Avoiding Fashion Malfunctions in Family Portraits

holidayportraitFew things are cuter than those family portraits where everyone’s clothing coordinates. But going too matchy-matchy can distract from the overall appeal of your photo. Showcase your family’s smiles, not their overwhelming penchant for a single color or theme. Learn how to pick outfits for family photos that add to, instead of detracting from, the composition.

Use Accessories

Instead of making everyone, including the dog, wear a bright red sweater in your Christmas photo, opt instead for colorful accessories — a red tie for Dad, a scarf for Mom, a tiny red vest for the baby and a red collar for Fido. Older kids might wear a red tee or carry a red, sequined purse. The point is not to overwhelm your family portrait with a sea of any one color.

Opt For Comfort

Family portrait sessions can be a lengthy endeavor, and cute as they are, some accessories and articles of clothing are just plain uncomfortable for kids. Steer clear of these potentials for portrait disaster when dressing tots for photo sessions.

  • Avoid tight, turtleneck sweaters that exist mainly to harass the necks of children everywhere. Opt instead for a mock turtle or princess neckline that won’t make your child feel like all the air is being sucked out of the room.
  • Forego real ties and opt for clip-ons instead. Easy-on, easy-off — just like your kid’s temper.
  • Don’t dress your toddler or preschooler in long, flowing dresses and skirts unless you want to capture the fresh bruise on her forehead where she tripped stepping up to the backdrop.
  • Likewise, don’t fasten the pants of your newly potty-trained preschooler with a pretty belt. In fact, steer clear of belts for this age-group altogether. Other things to avoid on toddler pants include buttons and snaps. Play it safe on picture day and opt for the old elastic waistband. It’s had your back for nine months at a time throughout life, trust it to see you through another two hours.

Go For the Time Capsule Effect

Parents often don’t realize it, but the phases their kids go through will all too soon be nothing more than fond memories. One way of capturing them forever lies in family photo themes. Let older kids wear their Sonic the Hedgehog and Selena Gomez tees and dress the littler ones in Elmo or Thomas. Family portrait outfit ideas like these inspire smiles and fond memories when you happen across them in yellowed albums a decade or so down the road.


  1. TM says

    I am a photographer and I disagree with the time capsule effect. For cute snapshots with your Iphone or point shoot? Absolutely. Those are the shots you go through on a rare occasion and smile at the dorkiness of it all. But for professional pictures? No. Don’t do it. You will likely never put it on your wall. In fact, I have never had a print/canvas/album order with those kinds of clothes. It’s cute to smile at with a bit of nostalgia when you come across them decades down the road but it’s not something you’ll choose to display like a beautiful work of art across your walls. Choose clean timeless clothes. No prints, nothing that will overshadow the wonderful people you actually want to be the star of the photos…you know…instead of their clothes. The only exception being a child’s portrait where they are dressed in a wild manner(superman costume, boutique clothes, etc…)to get an even more artistic feel to your portraits. That would solely be for a child’s portrait, not an entire family. That clean classic look will last through the ages and be cherished as something special and displayed for a lifetime. Again, by clean classic, avoid fads completely. Nice basic clothes. Colors and styles to suit the style of photos you’d prefer and the location to where you are shooting. You are likely spending a lot of money on those pictures, so choose the kind of clothes that will not make you cringe 10 years from now.

  2. TM says

    Reading your article for the 5th time, I’d say(my apologies if this sounds harsh), that you probably shouldn’t be giving photography style advice. I’m finding too many inaccuracies. Your first paragraph basically goes against everything else you say.

    Not to mention..should everyone where the same color? That depends on a few factors. Figure out the results you want, and then find an excellent photographer who can help advise you. Either way, should the clothes coordinate so they don’t clash? Absolutely.

    The comfort? I always tell my clients to dress comfortably. I am not a studio photographer but a location photographer, and very informal and playful in my style at that. I dislike the stuffiness and repetitiveness of studios. But your advice will waste a family’s money. If you’re going to do dressy photos. Go for it. Look cheap/cheesey for comfort, get cheap photos for your result. There is better advice for the more formal photos. Try asking professionals who know what they’re doing. Want amazing formals? Have fun with it. Want to be comfortable, my main recommendation is to bring a second set of clothes/shoes to change into, make sure the babies are well fed, rested, and have a fresh diaper on. Kids in long flowing dresses? Absolutely adorable and doable, and unless your child completely ignores you and runs wild during the session, there won’t be any falling down. Still worried? Have them dress upon arrival. Easy, simple, effective.

    This article all in all is poorly thought out, poorly executed, and ill advised. Want beautiful pictures that show off not just your family but who your family is in a way that will be timeless in a way that you can display them through out the years? Find an excellent photographer, who knows what they’re doing; make the investment; ask questions; take THEIR advice.

    • says

      Hi TM,

      We appreciate your interest in our post. You make a number of valid points from the perspective of a professional photographer. Given the advice you have provided it seems it would be in our readers best interest to consult a photographer before coming in for a professional shoot. During the writing of this post, a more informal setting was held in mind. For example, a quick family photo taken after Thanksgiving dinner. We acknowledge the fact that using the word portrait in the title may have been misleading. Thank you for taking the time to voice your opinion on this matter; your readership means a lot to us.

      GCH Team

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