This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission on purchases you make using my recommendations at no cost to you!
A popular question in the Frump Fighters Facebook group is about what to wear for family pictures.
We all want that gorgeous tied-together look for our holiday cards or the printed canvas hanging in our living room, but deciding on the outfits can feel daunting.
How do you coordinate outfits? What are some basic tips and outfit ideas to get that gorgeous matching look… without being too matchy. No one wants to end up on Buzzfeed’s list of awkward family photos!
In this blog post I’ll go over some easy tips for planning family outfits for your photo session.
And I also put it all into an easy printable that you can use to actually plan the outfits using the clothes in your own closets.
Download the Family Photos Planner guide first and then read this post to learn how to dress (and not to dress) for your family photos.
What to Wear for Family Photos: The Goal
Remember that we are putting effort into planning outfits with one focus in mind: THE PEOPLE!
The reason we want the clothes to look good is because we want the people in the photos to shine!
These photographs are keepsakes that we will treasure for the rest of our lives. We want to create a gorgeous ensemble that really showcases the love and unity of your family.
Today I want to show how easy it is to plan your family outfits!
First I’ll go over some general tips about choosing your outfits.
Then I’ll cover my easy step-by-step guide to picking what everyone should wear.
What To wear for Family Photos: DON’T Do These 6 Things
First, easy rules to keep in mind when choosing the pieces your family will wear.
General tips for choosing the family’s outfits:
Don’t use shirts with logos/graphics. This is for two primary reasons. First, logos look dated pretty quickly. But second, and most important, graphics on shirts draw attention away from the faces. We want our pictures to highlight the faces not the clothes!
Don’t have too many patterns. Just like graphics on tees, patterns clashing in a photo will draw you to the clothes rather than the faces. As a rule of thumb, go with mostly solids and only bring in 1 pattern (like polka dots, leopard, or plaid) that coordinates with the solid colors.
Don’t use very loud or busy patterns. Patterns aren’t a bad idea when used once or twice among the outfits. However, try to go for subtle patterns so that they don’t stand out too loudly and highlight only the one person wearing it.
Don’t ignore the shoes… unless they’re not showing of course. Nothing worse than the clothes blending beautifully and then Jr. throwing on his ratty old tennis shoes right before the photo shoot. Pick the shoes in advance too!
Don’t have dad or boys wear a tie. Unless you want a very formal look, ties tend to look too businessy. For a more relaxing family feel, button-down shirts should be worn without ties. Bonus tip: Unbutton the cuffs and roll up the sleeves to add interest and infuse that “relaxed” feel.
Don’t over-match. We are going for coordinating not necessarily matching. Just make sure not everyone is in the same types of pieces or colors and you’ll be good here ;)
What To wear for Family Photos: DO These 6 Things
And before jumping into my easy guide for choosing your outfits, here are some quick tips on what you SHOULD DO.
Do dress congruent to personality. If you or your hubby or kids is wearing something they don’t like, it will show in their faces. It will be hard for them to relax and laugh for photos. In general, picking clothes from your existing closets will insure you’re putting everyone in clothes that they like. But especially be mindful of this rule if you plan to go shopping just for the photo shoot—it’s too easy to pick something you like but that the recipient dislikes.
Do follow a framework such as a color scheme to tie outfits together. I’ll list several options below, but to avoid the over-matchy look, choose only one or two methods of tying outfits together from the list. Then take that framework and “break the rules” on an outfit or two. Your complete ensemble will still look coordinated without trying too hard.
Do add layers and texture to outfits. Start with the first layer (a dress or a top and bottom) and then add layers to give texture, depth, and interest to outfits. For guys: knit vests, jackets, belts, hats. For gals: vests, jackets, belts, cardigan, scarf, leggings/tights.
Do use classic pieces if possible. Err on the side of simple, classic pieces to create family portraits that look great for years to come. Very trendy or statement clothes will draw the attention away from the faces AND look dated within a decade. (a brief explanation of “classic/basic” pieces here.)
Do lay outfits out before the photo shoot. When you’re done picking the pieces for each family member’s outfit, lay them out on a bed or clean carpet to see how they all go together. This saves you the pain of adjusting people’s outfits once they have them on.
Do start with mom’s outfit. Let’s face it, mom needs to like how she looks if she’s gonna use the photo anywhere. So pick your outfit first and then build coordinating outfits around yours.
