Choreographing outfits for an entire family can be such a headache! Here's a few tips that will hopefully guide you in the process.
Before you start shopping let's go over the typical photography no-no's for outfits.
Keep it simple. I generally discourage busy outfits that will distract from cute little faces or accidentally date your images. Avoid animal prints, paisleys, and fads if possible. Remember a few years ago when we every member of the family wore white and khakis for family pictures? Those pictures were lovely but they are clearly from a certain time frame. I'm much more interested in a more authentic portrayal of your family. Try to keep all clothing from the same era. If the baby has on leather suspenders and older brother is in a graphic tee it's not going to look right. Stripes can be tricky as well. Sometimes they work sometimes they just don't. If you're worried about how the outfits all work together have a dress rehearsal at home where everyone trys on their outfits together to see if someone stands out like a sore thumb. I have seen all of these rules broken and sometimes it happens to be delightfully refreshing and interesting. Other times not. If you're a fashionista then trust your gut on a tricky pattern. If not stick to simplicity.
Consider comfort. I've seen a baby scowl for an hour because he hated his shoes. At the end of the shoot we took them off and he was all smiles! If an item is scratchy or uncomfortable in some way it can derail a shoot. Kids just don't have the capacity to tune something like that out. Give everything a once over to check for itchy spots or plastic tags. You know your child best. If you're worried that they won't wear something have a back up! Most importantly, don't forget to consider YOUR comfort. Can you breathe in that dress sitting down? Can you carry a toddler in those shoes? If you're uncomfortable its much harder to smile through it when the kids don't do exactly what I ask them to do. (Don't worry. I'm expecting that at some point. Kids will be kids!)
Consider the location. Will we be outdoors? Will it be hot or cold? Make sure all your items are temperature appropriate. With the unpredictable Houston weather I've even had smart moms have two separate outfits ready in case of the sudden heat wave or cold front. Also try to keep the location in mind when choosing your colors. If you're going somewhere green, maybe leave that cute black and green dress behind or you may disappear into the foliage!
Consider personality. We all want to look amazing and glamorous in our photos. But if your daughter just hates dresses then she will hate that picture and you'll hate the drama it creates. There are plenty of ways to upscale an outfit without pretending to be someone else. I love to capture personalities and I want them to be accurate and timeless.
Accessorize. If you kept it nice and boring when choosing your outfits now is the time to go a little crazy. Add a bright pop of color with a necklace or a scarf. Throw on the crazy tassel shoes. Work that belt. These are all easy things that can really help tie baby's outfit to mom's dress and sister's sweater to dad's shirt. Best of all you can always take them off if something isn't working. (Babies love necklaces. Yum!)
Consider fit and function. Baggy clothes just don't look right in photos. If something is too lose it can cause all sorts of trouble. Shoulder straps that slide off every 3 seconds. Collars that keep popping up. Pants sliding down little bottoms. It's hard to know what size a kid will be when you book a shoot 6 months in advance. But if something needs constant tending to stay in place it's going to ruin some shots. If it can be pinned safely or fabric taped then definitely do it. If not ditch it.
Where to start. There are a few ways you can build a family portrait outfit. You can start with one outfit and find others to match. Or you can choose a color scheme or theme and shop for cute things in those colors. As a mom I find that kid's outfits are the hardest to find when color matching. I usually start with the kid's outfits and then get mine. Dads are relatively easy to shop for since they tend to have fewer options. A nice collared shirt with a sweater is always flattering and undershirts can be used as an accent color. Keep Dad's outfit as simple as possible since Mom's outfit will usually have more detail and frills. And if Dad tends to sweat pack him a back up shirt. If you have bright colors in your scheme kids pull those off well without dominating the picture. I love this website because you can choose the color you're hunting for and see real life color combinations that are always lovely. Personally, I LOVE bright colors. Give me a kiddo with some yellow rain boots and a bright green umbrella on a cloudy day and I'm in heaven! I'm not going to tell you that you have to wear a certain style or color palette. I want you to bring your family the way they are most comfortable and natural. And don't forget that when it comes to the photos the outfits are secondary to the real stars of the show, the little people inside them!