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What to Wear for a Family Session

Why is Family Session Styling Important?

The number one question I get from my family session clients prior to a session is “What should we wear for our session?” It’s an important question as clothing choice can have so much influence on the final images!

Not only am I inspired by fashion and style, but what a client wears can really dictate the whole mood of a session. A classically tailored dress for mom and suit for dad automatically creates a more formal-feeling session. Jeans and sweaters for both parents? Now, that’s a casual session right there.

Take a look at the sample family session images in this post as they are all examples of family session styling done right, in my opinion. Read my list of top four things to consider when selecting your family’s outfits for your session below, and then check out the styling boards I’ve included near the end to give you even more inspiration for dressing your family for your session.

“What a client wears can really dictate the whole mood of a session.”

– Heather Kincaid Photographer

While a flowy dress on a breezy beach can bring the drama and movement, little girls in pinafores and boys with suspenders make a session feel classic and sweet. Want the session to feel like daily life at home? Basic, comfy neutrals and bare feet are your best bet.

The location of the session and personalities and energy of the family in front of my camera all set the tone for a family session. However, the wardrobe really completes the look and vibe, and can inspire movement and poses, so it definitely deserves some special consideration to make sure your images are special.

How do we decide what to wear?

Deciding what to wear for your session can feel so overwhelming as there are just so many options and things to consider! Do we do dressy or casual? Warm tones or cooler tones? Will this pattern photograph well? Below, I have my list of top four things to consider when selecting outfits for your family session.

However, I have to offer a few disclaimers first: 1.) Every photographer will probably have slightly different advice on what you should wear. If you are doing a session with a photographer who isn’t me, reach out to your photographer to see if they have recommendations on what to consider. I can’t imagine these guidelines would offend any other photographers, but each of us has our own process and likes so these are not meant to be a one-size-fits-all method. 2.) This is your session and you should dress how you want. This list is merely a guide of what works best for a family session based on my own opinions and experience in photographing families. So, if you’re asking for my advice on what to wear, this is it! If not, that’s okay, too, and I will love documenting your family regardless of what you wear.

4 Things to Consider When Selecting Outfits for Your Family Session

1. Wear clothes that make you feel fabulous!

Choosing an outfit that makes you feel great is key and should be considered above all else when deciding what to wear for your photo session. This includes making sure the clothing fits you well so that you’re not tugging on things or feeling uncomfortable; a dress that constantly needs adjusting or a little one whose pants are a little too big will not photograph well. Most importantly, though, the clothing should reflect your personalities. You should wear outfit styles that you and your family typically like to wear, just pulled together in a more cohesive, elevated way.

2. Wear clothes that allow you to move freely.

When young children are involved, you will be asked to carry the kids, lift them up, sit on chairs/benches, possibly sit on the floor to cuddle together, etc. These positions make for some of the best images with little ones, so it’s super important to make sure you can move freely in the clothes you wear and feel okay sitting and bending in them, too. The more comfortably you can move, the more natural you’ll look in your photos.

Also, consider the location of your shoot, will you be on a beach or hiking trail, or will you be at home? Wear clothing that makes sense for the location, keeping in mind how you will have to move around while you’re there.

3. Where a mix of coordinated colors and patterns, and avoid wearing all black or very dark clothing.

I personally believe that a mix of light/neutral tones and soft/more muted colors are always a good idea. Pull inspiration from the location where your shoot will take place. For example, if we are shooting on the beach in the evening, neutrals mixed in with soft blues and/or muted peach tones would be so pretty. Everyone wearing the same color can make the images feel flat so it’s best to mix up coordinated tones, textures, and patterns to make the images feel a little bit more life-like and natural. Prefer brighter, more vivid tones? Totally fine if that feels more like your personality than the subdued colors! This is your session so wear what you love.

Black and dark colors can make images feel heavy, especially in natural locations, and I prefer lighter clothes to make the images feel a little softer. Dark jeans or patterns with darker colors are okay, but solid dark colors should be avoided to get the light, bright imagery I typically love to create. Having said all of that, if you feel best in black, by all means wear what you love and makes you feel great! Remember, that’s my number one rule. 😉

4. Coordinate your outfits, but don’t make them too matchy-matchy.

Disclaimer: I have had some families do their session where mom and daughter are wearing matching dresses or something, and it’s SO sweet. So, if you had your heart set on matching outfits, please don’t let this discourage you. However, I want to discourage families from feeling like they HAVE to match each other because in reality, most sessions feel more natural and authentic when everyone isn’t wearing the same thing.

I recommend that the clothing for your family is coordinated in the dominant tones of each outfit. Using a few colors with similar undertones, mixing patterns with similar colors, and layering in textures like linen or knits all help to ensure your family looks coordinated without the images feeling cheesy or flat.

Using a few colors with similar undertones, mixing patterns with similar tones, and layering in textures like linen or knits all help to ensure your family looks coordinated without the images feeling cheesy or flat.

– HEATHER KINCAID ON WHAT TO WEAR FOR YOUR FAMILY SESSION

Drawing color inspiration from the location where we will be shooting will make your images look more cohesive and beautiful. You’ll be proud to display these works of art on your walls.

– HEATHER KINCAID ON WHAT TO WEAR FOR YOUR FAMILY SESSION
Family Session Styling Inspiration: Mood Boards

Below are a couple of styling boards that show ideas for family session styling. Each of these sample boards has a different a different vibe; one is more dressy while the other is casual. However, notice they both utilize neutral tones as a base along with two other coordinated dominant colors that are represented in different textures and patterns throughout the board. This is one way to make sure the clothing feels coordinated without being too matchy-matchy.

family session style, dressy earth tones
family session style, casual blues and neutrals

At the end of the day, I want you all to feel comfortable, happy, and truly enjoy your family session. Not only will you have a great time, but you’ll also receive beautiful, authentic images that will remind you of how your family laughed, played, snuggled, and loved on each other.

Need more insight on what to wear to your session with me? I’m always happy to help with more specific advice on what to wear so just email me!


Interested in reading more about family sessions? Click here to read my blog post outlining my FAQs about full family sessions.

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