How to Pick Outfits for Family Photos

Ah, the art of picking out outfits for family photos! So far I've only had to put together outfits for the two of us (well, three of us, if you count Lincoln-- which obviously I do!) but I can imagine it being even harder with every added person (or fur baby). Though challenging sometimes, I actually love putting our outfits together and since it's Christmas card season, I thought I'd give some pointers since we just took our photos and got our cards all ready from Paper Culture. I just love getting Christmas cards in the mail...snail mail is the best! 

For our engagement photos, I wanted us to wear things that were in the palette of our wedding so we could use them for anything regarding the wedding-- save the dates, our wedding website, photos to print for the wedding, etc. 

First I ask myself if I want the photos to be formal or casual, and for this shoot I wanted one set to be more formal and the other to be more casual. Our palette was lavender, blush and navy, with lots of neutrals, so I started with my floral lavender dress and built McCann's outfit around mine. That's usually how it goes ;) I love some contrast, so I had my husband dress in dark gray slacks. I love the depth it adds here.

For our more casual photos, I went with a neutral white dress with cut out details. I love this dress so much and always feel like white photographs so well! I had McCann pull in the navy, but added pattern in the subtle polka dot print of his shirt (which you can barely see in this picture).

For our California engagement photos I also kept within the wedding color palette! I started with my lilac colored sweater, though solid, had a pretty lace detail on the back and texture in the knit. I went dark jeans on the bottom and then put McCann in light pants and a chambray button up. This was also a very casual look. I think it's pretty classic though!

Now for our last year's Christmas card photo I wanted to go bold with some pattern. I found the dress I wanted to wear first (of course ha!) then built McCann's outfit around it. I wanted this to look very "fall" and wanted to play with pattern. One solid pattern combo that never fails is floral + geometric. The thing that makes this fail-proof, though, is the scale of both patterns. My floral pattern dress was very large-scale, so I went with a small-scale geo pattern for my husband in a coordinating color (not matching!) then to make sure it wasn't too crazy, layered with a cool vest. Layering pieces is one of my favorite things-- it just makes the outfits look even more thoughtful! 

I wanted Lincoln to wear a scarf (because #crazydogmom) so I found a fabric that pulled out the blue/green from the leaves in my dress. It had a slight polka dot pattern which was also a small scale, complimenting everyone else's attire.

THIS year for our pictures I also wanted to wear a dress. I already had the perfect one that looked Christmassy and thought layering a fur vest on it would be fun! With my red plaid being pretty bold, I wanted McCann to be in a solid but with some detail, so I found this chunky sweater. And the fur vest definitely helps tone down the pattern of my dress! Of course Lincoln is wearing a bow tie and that is also plaid, but heavier on the black color with a hint of red, so it works perfectly. It's also a smaller scale than my plaid. 

I also found this nice sweater for my hubby, so I had him change for the sitting photos and love how it looks!
All photos by Ashley Slater Photography except our California engagement pictures by The Poffs

I can't wait to show you our Christmas card photos, once everyone on our mailing list gets theirs in the mail! We used Paper Culture this year and I absolutely loved them!! 

A couple quick tips:

- Start with the person's outfit that has pattern and work off of that, pulling coordinating colors from it.
- Remember the scale rule of thumb. If one pattern is large-scale, the other pattern should be smaller-scale. Throw in some solids to break it up.
- Avoid logos or cartoons (unless that's your thing! :))
- When thinking of backgrounds and settings, think of how you want your card to feel. Last year I wanted it to feel very fall so we did an open field in the middle of fall color. This year I wanted a neutral background, so we actually went to a cemetery with a marble building! I love the green trees behind us in that one picture up there! You'd never know where we were.
-  I love dressing up a bit for photos and I love dresses-- it's what I feel most pretty in. So I say, wear a dress! Or whatever you feel best in:)
- Try to avoid "matching" and instead make "coordinating" the goal. For example, you don't all need to wear blue jeans and a white button up. That's really extreme matching. You don't even all need to wear the same SHADE of blue. As long as the blues go together and you see the color repeated in a couple places (if you have a family with a couple kids) then you're good! 
- On that note, remember that repetition creates unity. A quick way to get your photos to feel cohesive is to repeat one or two elements. This is mostly important for photos with 3 or more people in them. For example, in our pictures from last year, we tied in the green/blue color in from my dress to Lincoln's scarf and my husband's vest. 

Do you have any family photo dressing tips?! I'm sure some of my photographer friends have some opinions on this!


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