Styling Tips for Family Photography

styling tips for family photographers
Stormy Solis Photography

Chances are good that your family photography clients will look to you, the photographer, for styling tips for their upcoming family session.

And that’s a good thing! Clothing choices can truly make or break a session, and it’s a consideration that is often overlooked in the planning stages of contracts, retainers, location scouting, etc.

Wardrobe planning is a vital part of every successful photographer’s workflow – you will see it addressed in the workflows demonstrated by almost all of our teachers in the Family Retreat.

We’ve assembled some styling tips that you can pass onto your clients when the inevitable question arises: “What do we wear?”

Coordinate colours, don’t match

happy family holding hands in a forest
Kelsey Freeman Photography

Remember the days of the whole family in jeans and white shirts? Please tell your clients that those days of everyone being matchy-matchy are gone (thank heavens!).

The idea is to choose a color palette of three or four complementary colours, and then dress the family in shades of that palette. I always advise my clients to start with one statement piece that has a classic pattern – this is most often mom’s outfit – and then pick up clothing for the rest of the family that draws from the colours in that outfit.

Another alternative is to keep the colour palette neutral (think greys, browns, creams), and then introduce a pop of colour here and there.

Neon is a hard no. It doesn’t photograph well, and you will have to deal with crazy colour cast on skin.

Say no to characters and logos

This is a guideline especially for the kiddos. As much as the kids may love their Paw Patrol shirt, it is a distracting element in a photo. The star of the show should be the people in your family session – not the logo or words on a shirt.

Shop at the same store

family walking hand in hand
Chloe Ramirez Photography

If the family wants to buy some new clothing items for their family shoot, give them the hint to shop at the same store for everyone in the family. Because stores usually have collections of clothing that are released seasonally, these collections are already coordinated, making it super easy to style everyone in the family.

Textures add visual interest

great styling tips
Stormy Solis Photography

Mixing up fabrics is a smart strategy to add some dimension to your images. A good cotton shirt is a good start, but add knits, silks, leather, lace and the like to add depth.


family walking away from camera
Hailey Faria Photography

Adding accessories is an easy way to introduce different textures. Scarves, hats, belts, wraps, ties, necklaces … encourage your clients to show off their individual personalities with accessories.

Consider home decor

family on beach
Anja Mcdonald Photography

Family sessions are very likely to result in a beautiful family portrait on the wall of a family’s home. Advise clients to ensure their clothing choices match the decor and colour scheme of the room where they are planning on hanging their portrait.

Be comfortable

family photoshoot in urban location
Penguin Pictures

As much as it is important to consider colours and textures when choosing what to wear for a family session, an overarching consideration should be to choose clothing that fits well and is comfortable.

It is no use having people look good, but Dad is grimacing in every photo because his collar is too tight, or Mom can’t twirl her child around because she is worried about a wardrobe malfunction.

Communicate and explore

Help your clients explore clothing options and pass on styling tips by creating “What to wear” inspiration board on Pinterest and sharing those with your client.

Check out Milky Way’s Pinterest board with styling tips!

Many photographers assemble their best styling tips in a Style Guide document that they share with clients, either in print or electronically.

Above all, be available to your clients throughout the process and allow them to bounce outfit ideas off you. Encourage them to send you photos of their wardrobe choices before the session so that you may offer styling tips that are directly relevant to them.

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