Tips from a Stylist on Dressing for Family Photos

Lifestyle Family Session at Discovery Park Beach Seattle WA Style Blogger Stylist Dress Tips Chelsea Macor Photography-3.jpg

What do I wear to a Family Photo Shoot?

This is one of the number one questions I am asked by clients. My guide has tips for picking out what to wear- but I thought I would take it one step further and reach out to some very stylish moms for help. Jennifer Lovin is incredible. I have long admired her style on Instagram and I knew I would love her when she said that we would be bringing champagne and cake to Discovery Park Beach for their session. She and her family were incredible. I even called her husband by the wrong name once or twice and he was gracious AND drove me back to my car. 


Jenn of "What Jenn Wore" Answers All Your Styling Questions:

Jenn: we go.  First, I want to acknowledge that dressing your own family for photos is stressful.  Dressing other's families is way easier because, as a stylist,  I don't have to hear if something is uncomfortable or if someone doesn't want to wear a particular color or style.  Taking photos is stressful enough, so I suggest trying to get everyone in clothes that allow them to be themselves.  I know this is so tricky...for example, my son doesn't wear buttons (or pants), my hubs only wears blue tones, and my daughters' hair is always going to look crazy!

Question:  I often recommend clients pick a jumping off point (mom's outfit, inspiration pic, etc) for choosing their clothing. How did you pull your outfits together?

Answer: I often start with a common neutral color that will unify a family's look.  We chose navy blue (yes, navy is a neutral).  We all look good in blue and (as stated above), my husband truly only wears blue and black.  As such, we already have a lot of blue in our wardrobes.  Because it is a great neutral, many other colors look good with it and can compliment one another.  Plus, with a common color, I'm all about mixing patterns because the color palette can make the group look cohesive.  Also, with regards to the other colors and patterns, I do not like to be too matchy-matchy.  Instead, I try to compliment yet all look different (and also capture each person's unique style).  Therefore, I am mindful that the patterns look good together but are not too similar.  For example, my son is in horizontal stripes, my eldest daughter in a tie-dye with a horizontal pattern and my youngest daughter is wearing a micro vertical stripe skirt (all in navy/white).  I then add in color with my son's green shorts, my daughter's floral print top (with hints of red) and my graphic print dress.  Does this all make sense?

Question: What things did you take into consideration when deciding what to wear? For instance, your house, the vibe, etc

Answer: I usually prefer an outdoor setting for our family photos.  First, my kids are always so active, so there is plenty for them to do.  I love natural shots of them playing (rather than being too posed).  I also love beach shoots because then we don't have to wear shoes (at least the kids don't).  I find shoes to be the most difficult part of family styling because my kids are SO picky about their footwear.  My son generally only wear sneakers (and they are hideous) and my girls can be equally as finicky.

Question: What feeling or vibe were you trying to communicate with your clothing?

Answer: We're a really casual family.  Generally, I allow my kids to pick-out their own outfits (I still buy their clothes, so they are making choices within my parameters!).  I want my kids to make their own choices and be their own people, so I really want our photos to reflect that.  People that know us would think it was awkward if we were all too perfectly styled, quaffed, or posed.  My goal for our family photos are to capture us, in this moment in time.  Perhaps a more pulled-together version but still us.

Question: When it comes down to it, does comfort or style win?

Answer: Ha! This is a funny one.  Generally, with regards to my looks, I would always say style.  But, as a mom and family, I definitely now lean more towards comfort.  I know, shocker!  I no longer have the energy to fight certain battles (it's so true that you do have to choose), and I want everyone to have a good time.  Nothing is worse than taking photos smiling through gritted teeth as you correct your children (and spouse!).  Oddly, this sentiment has also begun to creep into my persona daily style as well.  You will more often find me in sneakers than heels these days.  It's simply not worth the pain as you chase your busy family around!  (Who ever thought I would be saying this...and on the record, no less?!)

Question: What advice would you give parents who don't feel like picking out and styling clothes is their strong suit?

Answer: Hmmm...hire a professional.  Or, if not, give yourself time, especially if you don't feel like styling is your strong suit.  Honestly, you're being lazy if you dress everyone in the same matching tee or head to one store and pick out unifying looks.  I always suggest starting in your existing wardrobes.  Pull pieces that your family actually wears (yet is in good shape - meaning not too worn, stained, etc).  See first what those pieces look like together.  Is there a unifying color?  From there, you can come up with a shopping list for additional items that can pull everyone together.  Stretch yourself - add and mix patterns and differing styles.  You know your family best, try to find pieces that reflect the individuals yet also look like you all belong.  In other words, do not leave styling to the last minute!

Final Tips: Also, you don't have to break the bank to style your kids.  I'm loving the Target kids' lines "Art Class" (Romie's tie-dye dress is from this line) and "Cat & Jack."  Jack's tee is H&M (they have great basics as well).  Other kids' favorites include Zara, Tea and Mini Boden.

My husband is the trickiest (honestly!).  I have to choose something for him that he already owns.  A classic pair of dark denim and a button-down shirt always looks good on a man.

Finally, steam or iron your clothes before your shoot.  And wear natural hair and makeup - this isn't your wedding moment, be yourself!