What to Wear for a Family Portrait Session

Updated: Nov 1, 2018

My clients often ask what they should wear for a photos session. I have seen bad wardrobe choices happen to great people, ruining a family portrait. Before every session, I provide clients with these tried-and-true tips on wardrobe, hair, & makeup.


Think coordinating, not matching. Any way that your family can complement each other — in style or color — can really pull a portrait together.

Keep it simple. Solid colors photograph well. But, don’t be scared of patterns and prints! They can work great in moderation. Try one statement piece (for instance, a colorful floral dress for mom) and one subtle pattern (maybe tiny polka dots for baby girl), and then keep the rest of the family more simple.

Avoid bulk. Avoid clothes that are too bulky. Depending on the season, layers are ok, but be mindful of too many layers.

Be comfortable. Show off your children’s fun style with layered clothing that’s fitted and comfortable. If kids feel comfortable, they’re more likely to give natural expressions full of personality. (Same goes for adults, for that matter.)

Try on your clothes well in advance!

Check your outfits from all possible angles in the mirror, not just the one you like best. Try sitting, squatting, leaning forward, etc. The kids’ clothes should work well in motion so that we can play during your session (think flying, tickling, and hanging upside down).

Don’t be afraid to accessorize!! Children’s accessories, such as colorful scarves or hats, can be a great way to add more personality.


Above all, if you feel good, you will look good! Choose clothing that gives you freedom of movement, keeps you warm/cool, and won’t require a lot of maintenance throughout your session.

And don’t forget about shoes!

They’re an important part of your wardrobe — and there’s nothing worse than a beautiful outfit that’s ruined by scruffy shoes or tattered flip flops.

Makeup & Hair

Keep it natural. For women, hair should be styled naturally. In other words, if you don’t usually wear your hair in a formal updo, skip it. The same principle applies to makeup: if you’re thinking about trying out that trendy fluorescent orange eye shadow you saw in a magazine, save it for another time. Instead, choose natural makeup that makes you feel beautiful, then add a light layer of powder to reduce shine, just before the session.

Keep it clean. A clean-shaven look for men is best (but if you’ve always rocked a beard, I’m not telling you to shave it off!). Haircuts for boys and men should take place about a week or so before the session.

Even after sharing all these tips, I always remind clients that there’s really no such thing as a “wrong” wardrobe choice — that is, if they absolutely love what they’re wearing. That’s because by the end of each pre-session consultation, we’ve discussed the most important question, which is this: what do they want to do with these images? Since I specialize in wall art and keepsakes photos, I want my clients to picture how these photos will look in their home for years to come. So, if we’ve discussed how they’ll use the images and I’ve given them my style tips, but they still want to wear matching pink velour tracksuits (okay, this has never happened but you catch my drift!), then that’s a family who owns their style and can (and should) pull it off!! (I will love your passion no matter what!)

What’s important to me as a photographer is that the session is an enjoyable experience for the whole family; everyone should be relaxed and have some fun! At the end of the day, there’s no amount of clothing, hair, or makeup that can distract from a truly sweet moment between family…even if they’re all wearing matching jean jackets.

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