Family Session Style Guide

*What a lovely, Pinterest-worthy image!…hint, hint*


Your outfit selections help to tell your story, they express your personality and evoke feeling. They will impact your session’s overall look and feel. I want to help you make the best choices possible for you and your family so I created this family session style guide. These are my personal suggestions on how to coordinate outfits and on what photographs well. It’s up to you to take into consideration the season of the year we’re photographing in so you can select color schemes that fit. You should also decide where and when you’re going to display your images in your home once you’ve printed your favorites. Ask yourself if your outfits will look okay in the room of your home where you’ll be hanging them on the wall. If you’ve booked a holiday session, are you going to be displaying your images year round or do you plan to only bring these photos out seasonally each year? This will help you figure out if you should wear holiday colors/prints or just stick to a more fall/winter or neutral vibe.

Okay so let’s dive into all the details! When choosing outfits for your family, there are a few elements to consider incorporating into the overall look. I’m going to break them down for you individually, and then I’ll provide images at the end of families I’ve photographed that are good examples of what I’m explaining. And to actually see and hear me explain my thought process when selecting outfits for my own family, check out my Instagram highlights here (and if you stay ’til the end, you’ll see how it all photographed in some of my family shots!): INSTAGRAM OUTFIT TIPS

COLOR – Through color selection, create contrast between family members by choosing a a range of color shades for each person to wear, from light to medium to dark (not too dark). When a group is photographed close together, members should stand out from each other rather than all blend together. I’d avoid solid black shirts (bottoms are okay) and solid white tops if you have very fair skin (this may “wash out” your complexion). These colors are okay if they’re layered with other colors or if they’re part of a pattern/print. Avoid very bright tops (especially red & green) as they tend to cast/reflect the color onto faces. Muted versions of bright colors photograph much better. Also, think about your location when choosing your color scheme. If there’s a lot of greenery, I’d avoid wearing much of that color. If you’re familiar with the color wheel, choosing complimentary colors to wear with your location colors will help you “pop” nicely.


TEXTURE/MOVEMENT – Adding texture to your outfits creates interest and the easiest way to do this is by incorporating a variety of fabrics and adding a few accessories among members of your family. Too many accessories could be distracting, so be careful not to overdo it. “Less is more”, right? Layering clothing adds texture, too. Examples of texture: corduroy, pleats, ruffles, seer-sucker, knit sweater, crocheted pieces, denim, lace, cuffed sleeves, hair bows, headbands, jewelry, bow ties, neck ties, suspenders, beanies, hats, scarves, knee-high socks, boots, fur, satin, vests, etc. Movement creates a lot of interest, too. Since my sessions involve a lot of movement, wearing flowing dresses or skirts will pick up wind and move with you and create beautiful interest in your images.


PRINT/PATTERN – Patterns can add dimension, texture and interest. Avoid logos and text (I don’t edit those out). Only a few members of your family should wear patterns or busier prints to avoid an overall “busy” or clashing look. If you do mix a few different patterns between family members, scale them. Have one person wear a small print, another wears a medium sized print, another wears a large print. Examples of prints/patterns: plaid, polka-dot, gingham, stripes, color block, floral, checked, paisley. I suggest starting with Mom’s or daughter’s outfit first (whichever one has the most interesting print/pattern) and then build from it by pulling colors from that outfit and assigning them to the rest of your family members. Don’t worry about the colors being an exact match, as long as they’re close you’ll be fine!


***If you’ve booked a session with me, don’t hesitate to reach out (call, text email) with any questions about your outfits or if you’d like my help! Feel free to send me pictures of your clothes laid out side-by-side or even if you’re trying something on in a dressing room and aren’t sure about it. I’m here for you through every step of the way and I’d love give you my two cents.***



*All images are mine*


Color – Mom coordinated colors by pulling the blue from her dress for her son to wear. Colors are perfect for a spring or summer session and they fit with any natural or city setting.

Texture/Movement – I love the added interest through the texture of Mom’s strappy sandals and movement is achieved through the flow of her dress. There’s also added texture from her curly hair.

Print/Pattern – Great choice keeping just one pattern against a solid. The florals work beautifully against the plain, green location.


Color – (Left family): From the girls’ dresses, both red and blue are pulled for Mom & Dad to wear. There’s a great range of contrast from very light (girls) to light/medium (Dad) to a strong medium (Mom). When put together, they pop from each other, they don’t blend in. If you remember, I suggested against wearing red, but this family wore it perfectly. It’s an accent color for the girls and Mom’s red is broken up in a pattern, it’s been layered underneath denim and it’s not very bright so there’ll be no red casting onto any faces. Color scheme is perfect for a spring/summer session and works in a natural, city or even in-home setting.

(Right family): Even though the color scheme is very light, there’s still a strong enough range of contrast to make the three of them stand out from each other when close together. Mom is the lightest, Dad is slightly darker, Daughter is a light/medium. I mentioned that avoiding white is a good idea if you have very fair skin, but Mom’s skin tones are beautifully complimented here and also because there’s a great balance of skin and shirt (scoop neck and sleeveless). This color scheme is great for a spring or summer session and fits well with a natural, city or in-home setting.

