Family Photos: 5 Common Outfit Mistakes to Avoid

A family of five - a mom and dad with their three teenage daughters - walks in a blooming peach orchard in Jackson Missouri.

I have heard many times over the years that people find choosing outfits for their family photos so overwhelming that it keeps them from booking at all. Even as someone who enjoys that part of the process, I have still found myself scrambling to pull things together at the last minute because life gets busy! This is why I offer styling assistance to all of my clients. When you book with me, you get styling assistance with as much hands-on help as you want. In addition to general recommendations, I provide a personalized style board with images and links to pieces for everyone in your family, based on a few color palette options. This board can be used solely for inspiration or as a clickable catalog to shop. It’s a huge timesaver for you and takes all of the guesswork out of choosing outfits for your session. But for those of you who are just here for the advice (or curious to see if you’ve ever made these mistakes), let’s begin!

  1. Matchy-Matchy Clothing Instead of Coordinating Outfits

Gone are the days when matching outfits were all the rage. Khakis and white shirts on the beach, anyone? Jeans with black tops? There’s a reason those trends died (more on that below). Instead, opt for coordinating outfits that complement each other without being carbon copies. Choose pieces from a color palette that work well together. Incorporate a variety of fabrics, patterns, and textures to make an interesting but cohesive look.

  1. Different Shades of One Color

This seems good in theory and when done carefully, it can enhance your color palette. But be cautious – while it may seem like a safe choice, it often results in a monotonous and uninspiring look. Let’s take sage green for example, a color I really love.

Everyone in sage green is going to a) be rather boring b) draw the eye to the giant block of sage green in the photo rather than the faces c) throw us back into that bygone era of matchy-matchy clothing. But a light sage green paired with a dark sage green + rust + navy + neutrals = a beautifully coordinated look.

  1. Not Considering Your Session Location

When planning your family session, take a moment to consider the location and its surroundings. Here in Southeast Missouri, we have That doesn’t necessarily mean no green in the outfits (per tip 2) but it does mean green, along with other cool-toned colors, should be used sparingly. More neutrally colored locations like downtown Cape Girardeau, SEMO campus, etc. allow for much more flexibility with color choices. Opt for colors that provide contrast – your goal is not to blend into the scenery.

While I’m a firm believer that long, flowy dresses and well-tailored mens’ jackets work for nearly every location, there’s no denying that some clothes simply don’t feel “right” in certain environments. Your daughter’s adorable sparkly tulle dress is better suited for an on-the-town session with architectural interest and neutral backdrops than it is an apple orchard, just like a cowboy hat looks much more at home in a field.

  1. Shoes As an Afterthought

Coordinating shoes are one of the most common and biggest mistakes.  Character shoes, beat-up boots, well-worn flats, sneakers, etc. need not apply to be a part of your session outfits. I get it – those light-up Paw Patrol shoes are the only pair your kid wants to wear (my son has the most in-your-face pair of Spiderman sandals on this planet), but they will stick out like a sore thumb, meaning the eye will go straight to them every time you look at the photos. And I’m sorry to say that while dad sneakers have their place in your husband’s closet, they don’t belong in your family photos. Dad jokes, on the other hand, are fully encouraged.

  1. Planning Around the Kids’ Outfits

I’m 1000% sure you’ve done this. I have too, because kid clothes are fun! But hear me out, ladies. You are top priority here – start with your outfit and work everyone else’s around it. You need to feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful so that you can feel relaxed and confident in front of the camera. There are much better things to for you to focus on during your session – like playing with your kids and snuggling with your spouse  – than worrying about how you look.

Years from now, what you’ll love most about your family photos is the love and connection that was captured and the memories of what your kids and life were like at that time. But well-styled outfits elevate your photos from everyday snapshots to art you love having on your wall.

Got more questions? Reach out to me! I’d love to hear from you.

A family of five - a mom and dad with their three teenage daughters - walks in a blooming peach orchard in Jackson Missouri.

Featured Categories