One of the questions I hear most often is "what should we wear?"
So with all the bits of advice I have gathered up over the years, here is a guide to help you choose outfits for your session, whether it's in the studio or outdoors.
What Do You Want the Photos to Look Like?
Of course, the first question has to be... what do you like? Do you want the photos to look formal, or casual, or glamorous? Do you want them to represent you exactly as you are in everyday life or do you want to dress up a bit (or a lot)? If you would like the photos to show off your family's personalities, then find the outfits in your closet that do exactly that.
I am about to give you lots of tips, but it's important to keep in mind that this photoshoot is all about you and how you want the portraits to look. So feel free to ignore any advice that you don't agree with.
Coordinating your outfits is not the same as having everyone wear a white top and blue jeans, because this can end up looking cheesy if you're not careful. White top and blue jeans are a good option, as long as you add some variety in the form of accessories or just different types of shirts. For example, dad can wear a button-down shirt, one of the kids can wear a short-sleeved T-shirt, mum can wear a long-sleeved shirt with a bit of pattern, another child can wear a jean skirt instead of pants. That little bit of variety can steer it away from being a uniform.
Matching outfits exactly can work beautifully in the right context though, just look at my 2020 Christmas card with these two cuties:
A popular way to look like a cohesive family without any risk of cheese is to choose a few colours that show up in different parts of your outfits. I love this one from a family photoshoot in the Waterpark:
You don't have to stick to just two colours. And if you want to have some bold colours in your photos, the best idea is to do that for just one person, with the rest of the family wearing more muted colours that go well with it.
Too many bold colours together can be overwhelming.
In this grandparent photoshoot, three people are wearing similar colours to the photo above, but it is a very different look with a big splash of yellow from the little girl's dress:
Picking a Colour Scheme
When picking a colour scheme, you will want to start with a trip to your closet. I don't want to buy all new outfits every time I do a shoot of my own family, so first I have a look through all our clothes. Most of the time, I can work with what we have, or I will go and buy an item or two to get it right.
Once you have chosen your outfits, try laying them all next to each other to make sure it definitely works.
Some classic colour combinations are pastel tones, earthy tones, black-grey-white and blue-beige-white.
There are so many great outfit colour palettes on Pinterest that could help you choose one for your photoshoot. Here is a link to search for inspiration.
Another thing to keep in mind when picking colours is printing. If your goal is to have a large print or canvas on your wall, then think about where that print will go and what colours will look best in that spot.
Being Aware of Patterns on Clothes
I usually tell people to go for plain clothes without patterns/logos/lettering on them, but you can definitely get away with a nice pattern. Especially if it is a classic pattern like a flannel/checked shirt that is quite popular right now. Try to limit it to one or two people wearing patterned clothes - similar to my advice about bold colours.
Striped clothing can be a bit tricky for photos, especially if the stripes are very narrow, so be careful with those.
Considering the Location
What you wear will also depend on the location/backdrop of your shoot. Is what you're wearing going to stand out from the background enough? For example, if you know you are doing a studio photoshoot with a white background, you don't want to wear white. And if you are going to be in a forest, you don't want to wear green or dark brown.
However, if you feel a bit self-conscious about your weight, you may actually want to turn this around and wear a dark colour for a dark background and a light colour for a light background.
For this photoshoot on the Lavender Farm in Kaikoura, my model chose a perfect dress.
It is mostly white, so stands out nicely against the field, but also has little touches of purple.
The other consideration is temperature. You don't have to worry about this for studio sessions, but if we are outside you will want to wear something appropriate for the weather and bring some extra layers in case it turns out to be colder than you thought.
If your photoshoot is in the studio, you have the benefit of bringing along extra options so I can help you decide and there is usually time to do an outfit change halfway through.
Picking Well-Fitting and Flattering Options
You want everyone to look their best from every angle, so it's important that the clothes fit well. Everyone needs to be comfortable too, especially kids, because otherwise, we will see the discomfort on their faces.
I will add a piece of advice for little girls in skirts and dresses: put a pair of shorts, leggings or stockings on underneath. Little kids tend to move around a lot, and we don't want to see undies on camera.
It is also important that what you're wearing is flattering on you. This website is a great resource to find out what your body type is and what will make you look your best.
Please let me know if there is a part of your body you don't want to be emphasized in the photos. Sometimes all I can see is a beautiful person and I don't notice the things that they think of as flaws.
I'd rather you tell me if there is something that you want to hide, so I can help you with poses and angles.
Another tip I have is that you can use jackets or cardigans to hide a belly. I personally use this, as I find that even 2.5 years after having my last baby, I still look a bit pregnant from certain angles.
What to Wear if You're Pregnant
If you are doing a maternity shoot, you will want to show off your belly in the best way. There are many different ways to do this. The main way to do this is to find an outfit that cinches just above your bump and ideally something that naturally hugs you below your bump as well (the first outfit in the pictures shows this). However, you can also use your hands to show the bottom of your bump (as shown in the second outfit).
Some lovely options, as modelled by me during my two pregnancies, are:
a stretchy figure-hugging dress
a long flowy dress
a bandeau (in this case I used a scarf)
jeans with a shirt
a men's dress shirt
If you have booked a studio photoshoot, you can pick more than one outfit and change during the shoot.
Feel free to add accessories to your outfit. Just make sure that your face is not obscured - so try to avoid sunglasses and large hats. If your regular glasses have lenses that automatically darken in the sun, you might want to wear a different pair for the photoshoot.
this is why we avoid sunglasses and big hats
If your photoshoot is in the studio, then your options are to go with socks, (clean) shoes or bare feet. It's best to think this through before your session so that you can match the socks or shoes, or to give your feet a good clean the day of the photoshoot.
If your shoot is outdoors, then I recommend shoes that you are comfortable walking in. We will be walking a lot during the session, and it will probably be on some uneven terrain like a pebbly beach or a forest full of sticks and hilly bits.
The biggest piece of advice I have for hair is to make sure that you look in the mirror and see if it looks good straight on. A single ponytail or hair bun will completely disappear straight on, so I suggest wearing your hair either loose or in a side ponytail/braid. Little girls also look very cute with two ponytails/braids.
And for older girls and women, a photoshoot is a great time to do something a bit more fancy than usual: you can straighten or curl your hair to make it extra special. Here is a little 10-minute tutorial on Youtube for easy loose curls that look great in photos.
If you are someone that gets very annoyed by seeing flyaway hairs in photos, make sure to use a special product in your hair like a smoothing serum or hairspray.
this is also a fun hairstyle for little ones
Last on the list is makeup. Makeup can be useful to make you look and feel your best, but it's optional of course.
Even though I hardly ever wear makeup in my everyday life, I will always put on a little bit of makeup if I know I am going to have my picture taken. The two things I always do are mascara and eyebrow powder. A little bit of definition around your eyes can make a huge difference. It makes you look more awake for one!
Foundation is a great option, but try to use a lightweight one so it doesn't end up looking cakey. Make sure it is blended well and matches your skin tone as close as possible. A little bit of powder can also help reduce shininess.
You are also welcome to go full glam with your makeup. There are lots of amazing tutorials for this on Youtube, just do a search for the type of look you want to try... and then have a go. Or you can book in with a makeup artist the day of the shoot to make it extra special!