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South Williamsport, PA
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What to Wear for Family Portraits

It’s that time of year when the holidays start looming large. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it and the stores are already starting to push Christmas décor on shoppers. This is also the time, while the leaves are vibrant on the trees, for many families to have portraits taken, not only for their

It’s that time of year when the holidays start looming large. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it and the stores are already starting to push Christmas décor on shoppers. This is also the time, while the leaves are vibrant on the trees, for many families to have portraits taken, not only for their own home but also as gifts and holiday cards. Professional family photos are trending away from the portrait studio and moving outside, literally, with more naturalistic posing and candid shots to capture special moments. All of which is great. I love seeing these types of photos on social media and hung in friends’ homes. However, the reality of getting those great shots is far from natural. Of course, a good photographer is key, but what also helps is having complimentary outfits for the whole family. I can’t help you with the photographer part, but for what to wear, consider the following tips and trick.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will — plan your outfits in advance. Deciding what to wear the day of your photo shoot not only adds undue stress to getting everyone out the door but also sets you up for some major photo fail. By planning, I mean having everything clean, pressed, and hanging up, ready to go. If you want to take your prep work to the next level, have everyone try on their photo looks, then take some test shots with your cell phone to see how each outfit “reads” with the others. Even if you don’t take some practice pics, still have everyone on try on their clothes to see how they fit and move. Kids’ clothes should work well in motion so that they can play during the session, and your outfits should be flexible and provide coverage as you sit, squat, lean forward, or even jump around.

Of course, it’s easy to say, “plan ahead,” but where and how to start? Start with you. Think about an outfit that makes you look and feel great. Something that’s comfortable yet polished, vibrant, but not loud, leaning toward classic, not trendy. I know, a tall order, so best to start with yourself and do the hardest work first. With you as the center — and, come on, we all know Moms ARE the center of the family — you can then coordinate everyone else’s look around yours. The key is to coordinate, not match. The days of white shirts and khaki pants are long gone. Now is the time for colors that complement each other. For example, soft tones like light blue, gray, and blush, or warm hues such as brown, orange, and burgundy. Same for patterns — you don’t want everyone in stripes. Instead, have mom in a floral, and maybe the baby in a novelty-print, while Dad sports a solid color that coordinates with both patterns.

Additional points to consider: Season, location, and your current home décor. If it’s springtime and you’re in a garden, then lean toward pastels and simple patterns, like polka dots. If you’re out in the park surrounded by fall foliage, go with earth tones and stripes. For summer on the beach, forget about it, that’s a horrible setting. Sand will get everywhere; everyone will be hot and sweaty, and, if you’re in swimsuits, no one wants to see your husband shirtless on the Christmas card. Lastly, think about the colors and textures of your home. If these photos will be framed and hung, you’ll want them to coordinate or speak to the pictures already on the wall.

Be mindful of the weather. Obviously, when you book a photographer weeks or months in advance, you can only somewhat gauge what the weather will be like. As you get closer to your session date, be sure to check the forecast and consider overcoat alternatives. Chunky cardigans, scarves, boots, and gloves may all be necessary for your photos, so start prepping those the week of. And don’t forget shoes. Everyone will need to have shoes, and not just sneakers or flip-flops, but real shoes that aren’t overly worn or scuffed.

Yes, there are many elements to juggle when figuring out how to dress the whole family for pictures, and you can’t plan for every potential disaster. Try not to stress too much and, if your children are old enough, let them have some input and be mindful of their preferences. If your daughter hates wearing dresses, don’t force her to wear one. If your son’s bowtie makes him uncomfortable, then take it off. If your kids feel miserable, their faces will show it in the pictures.

Once you’re done, reward yourselves. Go out for ice cream or pizza after your session, or go bowling, whatever fun thing your family likes to do together. Let the kids know that there will be a treat, but only if they behave for the pictures. If they don’t, send them to grandma’s and treat yourself with some alone time and a beverage of your choice.

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