Navigating the scary waters of what to wear for the family portrait can be daunting. After all, your family portrait will be hanging on the walls of your home like an art show piece for years to come! This is the biggest, scariest part of booking someone to do your family photography but it shouldn’t be. With a few pointers, you too, will be able to successfully put together a wonderful plan to dress your family for portraits! I think all of us are guilty of falling back on the jeans and a white t-shirt look. It’s easy. It’s safe. It’s so 1990. Can we say, “boring?” As of 2015, this is no longer a suggestion! It’s a rule for success! These “rules” will help point you in the right direction! Please follow closely to dress for success!
#1 Color (3 Neutrals and a POP )
Dressing for family portraits is similar to decorating your home. The most successful looks combine 2-3 neutral colors and then an accent or POP color! Let’s go back to our classic jeans and white shirt combo! Now, using our new rule, throw in one more neutral, khaki for example, and then an accent, like Coral! Now you really have something to shout about! Wasn’t that easy? Everyone has jean, khaki, and white in their wardrobe, buy a coral scarf, handbag, piece of exquisite jewelry, shoes, or even a cocktail ring in a spot of coral and you have a smokin’ look! Now, before you tell me, you don’t like coral, you can substitute almost ANY other color under the sun that you DO like as your pop and still look fab! Besides, you probably have these items already in your wardrobe and that is a bonus! This is just ONE example, I have tons of wonderful color palettes to choose from on my pinterest boards or you can check out my favorite place to discover new color palettes at The Perfect Palette. You can put in your favorite color and they will suggest multiple palettes that coordinate with it! Now, before you run off to crazy land with excitement cause I just solved your problem, consider two more factors prior to falling in love. First, keep your photo location in mind. You want your color palette to compliment your surroundings. Second, consider where the portrait will be displayed in your home. You wouldn’t dream of putting up a painting in your home that doesn’t match your decor. Make sure that your family portrait compliments the colors in the room where the portrait will be displayed!
#2 Coordinate, Don’t match!
Successfully working your color scheme into your outfit choice means coordinating, NOT matching! Work the colors into your outfits in a creative way. We all want to be recognized as an individual. Matching not only murders your individuality, it also takes the focus off of the people and places it on the clothing. To pull this off successfully, not every person in your family has to have all the colors and/or be wearing them in exactly the same way! In fact, that is the opposite of what you want to do! Pay attention to individual style and comfort. You may love pink as your accent color but your husband isn’t a fan. That doesn’t mean pink can’t be your accent color! It just means that he is wearing a compatible color! I would also argue that you don’t have to have identical patterns. You can combine both solids and multiple patterns if the patterns are subtle. Check out this family (see photo, right). This is coordination gone right! A family is a group of individuals and allowing each individual to express her or himself (within reason) is an important part of a successful family portraits. When you have an especially large group it is better to ADD a few more compatible colors to your palette then remove them. In other words, it is better to add additional colors then force everyone into black (for example) in order to coordinate. You can also used different shades of the same color to work other colors into your palette!
#3 Layer, Texture, & Accessorize!
Oh I am a HUGE fan of both of these. Take a look at any magazine ad or Hollywood maven, you will discover that stylists use both layers and textures to polish an outfit! I say, the more, the better! Again, go back to our original color scheme, jeans and a t-shirt become Top Gun when you throw on a rugged leather jacket, cowboy boots, and a pair of aviator shades! Layered outfits are interesting and flattering.
I love accessories, they are the touch of sparkle and shine that every outfit needs. This can be anything that adds a bit of interest (ie. belt, hat, jewelry, scarf, handbag, cuff, watch and the list goes on). In my book, this one is a RULE not a suggestion! Don’t leave home without something! This is always a good place to let your personality shine! Make your outfit unique and personal with the finishing touches! Even James Bond brings a cool watch or a great pair of shades with him to head out! Celebrities always look fabulous in their portraits because they don’t ditch the details! Check out the photo to the right. Model Carly has on a terrific pair of boots, at least three layers and a great ring! This photo would not be the same without those items! Besides looking great, accessories do something even more important. They give your hands something to do! Hands speak volumes and they say things like, “I’m nervous and uncomfortable.” A beautiful bag, or long chain for example gives your photographers a place to put your hands to work!
Don’t stop short at clothing accessories. Thing that make you, you are great too! Do you play the guitar? Personal items are wonderful for adding a touch of flare or whimsical character to your photo. Do you paint? How about a palette and brush? Love to read? Bring your reading glasses and a stack of your favorite vintage novels. I frequently take photographs of my own children in costumes because that is how we roll! What makes you unique and interesting? Bring it!
#4 Dress from Head to Toe
This one is a no-brainer. I’m going to shoot your head and your feet so don’t forget to do your hair or accessorize if you need a little help! Hats are always welcome, and they flatter those with a thinning hair line. Decorating your neckline with a scarf, jewlery, or even the strap of a great bag is a welcome addition. (see Suggestion #3 above).
Shoes, people, don’t forget to polish ’em, and pack ’em! Unless you are wearing boat shoes or want to look like Don Johnson from the 80’s, let’s get some socks on those feet! Ladies, if you are wearing open toe shoes, make sure your feet and nails are done! That goes double for men!
How to Flatter and What To Avoid!
If you want to flatter yourself, wear clothing that fits! If you are a figure conscious person stay away from large busy patterns, baggy or excessively tight clothing. Also, longer sleeves and pants are more flattering that shorter ones. In the same token, darker colors are more flattering than lighter ones. When possible, avoid clothing with logos or large patterns or horizontal stripes. Don’t be a walking billboard for a clothing company during your portraits! Here is a nice article on how to choose the right neckline for your body shape. Here is another great article on choosing the right necklace for your neckline! I also have a wonderful gallery of images of flattering clothing choices for women, men, children, accessories, and plus sized women!
A note about makeup. Under normal circumstances I am the sparkle queen, I love it! However, sparkly makeup and photography don’t mix well! Matte make-up is best for all types of lighting. You should wear your makeup a touch heavier than you would usually and don’t forget the blush, it makes you look alive and youthful! Save the shine for the lips!
Photographs © Tami Siriani 2015
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Tami Siriani is a professional custom portrait photographer serving Coeur D’ Alene, ID, Post Falls, ID, Liberty Lake, WA , Spokane Valley, WA, Spokane, WA, Post Falls, ID and surrounding areas.
A great deal of thought and planning goes into every session. She places an emphasis on unique story telling images that are close and colorful. All images Siriani Photography © 2014