Tips for Mom’s Outfit
Here are some guidelines to help YOU choose what to wear! (That’s probably the main reason you wanted to read this blog post in the first place!)
Mom Outfit Tip #1 - Start with a simple 1st layer that is neutral and solid (no patterns). Then add a pattern and color (if desired) in the 2nd layer through a scarf, necklace, cardigan, poncho, jacket, etc.
Another option is going with a subdued pattern or a color for the first layer (top or dress) and polishing it off with a neutral color piece like a denim jacket or sleeveless cardigan.
- Mom Outfit Tip #2 - Focus on good fit. Don’t try to hide parts of your body under big clothing. Baggy clothing makes anyone look bigger. Instead, wear clothing that fits you perfectly. Use a waist shaper to hide a postpartum pooch, or these high-waist boy-short briefs to smooth everything over if you're self-conscious about it. It's what I would do, girlfriend! No shame in that ;) You can also use the 2nd layer like a poncho in the fall or light vest in the spring/summer to cover areas without looking frumpy (see my picks from Amazon above). Wear the second layer over a fitted shirt for a polished but comfy look.
Mom Outfit Tip #3 - Go a tad heavier on the makeup. Eye makeup doesn’t show up on photos very well. So curl your lashes and apply your mascara twice. Or use a bit of eyeliner to give an elegant look to the eyes. Add a bit of blush to the cheeks too. Careful not to overdo it though! You want to look like yourself.
Mom Outfit Tip #4 - Style your hair with a focus on what you see from the front. All down or half-up is best because only the front of your head is visible in photos. If doing an up-do, add some interest to the front near the face such as teasing for lift or a braid framing the face. You can also try a side bun, high bun, or curly pony at the nape of the neck. Undecided? Look at past photos of yourself and note which hairstyles you love the best.
Ok, so what actual outfit combinations look great in photo shoots? Here are some easy outfit formulas you can follow using the pieces in your own closet.
Fail-proof Outfit Formulas
Find the pieces described in each outfit formula to recreate it using your own wardrobe. For pictures of each outfit, you can grab our visual outfit guide for moms (more about that in a bit).
For outdoor fall photos:
Neutral Plaid Top + Neutral Skinny Pants (gray, white, black, navy) + Quilted Vest + Flats
Chambray/Denim Dress + Dark Color Cardigan + Floral Scarf + Riding Boots
Neutral Knee-Length Dress + Denim Jacket + Leopard Scarf + Ankle Boots
Neutral Tunic Top (long enough to cover bum) + Leggings + Pattern Scarf + Riding Boots
Dressy Blouse (minimal pattern or solid neutral) + Dark Skinny Jeans + Statement Necklace + Moto Jacket + Ankle Boots
For outdoor winter photos:
Neutral Tunic Sweater + Neutral Jeans (gray, white, black) + Quilted Vest + Plaid Scarf + Ankle Boots
Slouchy Sweater + Color Skinny Pants + Leopard or Plaid Scarf + Metallic Flats
Neutral Plaid Top + Sweater (over the plaid top, collar and sleeves peeking out) + Dark Skinny Jeans + Long Pendant Necklace + Ankle Boots
Neutral Tunic Length Sweater + Dark Skinny Jeans + Statement Earrings + Leopard or Plaid Scarf + Riding Boots
Striped Long Sleeve Shirt + White or Gray Jeans + Statement Earrings + Moto/Leather Jacket + Color or Metallic Flats
For outdoor spring photos:
Chambray Button-Down + Color Pants + Floral Scarf + Large Pearl Earrings + Neutral Flats
Short-sleeve Striped Tee + Olive or Neutral Pants + Denim Jacket + Flats
White Tee + Color Pants + Kimono + Statement Necklace + Metallic Flats
Black Maxi Dress + Denim Vest or Airy Vest + Long Pendant Necklace + Color Flats
White Lace Top + Dark Skinny Jeans + Color Cardigan + Simple Necklace + Fashion Sandals
For outdoor summer photos:
Striped Tee + Color Shorts + Floral or Solid Kimono + Simple Stud Earrings + Fashion Sandals
Gingham Tank Top + White Shorts + Statement Necklace + Denim Vest + Thong Sandals
Solid Color Top + Neutral Skirt (Like knee-length denim skirt or jersey maxi skirt) + Lacey/Airy Vest + Long Pendant Necklace + Thong Sandals
Floral Maxi Dress + Crochet/Airy/Lacey Vest + Flats
White Lace Top + Color Pants + Floral Kimono + Long Pendant Necklace + Fashion Sandals
Outfit Ideas from the Outfit Guide
For those of you that own our Stay-at-Home Mom Outfit Guide, we’ve pulled some of our favorite outfit combinations for photo shoots and listed them below. The links take you straight to the outfit picture in the web app. (Password is on your outfit guide dashboard.)