Texture/Movement – (Left family): Texture is achieved through the denim jacket itself (pockets, collar, buttons, details) as well as the layering of it with the dress. Texture is also created through the use of the girls’ hair bows, their boots, and the long, curly, loose hair. Movement is created with the dress as Mom walks (pleats) and in the loose hair.

(Right family): Texture is created through hair bows, the braid in Daughter’s hair, her belt, her shoes (those tiny cut-outs), Mom’s necklace, Dad’s buttons/collar. Movement is created through wearing their hair down since it flows as they move.

Print/Pattern – (Left family): Perfect balance of prints from solid (Dad), to very spaced out (girls), to a smaller, busier print (Mom).

(Right family): I like how simple this family kept their patterns. Our eye isn’t distracted on busy clothing, instead it’s focused on their beautiful smiles (which is where the focus should be in family pictures).


Color – A perfect example of Mom pulling colors (3 of them) from her dress for her family to wear. There’s a solid range of contrast from light (yellow) to dark (Mom) so they all “pop” from each other when close together. These colors are perfect for a late summer or fall session and fit with a natural, more woodsy setting or maybe a field (even better with sunflowers!). I don’t think they’d fit in a floral/garden scene.

Texture/Movement – This is my favorite example of movement with Mom’s very flowing, lightweight, long dress! I’m in love. Movement is also in Mom’s long, wavy hair when she moves. There’s lots of interest through texture by adding headbands and bows, through mom’s wavy hair and boots, in Dad’s button/collar detail, in the pleated texture of Mom’s dress, in the sleeves of the girls and in their leather moccasins. I love the variety of fabrics used.

Print/Pattern – This is a good example of using more than one pattern and they did it well by keeping one pattern small (Dad’s checkered shirt) and the other pattern large (Mom’s florals).


Color – Blue, white and rust was pulled from Mom’s skirt for the others to wear. There’s a great range of contrast from lightest (Mom’s top) to a bold medium (Dad’s sweater) and their son is perfectly in between those. I love the pops of color and they’re not too bright but a more muted/matte version. These colors are perfect for a late summer or fall session and fit well with a natural, city or in-home session.

Texture/Movement – There’s so much texture here, creating lots of interest. You’ll find it in Dad’s collar and in his shoe details, in the dog’s bowtie, Son’s suspenders, bow tie, and shoe detail and in Mom’s skirt ties and in her shoe detail. Texture is also created through the use of a variety of fabrics. Movement is created through Mom’s long, loose hair and in the flow of her skirt and waves created on the side from it being a wrap skirt.

Print/Pattern – Patterns/prints are scaled nicely from largest (Mom’s skirt florals), to medium size (Dad’s plaid collar) to a smaller/tighter print (Son’s stripes and suspenders). There’s a great variety without it looking too busy.


Color – (Left family): Nice range of contrast from lightest (Daughter) to darkest (Dad) so that each member stands out from each other when placed together. The muted colors photograph well, with no color casts on faces. These colors work well for a spring or summer session and fit nicely with any natural setting, city and in-home.

(Right family): There’s not a huge contrast of color between Son and Dad, but their patterns/colors differ enough to keep them from blending together. All colors have been pulled from Son’s shirt, which gives them a cohesive look. This color scheme is great for a fall or winter session and their look works best in a natural, more woodsy setting.

Texture/Movement – (Left family): Texture is present in Mom’s curls and earrings, in her cuffed sleeves and seams of her dress, in Baby’s shoulder straps, in Dad’s collar and buttons and in Daughter’s hair bow and sleeves. Movement can be created with loose hair and dresses when walking.

(Right family): The variety of fabrics creates texture (knit sweater, flannel shirt, smooth button-up). Texture is also found in Son’s and Dad’s shirts (collars, buttons). Movement is created in Mom’s loose hair as she moves.

Print/Pattern – (Left family): Prints are kept to only one outfit (daughter’s) which strongly keeps the focus on the smiles and moments between the family. Clothing is not at all a distraction from the family.

(Right family): Using two plaids can totally be done! They made it work by scaling them appropriately, with one smaller/tighter plaid to a much larger and more subtle plaid. Mom’s solid print is a great even balance to them.


Color – This family has a great range of contrast from lightest (Son with stripes) to darkest (Dad’s solid navy). They each “pop” from one another when close together. Blue was used often, but balance and interest was created by using different shades of it as well as mixing it between different patterns/prints. These colors are perfect for a fall session and fit well with a more rustic natural setting and even an in-home.

Texture/Movement – Texture is created by the boys’ button-up shirts, cuffing their sleeves, and the cuffing of their pants. Movement is will be seen through Mom’s loose hair and dress when she moves.

Print/Pattern – There’s a great balance of patterns with half of the family wearing them and half not. The simplicity of their overall look is timeless and keeps the focus directly on the family and on their connection.


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