So your family photo session is booked -- hooray! What's next? If you're like many parents, you may find yourself asking the age-old question, "What should we wear for our family photos?"

outdoor family photo with two dads and children
Wear comfortable clothing you can MOVE in for your outdoor family photo session.

My best answer for this is to wear what you feel good wearing--and can move around in freely! The photo shoot is about you and your people, not the clothing.

That said … clothing that distracts from the people should be avoided.

Here are some general guidelines I encourage you to consider as you what to wear for your family photos.

Avoid clothing with:

  • LARGE WORDS or logos, graphics, or characters
  • Bold lines, stripes, or high-contrast patterns (subtle patterns are fine!)
  • Shiny fabrics
  • Bright white
  • Contrast that visually cuts you in half (white top/black bottom)
  • Very bright, unnatural colors, which can cast undesired color onto the skin
  • Flesh tones too close to your natural skin color
  • MOSTLY GREEN tones if you'll be having your photos taken in one of our lovely outdoor open spaces or parks (you don't want to be camouflaged)!

What often works best for family sessions is clothing:

  • In soft and classic colors, especially for groups - burgundies, all shades of blue, grays, and flattering neutrals
  • That won't bunch up at the arm pits, ride up, or pull apart between buttons when raising your arms (have I mentioned you'll be moving a lot?!)
  • That conceals under garments and bra straps--especially when moving around a lot!
  • Family outfits that are similar in colors/shades, but are not identical
  • That can be worn with comfortable shoes you like—for outdoor sessions we’ll be busy on our feet!
  • In colors that will display well in your home - or on your holiday card! 😉

You'll find some visual inspiration of great combinations of outfits for outdoor, freestyle family photography sessions on my Pinterest board (more tips continue below):

Pinterest board of ideas for what to wear for family portraits

Why no twin/matching clothing for your family photos?!

Identical matching shirts can distract from the best things happening in your photos and throw off the balance in your shots. A better strategy is to choose outfits in colors that go well together without being identical—and without one standing out far beyond the others (see "what often works best" below).

A better strategy can be to pick a matching accent color that may appear in in someone's scarf and someone else's pair of pants, for example. And one more tip:

Before your family photo session, do a quick inspection to make sure clothing is:

  • Free of distracting creases (eg. shelf folds)
  • Free of noticeable pet hair, lint (or your hair!)
  • Not harboring surprise smudges or stains
  • Not advertising something other than you (eg. a designer brand, sports team, or character)

I hope you've found these tips helpful in planning what to wear for YOUR family photos. If you want to run any outfit ideas, questions, or snapshots by me ahead of your session, feel free!

tips examples what to wear for family photos in East Bay

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Lifestyle family photography in the East Bay Area, serving the Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito and Emeryville areas. Shelly Rivoli Photography is a woman-owned and LGBTQ-friendly small business in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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