What to Wear for Your Family Portrait Session / by Andrea Moffatt

Please note: The following article is written in regards to styling your family for my one hour Family Portrait Session, which is lightly posed + candid. For information on what to wear for my unposed, documentary style Story of a Day session, I have a post coming soon. 

If you're reading this...

then you've probably booked a one hour Family Portrait Session with Little Story Studio or are thinking about it. Hooray! I can't wait to work with your family and make you a beautiful gallery of memories. 

Usually, moms are the ones who take care of booking Family Portrait sessions. And usually, it goes the same way: Mom chooses photographer, inquires/emails with photographer, books session, and immediately begins fretting over what every member of the family will wear! I know, because I've been in the exact same boat. 

From mom to mom, let me help you! Dressing your family for this session doesn't require a shopping trip. (Unless, of course, you are looking for an excuse to head to your favorite store.... in which case, you have my blessing!) 

Finding Your Vision

The most important thing to think about before putting together an eye-catching and cohesive family wardrobe is VISION. Before you rip into every closet in your house, read this article. I'm hoping my tips can help you hone your vision and make the whole process a lot easier.

First- what style is your home and what colors are in your living room?

Why does this matter? Well, because usually family pictures end up on your walls. Thinking about whether your home is modern, traditional, hipster, elegant, shabby chic, or rustic, for example, can help you choose a wardrobe that would be at home on your walls. But even more than this, it will encourage you to choose outfits that help you look and act comfortably. Know your style and colors? Then you can proceed with the next three tips.... 


Choose a color palette.

Clockwise from Top Left: Red-violet with navy and white (analogous) | Neutrals with royal blue accent | Cool colors | Shades of blue and red (close to complementary) | Navy, denim, and aqua (analogous) | Pale pink and gray | Faded blues and reds (close to complementary) | Earth tones

My favorite way to think about a color palette is in generalities, such as:


Dressing one person in a much brighter or much darker color than the rest of the family. For instance, if everyone is wearing pale, dusty pinks and grays and one person is wearing black, that person will recede into the background and not have as much visual "weight" as everyone else. Or, if the family is dressed in navy and brown and one person has on a solid white shirt, that person will pop out from the rest and carry more visual weight, which draws the viewer's eye to them first.

For more color palette ideas, see my Family Fashion Pinterest board:

Family Fashion for Your Photo Session



Layer, accessorize, and don't be afraid of accenting with color and prints.

Clockwise from Top Left: Use vests and coats as layers, plaid as an accent | Accent with a complementary color (Orange is across the color wheel from purple) | Layer with sweaters, jacket, and coat, bright blue accent against otherwise warm palette | Accessorize with a scarf and boots, layer with child's vest and cardigan, plaid and floral patterns 


Layering is probably my favorite way to take a wardrobe from only OK, to really put together. It makes it easy to incorporate more of your color palette. It's great for adding texture and interest, and it just takes the image to a whole new level. Don't be afraid to dress more than one family member in layers! Think: vests, collared shirts and sweaters, and cardigans.


Sometimes adding ONE accessory on just ONE family member can also take your image up a notch. Think: a hat on a toddler, a bow tie for dad, boots for mom, red sparkly shoes for a little girl, scarves, tights, leggings, or jewelry.


And finally, just because you have a color palette doesn't mean you have to adhere to it strictly. IN FACT, adding a small pop of color in one or two places throughout the family is a great idea. Usually, this works well with bright accent colors. For example, in a neutral color palette you might accent with a few pops of mustard yellow. See above the orange pop in an otherwise purple scheme and the bright blue hat that accents the warm earth tones around it.

More Ideas for Layers, Accessories, and Accents On my Pinterest Boards:

Family Fashion for your Photo Session

Kid Fashion for your Photo Session


Build the wardrobe beginning with one "anchor" outfit.

Left: Child sweater was the inspiration for the rest of family's wardrobe colors. | Right: Maternity dress determined that mint would be the main color.

What's an anchor outfit?

If you're nodding away at the above information, but still unsure where to start, consider using an anchor outfit. Is there one outfit (be it your own or your toddler's) that you just love? Start with that outfit and build out from there! 

How to choose an anchor outfit

That's what happened in the sessions above. In the left image, mom found that adorable and cheery striped sweater for her middle child and then used it to plan the colors the rest of the family would wear. (If you love color like me, you might be interested to know she followed a split-complementary scheme. But I digress...) In the image on the right, mom's outfit ruled, as well it should! She was 8 months pregnant, perfectly radiant, and had a dress that fit her like it was made for her. Dressing the rest of the family in a color scheme that went with her dress was the right move. 

Ready, Get Set, GO!

Well! If you made it to the end, you're well-equipped to start opening closets! If you get stuck, you can always email or text me. Send me pictures of what you have so far or of your anchor outfit, and we'll put together something that makes you feel fabulous!