A lot of clients anxiously ask me, before a photoshoot, what they should or shouldn't wear. It's important to feel that the photos reflect your family at their best, so I totally get why people want some tips on how to style the family. I have found that there are a few things that you can do to ensure you all look your very best and there aren't distracting elements in the photos.
1. Coordinate, don't match
Very closely matching outfits can look dated. It's a great idea to choose a colour palette and use that as a starting point. Pick 3 or 4 complementary colours which are tonally similar, perhaps with one 'highlight' colour in the accessories. For example, grey, navy, light blue and white look crisp and stylish together. Or pale pink, tan and cream. Starting with neutral or paler colours, then accessorising with some brights works really well.
2. Layers and textures
Layers are flattering and supremely practical (and who doesn't love that combination?!). They can add personality to an outfit and can be added or taken away according to the look you are after. Texture adds visual interest, particularly in black and white photos and can help make images pop.
3. Avoid very bright colours
Very bright colours in large blocks can be visually distracting and cast a colour pall on someone's face that is unflattering. For example, lime green tops will give the wearer a green cast to their chin and neck. If you want to wear a brightly coloured top, go for warmer tones and break it up near the face with a more neutral coloured scarf or collar.
4. Be practical
Everyone being photographed should wear clothes that are comfortable and that they feel good in. If a jumper is itchy or a jacket is uncomfortable, it'll show in the photos. A good tip is to dress as if you are going out for a nice dinner with some great friends - relaxed, comfortable but looking your best! If it's cold or rainy, remember coats, scarves, hats and boots will feature in the photos too, so think about how to coordinate those if possible. If any of the shoot is going to be in a local park or outdoor space, there will probably be a bit of walking involved so wear shoes that aren't agonising (wedges work well if you want to wear heels but can't walk far in stilettos).
5. Go for classic over high fashion
Beautiful, classic dresses and shirts passed down from grandma, simple skirts, well-cut trousers... There's a timeless appeal to the classic look that means your photos won't date. Plus, if you have fabulous, heirloom clothes for your children (or yourself!), how often do you get an opportunity to get them out? If you're anything like me, you and your children wear jeans, leggings and sweaters EVERY DAY and the beautiful dresses and bloomers are saved for 'special occasions' that somehow never materialise! I'm aware that this is quite contrasting advice to point number 4. Oops! Heirloom clothes are almost always impractical (dry clean only, anyone?!), so I would always advise having at least one change of clothes up your sleeve (no pun intended. Sort of.).
Whilst it works well to have a neutral base to your outfits, you don't have to suppress your natural flair! Statement jewellery, scarves and hats work really well to show more personality without being overly distracting. Also, carefully chosen 'props' can add to an image - flowers, an inherited toy, a meaningful object. These can all lift an image and tell a bit of your family story.
6. Don't forget the details
Portraits carry a lot of detail and small things that you wouldn't ordinarily notice show up in close-up photos. Wear socks that don't have holes, trim your nose hair (that's mostly one for the guys!), clean your shoes! Keep hairstyles simple so if they do get blown about by the wind it doesn't matter. During the shoot, keep a tissue in your pocket to wipe a child's snotty nose.
7. (For newborn shoots only) Black, grey and navy
Newborn shoots are a little different as you want the baby to be the centre of attention and for there to be as few visual distractions as possible. The best way to do this is to keep parents' clothes very simple and darker than the baby's. Black, grey or navy blue are the best colours for parents' clothes, with the baby wearing a plain, light colour.
8. Be yourself!
If the suggestions in this style guide don't suit you and your family, ignore them! If you want to wear clashing colours and loud patterns, go ahead! Photoshoots are supposed to be fun and a reflection of your family's character, so wear whatever makes you feel your best!
I hope this style guide has been helpful. If you are another photographer, please feel free to share this link with your clients.