If you haven’t heard of the Outfit Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms, it’s our book of 288 outfit pictures and outfit formulas that are mom-friendly.
You can use FAMILYPHOTOS to get 15% OFF right now! Go here to learn more about it.
Outfit Ideas on Pinterest
Browse our Pinterest boards for more family photo outfit ideas. The blog also has lots of inspiration!
How to Plan Outfits for Family Photos: 3 Steps to Coordinating Family Outfits
First off, download the free printable planner that allows you to implement these steps easily!
Step 1: Figure out the details about the photo shoot
You want the clothes you wear to blend well with your surroundings. You also want the dressy-ness level to be appropriate for the purpose of the photos. Are you going for a formal look? A casual, lifestyle look? Something in between?
Decide on these aspects before hand to help you in the next step where you’ll choose a framework for coordinating your outfits.
What’s the time of year? Is this a fall photo, is it the holidays, are you on summer vacation on the beach, is it Easter or spring break vacation? Colors and patterns used should match the time of year.
Will the photos be indoors or outdoors? Plan to dress warmly for outdoor photos in fall/winter.
What is the location of the photo shoot? A beach family photo shoot calls for different clothes than a session at a farm.
Make a list of the kinds of poses/shots/people combos you want to get. In the free planner above, I included a checklist of the 11 basic family photo poses and shots that you want to make sure you capture on your photo shoot, with spaces to fill in your own. For more inspiration, you can check out this list of unique family photo ideas.
A final detail to figure out is whether you’ll be using a photographer or not. If you don’t want to pay for a photographer, an inexpensive phone tripod with a remote like this one could do the trick! While not related to your outfits, there aren't photos without a photographer!
Step 2: Choose a framework that reflects the photo shoot
Now that you’ve decided on the details of the photo shoot, choose a framework to follow when choosing the outfits for everyone. This will help you achieve the coordinated outfits look. Remember my earlier tip to break the rules on whichever framework you use to avoid an over-matchy look.
Tie your outfits together by…
Option 1: Using a color scheme (Options: mostly monochrome; neutrals; one main pop of color)
In my family photo below we chose neutrals plus shades of blue.
I recommend at least having a color scheme. You can add this option with another framework too, but starting with a color scheme helps a lot!
Option 2: Using a repeated fabric/pattern (e.g. plaid; denim; stripes; lace; animal print)
Plaid in Jana’s family picture below (blanket + toddler’s shirt) helps tie these outfits together! They are also using neutrals +a pop of color (red) as their color scheme.
Option 3: Using a repeated piece (e.g. boots; jeans; scarves; white tops)
In this photo, my brother’s family used chambray dresses for the ladies to tie the look together!
Option 4: Using a theme (e.g. western; Christmas; Disney)
For fun-loving families, going with a theme can help bring outfits together easily. This family chose to go with a hunting theme and tied it together with camouflage.
Option 5: No coordinating, just wearing your favorites
Not really into coordinating outfits? You could also simply let everyone wear their favorite outfits. The outfits may not coordinate, but the love between family members will tie everything together.
This photo of some of my extended family is one of my favorites. We were all on vacation and simply put on the best clothes we had packed. Honestly we’re breaking a lot of the “rules” for outfit coordination—but I love this photo.
The photographer was our tripod and the smiles were our coordinating factor. ❤️
So don’t stress too much about what you wear ;) Know that your smiles and love are what turn photos into keepsakes.
For more family outfit coordination ideas on Pinterest, check out this awesome board.
Step 3: Choose the outfit pieces using the framework
So you decided on a framework to tie your outfits together.
Now starting with your outfit, go to each member’s closets and pull some options out.
Go simple with solid-color and neutral first layers. Then add texture, pattern and color through 2nd layers or accessories.
Lay the outfit ideas out on a bed or clean carpet to see how they all go together. This saves you the pain of adjusting people’s outfits once they have them on.
Don’t forget the shoes!
The printable gives you spaces to plan out each family member’s outfit.
And that’s it! Use this 3 step formula to easily coordinate your next family photos!