We recently asked for topic suggestions for our blog, and a big issue we heard was "What should my family wear for professional pictures?" As someone who recently struggled through the entire process, I knew I was not the person to answer. Instead, we enlisted the help of one of our active Smocking Hot Mamas who happens to be a professional photographer: Jenna Daniel. This is what she had to say on the topic:
Hi! I am Jenna Daniel, a stay at home mom of two who doubles as half of a husband and wife photography team (www.lovethedaniels.com). Since I am an active Smocking Hot Mama myself, the admins of SHM contacted me and asked me to address an all important question that we have all asked ourselves at one time or another…
What should we wear for family photos?
Ok, ok. It's not THAT important in the scheme of life and our priorities as wives and mothers, but I know that about twice a year it becomes a question that can cause me a lot of stress! We often get this question from our clients as the date of their shoot approaches. We are always happy to help answer by giving some direction based on the experience we have gained through years of shooting family portraits. Our goal is to guide our clients to think outside the box, while dressing in a way that is a true reflection of their family.
I don't have a formula for the perfect color combination or magic number of colors to combine. If you have an eye for combining colors and textures, then planning your wardrobe for the shoot will come naturally. That doesn't mean it will always be easy, but you'll know when it's right! If you don't have an "eye," then don't struggle through it on your own! Ask a friend who has an eye for fashion. Your photographer should also be able to give you some direction and/or help make decisions about final pieces once you have the main concept and color scheme down. Whether planning your wardrobe is natural for you or not, here are a few basic guidelines to help with the process!
-We recommend avoiding green. While I love the color, we find that it often brings out a green tone in the subject's skin. It occasionally works well, but more times than not, we really fight a green cast on our end and can't always get rid of it during processing. I have never asked other photographers about this; it's just something we have learned from our experience. If you're dying to wear green, you may want to ask your photographer to see if they think it's an issue.
-I generally like to see several base colors combined with a pop of color. Get creative with mixing up the colors. Your pop of color can be a dress, shoes, scarf, neck tie, chunky necklace, striped tights on your little one, etc. Here is an example of a family's wardrobe based on this guideline --- navy, gray, and white with a pop of fuchsia. Dad wears dark jeans, white dress shirt, and a gray or silver tie. Another option for dad would be jeans, a gray sweater, with a dress shirt underneath. Mom wears a fun navy dress, fuchsia or silver earrings, white scarf, and fuchsia heels. Big brother wears gray cords, chunky knit navy sweater, with a white polo or dress shirt underneath. Big sister wears a gray dress (classic or tunic, depending on her style) with fuchsia cable knit tights, and a navy bow. Baby sister wears a white cord geometric smocked dress with a white, gray, or fuschia bow (depending on the look you want), and baby brother wears a navy cord longall with peter pan collar shirt underneath. I would personally do a little three letter monogram in gray on the collar of the shirt. The final product looks coordinated, natural, and interesting. This approach also allows each family member to express his or her style.
-Using the same color combination above, an example that I would NOT recommend would be for every family member to wear jeans and a white shirt, a navy scarf, while the mom wears fuschia jewelry, and the girls wear fuchsia hair bows. While it follows the color combination "rule," the final product feels forced, boring, and slightly awkward. Try to equate it to real life. I often keep in mind what my husband and children are wearing as I dress. We often coordinate, but we would never go out the door wearing the same color pants and shirt. That would just be embarrassing!
-If you want to stick with neutrals with no "pop", focus on texture and various tones of neutrals. We have our own family photos scheduled for February, and I think I'm going to go this route. It looks like we will wear a combination of cream, navy, and brown. It sounds SUPER boring, but it should play out well since the focus will be textured pieces with interest. My husband will wear a brown suit sort of "undone." I'm not sure if he will wear a tie or not, but I picture the top shirt button undone and a vintage style, well worn hat. Our four year old son will wear his blu pony vintage pants that are a light grayish brown linen color, Well Dressed Wolf's cream pleated dress shirt, suspenders that are cream with a dark pinstripe running through them, navy saddle oxfords, and in some shots, he will have on a brown cord newsy style hat. I'm still looking for the perfect cold weather heirloom dress for our one year old daughter. My backup plan is a cream cord dress with geometric smocking and a cream or navy bow or Pixie Lily's buff apron dress. I have no idea what I will wear! I imagine that it will be navy (probably cocktail style). I plan to wear some accessories with shimmer. This is my plan at the moment. If you ask me next week, I may be planning to go a completely different direction.
Here are some examples of photos we have taken with an explaination of why the wardrobes work well:
We photograph this family every year. The mom decided to do something different for their Christmas cards last year and have the kids wear their Christmas pj's. I love this idea! Notice how each piece sticks with the red and white color scheme, but each child is dressed differently. The combination of stripes, plaid, sparkly buttons, ruffle, and textured flower all compliment each other but let's you know a little something about each child's personality and style. Adorable!
This family's take is unique in that most of us would never think of dressing the whole family in shades of pink and purple, but it played out so well here! While the mom's shoes only show in one of these shots, I adore that both the mom and the daughter wore hot pink shoes!
While I noted above that green is a tough color for photographs, here is an example where it worked. Mom, Dad, and baby are each dressed differently and casually, yet they all coordinate so well.
This shoot was a 6 month shoot for a dear friend's baby. The soft colors of Mom and Dad's clothing help the baby remain the focus of the shoot. All of the pieces are subtle, yet complimentary. I love that the mom is wearing understated coral shoes and earrings, because that's just "her." The last photo is just a reminder that NOTHING beats a naked baby! :)
Here is an example of a neutral palette with no pop of color. This engaged couple wanted to do their shoot at the pumpkin patch. I love that they chose subtle tones since the scenery is the "pop." Given the location, adding a punch of color to their clothing would have felt busy and overwhelming. Take note of the texture and shimmer of her dress, which is another reason the neutral palette works so well.
I hope these guidelines and examples have helped give you some ideas of what you might wear for your next family portrait session. If I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.