Little Stocking Co--fun dresses that twirl

Alice + Ames--the cutest little girl outfits

"Little Planet" by Carters--organic looking baby and toddler wear

Olive + Scout--hip clothing for little kids

Joyfolie--flowy dresses for girls

GapKids--trendy clothing for kids

Mango-Kids

Shops for Teens

I would like to qualify this by saying that I find teen-targeted clothing shops to be very hit or miss. Browse at your own discretion!


Forever21

Aeropostale

Free People--a bit pricier, but super stylish clothing that teens love

Mango

I have also found photo-worthy clothing at Kohls, TJMaxx, Boscovs, Target, Walmart, and Jubilee.

Don't be afraid to shop local. Just sayin'.

(Fingers crossed that we'll get some good boutique shops in town at some point)

Naomi Boyer is a family, maternity, newborn, and graduating senior photographer in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.


She hopes you find something you love for your photo session.

Naomi Boyer sits against a wall. Photo is double-exposed with flowers overlaying it.