Let me tell you a little known secret of knocking your family session out of the park – the way you style your family for a photo session matters.
I can work all my photographer magic, get adorable laughs and smiles, create perfect connections with spectacular light all in the most beautiful location, but if you have not planned ahead and styled your family for the day, it all just sort of falls apart.
So what should you wear? And how does one even begin to start styling a whole family? Well, as a former fashion stylist, this is an area that I completely enjoy so let me share some tips along with a few photos of families who have knocked it out of the park.
Location, Location, Location.
First, start with your location. What would you normally wear there? If you are outside at a park, you will likely be sitting on the grass, laying on a blanket and maybe chasing kids through a field. So what would you put on for a day park? Start there and polish it up a bit. Dad in a casual button down and jeans, mom in a cute top with jeans and kids in nice school clothes is a good place to start your thought process for an outdoor location.
So now you have an idea of what you are looking to find. Next is the actual items and coordinating them with each other. You will want everyone to coordinate – not match.
Try thinking of it in the same way that you would put together an outfit for yourself. When I style myself, I start with the favorite piece that fits my mood for the day and build around that. I figure out what the overall color feel of my outfit will be, then decide if I need any layering for interest and depth, pull out some personality in my shoes and finally add a little emphasis with accessories. And following that same thought process works beautifully when working with the whole family for a photo session.
But how do you start pulling the looks together?
When I am styling families for photo sessions, it is all about the mood we want to send with the portraits. Color will do a lot to set the mood – soft, dusty colors lend a sense of love and nostalgia, classic black and white with blush pink or cactus green will feel trendy and fresh, earthy tones will feel natural and organic. That is the starting point. I then hop over to this Pinterest board and see what color combinations lend to that mood or vibe. Based on what I land on I have my color scheme. I know it seems crazy if you haven’t worked this way before, but having a clear color story in mind will make looking for the right items so much easier and insure that everything comes together beautifully in the image. You’ve already seen it all together so no surprises that it will work!
Creating the Looks
Now that you know what colors you are looking for you can begin to think about each person’s individual outfit. When you are pulling together the looks, keep in mind that solids and subdued patterns allow the people in the photo to take center stage. We want to accent the smiles, love and emotions of the image. I always like to encourage my families to layer in the photos… but layering a family is different than bundling up for snow. When styling a family, “layering” takes the shape of looking for varied textures. A chunky knit, flowy lace or sparkled sequin does a lot to bring contrast and variation to the overall feel of the image. It is important to have a variety of textures in the fabrics to avoid a flat photo.
Now it’s time to look at the shoes. The last thing you want is for everything to be perfect and then to have a distraction with the shoes. Honestly, most of my favorite sessions involve bare feet – it just lends to the feel of enjoying the ones you love. But I know some feel they want shoes on in their photos, so if that is you make sure they are fresh and clean. Both shoes and socks should blend in with the bottoms you wear or pull attention for a reason! If I notice your shoes, make sure it is because you love them and want to show them off.
And finally, don’t forget accessories… These pieces will pull attention so use them wisely. Just a few touches to add some personality. And then remember CoCo Chanel’s rule – once it is all together, take one thing out…
Now lay it all out on the bed together. Check that you have all the accessories, bows, socks, every detail planned out. Tweak anything you need to until you love it. And most importantly, try it all on and be sure everything fits properly. Kids clothes should fit exactly on photo day. And everyone should feel happy and confident in their looks. Nothing creates a better smile than confidence!