Family picture season is here! I have never been a big picture taker, but after having kids, they’ve become non-negotiable for me every year. It really is true how quickly time goes, and thanks to four straight years of sleep deprivation, my memory is completely shot. I’m pretty sure no matter how hard I try, when I look back at these years, my memories will always be clouded by the pure exhaustion and struggle I felt during the years we had two toddlers. I rely on our family pictures to remind me about how fun our kids were and how much they’ve changed.
When you look at a picture all you see is the happy faces. You can’t smell the diaper that needs to be changed (again), you can’t hear the whining and you can’t feel the weight of their body as they struggle to break free and run away. Just kidding. Our picture sessions always go smoothly.
The hardest part of pictures, by far, is dressing the entire family. You want everyone to look coordinated and not like you could be in one of those Awkward Family Photos in matching denim. Here are my tips for dressing the family for family photos!
Shop the closets first.
Especially if you have hard to fit people! AJ wears uniform at work, so his wardrobe isn’t extensive and the pieces he does have don’t get a ton of wear and are basically brand new. Add in the fact that at 6’6″ he’s basically an ogre and really hard to fit (see tip #2!), so I always try and use what we’ve got on hand for him. This way I can avoid searching high and low for something that fits him.
I found Nolan’s shoes in his closet that I had bought on super clearance last year in a size up. They now fit and they’re still a style they carry this year. Kids’ styles really don’t vary too much from year to year, so I always try to buy a season ahead when I can.
You don’t necessarily have to look for brand new things. Just look for things that the person wearing will feel comfortable in, fits well and isn’t too worn, stained or ripped. You may not find anything that works, or anything that matches what anyone else has. Just take inventory to know what you’re working with.
Dress the hardest or pickiest person head to toe before anyone else.
I like to start with myself because I’m most likely to care the most and be most uncomfortable with what I’m wearing. The struggle is so real trying to figure out how to dress this ever changing mom bod.
But, like I mentioned above, AJ is harder to fit. Luckily, most of his things are basics that can be mixed and matched, but I definitely take into account what he’s already got to avoid a wild goose chase. Old Navy has been my go to the last few years for him. Their tall section is affordable, on trend and fits really well, so if you’ve got an ogre to dress, I can’t recommend it enough!
A kiddo with sensory issues or an opinionated teenager could be a good place to start too.
Consider your photographer’s style and the location of the photo when choosing a color palette.
If your photographer does a moodier edit, bright whites and pastels probably wouldn’t make a ton of sense. Just like you wouldn’t wear a sundress for a photo shoot in late November in the Midwest. Dress for the location, season, photographer style and what you plan to do with the pictures.
I went with darker, warmer tones because I knew that would go well with our photographer’s style and we would be shooting in an outdoor location. We live in the foothills/valley, so outdoors usually means a grassy field with oak trees and golden light. I also planned to use these photos for our Christmas cards, so our outfits are holiday-esque, not vibrant spring colors.
Don’t be afraid to mix patterns.
As long as you are keeping everything in the same color palette and using complementing colors, patterns will mix seamlessly. Putting everyone in matching buffalo plaid will probably be an assault on the eyes, so use strong patterns sparingly. I did choose a buffalo plaid style shirt for Nolan, but he’s also the smallest member of the family, so it will add a visual element to the photo, but won’t be overpowering.
On the other hand, the flower print I chose for my dress is on a larger scale, but the pattern itself is smaller, so it’s not as overwhelming.
Solid colors are totally fine and a good idea to balance out the look. Everyone in a pattern would definitely be too busy, but solid colors can look dull or flat. Try and put the people wearing solids in something with texture to add more visual interest. In the dress I chose for Isla, it’s a solid burgundy color, but the tulle gives its some movement and added texture.
AJ’s shirt is also a solid color, but it has a woven herringbone texture that gives it more depth in the closer shots.
Stay true to your family’s style and personality.
All the family pictures we’ve taken have been a scrubbed up version of ourselves- everyone cleaned up and looking presentable, but still pretty casual. This year I wanted to do something slightly different and get a little fancier because now our kids are older and it’s slightly easier to do. No one needs to be nursed in between shots or will tromp right through a mud puddle (Well, jury is out on Nolan, but fingers crossed.), so I went for a slightly more glammed up look. But, I still felt like we look like ourselves.
Nolan is still in shoes he can climb in so his true wild child will shine in the pictures. Isla has had this same dress she’s wearing for literally the last three years in a row in almost every color offered (in different sizes as she’s grown), but she still loves it and it’s still cute. It’s something she’s comfortable in and familiar with so I knew she’d wear it and not throw a fit the day of and demand to wear something else.
But, even with all that considered, you can have the best dressed family, in the perfect location, with the best lighting ever and it’s no guarantee of a good shot. Sometimes kids are just kids, parents are tired of bribing kids to smile and that gorgeous golden light always comes at dinner time!
But, with enough shots, you’re bound to find some gems. If you are local, I can’t recommend Erin Louise Photography enough. I truly have never loved family photos more. She was so patient with us and our squirrely kids and made it so fun.
How do you dress your family for pictures?
AJ: pants // shirt (similar) // shoes
Heather: dress (similar here and here) // shoes //
Nolan: pants // shirt // shoes
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