The most common question I'm asked within minutes of clients booking their family photoshoot is "BUT, WHAT DO WE WEAR???"
After years of extensively styling clients, as well as experiencing the client perspective with photoshoots for my own family (see above, THANK YOU Rowanberry and Lavender Photography!), I have gathered a lot of really useful tips to ensure you look and feel your best for your family pictures. It can seem overwhelming to try to achieve the look that you may love in the pictures you see of others, but hopefully after reading this post you will realize that family styling is really quite formulaic, and if you simply follow the formula you will end up looking great!
This guide is specifically geared towards moms. As a mom, I also completely understand how you feel. You very likely haven't gotten in front of the camera very much since...maybe your wedding day? Maybe you have a few pounds you'd love to lose, maybe your hair and makeup routine is but a distant memory, and maybe you walk by the mirror and do a double take because...who is that? If this sounds like you, I understand! You have gone through a lot of changes having a baby, or maybe a few babies, and your beauty routine has probably not had time to catch up. But I applaud you for still wanting to get in the pictures, because you AND your babies deserve to have you be there! I will offer styling guidance specifically geared towards people like you to ensure that you look your best. We will minimize the things you don't love about yourself, and highlight what you do. Because let's be honest, no matter how beautiful the moment is that we capture, if we hate the way we look we probably aren't going to love the picture!
Or maybe you look fabulous, and if that's the case...you can stop reading, and just give me your secrets! :)
Step 1: MOM
Yes, I'm talking to you. And although this probably never happens any other time in your life, we are taking care of you first. Why? Well, truthfully you will be the most challenging AND you have the most amount of options. If you are like myself, and most of the moms I photograph, you don't get in the picture too often. Maybe you do it once a year for professional pictures, or maybe this is the first time you've been professionally photographed since your wedding. But either way, us moms often put ourselves (and our appearance) last. Perhaps one, or all, of the following thoughts have crossed your mind when looking in a mirror or at a picture of yourself: I look so old, I look so tired, I need to lose ten pounds, I need to lose a lot more than ten pounds, NOTHING looks good on me, I don't even recognize myself since having kids...or if you're like me, you just think "WHO IS THAT PERSON AND WHERE DID SHE COME FROM?"
OK...so I get it and you are not alone in those thoughts. First of all, give yourself a little grace. There is no other time that a human body changes as much as a mother's does, and there is no other time that society would expect a person who had gone through that amount of change to just adapt so easily. You may not look like you did when you were 20...you may think you look better, you may think you look worse, but whatever it is you probably look different. This is you now, so let's embrace her. If you lose that last ten pounds next year, great. But right now it's there, so let's make it look as amazing as we can.
Now that I've given you my pep talk slash I-know-where-you're-coming-from slash tough love talk, let's talk about how we can dress the person you are today to look your absolute best. Here's a few pointers.
1. Dress yourself first (and early)
This is my biggest piece of advice that sadly, many clients don't follow. I know it is SO tempting to find a cute outfit for your kids, or so easy to pick something out for your husband, and to then try to work around those pieces. But trust me...you will end up feeling frazzled, defeated, and frustrated. Because I guarantee you'll end up finding something you love, or fits amazing, but it won't match. And you'll force yourself into something you don't feel great in just to complete the outfits in time for your session.
Please do yourself a favor, and pick your outfit out first. Fit is most important, but also find a color and/or print that you love. Once you find THE piece, you know that your husband and kids will be easy to put together afterwards...because let's face it, men are easy and kids look good in anything! Go shopping early to ensure you have time to plan everybody else. Even better, find a place with free shipping/returns and have a fashion show at home!
2. Embrace the maxi!
I can't express how much I recommend a long dress for pictures. The first reason is that they photograph beautifully. When we are looking to capture the more candid style of photographs that much of our session is focused on, having clothing that blows in the wind and has actual movement creates visual interest and depth (layman's terms - it looks good!). You simply cannot achieve that look when wearing pants or shorts.
The second, and more practical reason, is they are comfortable. They allow you to bend over and chase your kids without worrying, and are incredibly flattering on just about any woman's body. Look for an empire waist, a flowy and loose-fitting fabric, and a design that skims your body but doesn't cling. Look for a style that shows off the features you like, and conceals those that you don't. Off the shoulder styles or wrap dresses are quite popular.
My favorite places to find them: Lulu's, ViciCollection.com, Forever 21 (surprising, I know!), Morning Lavender Boutique, Hazel and Olive Boutique, H&M, Free People, Anthropologie and ASOS. Amazon also has some great options (ask me for links!)
If you opt for a shorter dress or pants instead, still keep the things discussed above in mind. You will be bending over, sitting, and chasing your kids around. Make sure the outfit you choose will move with you without having to be adjusted, and will highlight what you love and conceal what you don't. Skinny jeans with a loose fitting blouse, a swingy short dress or skirt, or even a romper are all adorable options that look great too!
Step 2: The Family!
Having a variety of textures is something that is going to really create visual interest. Incorporate as many textures as you can - sweaters, knits, silk, leather, etc and layer when you can!
Coordinate but don't match. For spring and summer, stick to soft pastels or neutrals. Choose various shades of the same color color scheme, and go to town! Another reason I am a big fan of floral prints for Mom is it gives you a lot of colors to pull from for your family. Consider the colors your family looks good in, the color scheme in your home for prints, and just the colors you love to look at!
I recommend having a pattern somewhere within your palette. If you opt to all wear solids, we can bring in a patterned quilt that will add a lot of visual interest to your family portion.
If you'd prefer to wear the pattern, I recommend choosing one person to do so. Personally, I love using the pattern on Mom because there are so many beautiful options out there for women's dresses (where men's patterns are more limited). Florals are particularly nice, because it will give you a lot of tones to easily match for the rest of the family. Patterns can also be very flattering, as long as the pattern isn't too large or worn tightly.
You can incorporate a second pattern if you'd like, as long as it is very subtle and ideally a different print. For example, if Mom is in a floral dress you can put one of the children in a very subtle plaid or polka dot.
THE "X" RULE
Move your matching colors around so they are not worn on the same body parts of your family members. If your coordinating or matching colors are zig-zagged (like an X) from each other when posed instead of blocked next to each other it looks much better. Ultimately, when you're all standing together, your goal is to have similar colors spread out for visual interest!
STEP 3 - The Finishing Touches
You've done it! Your family is just about ready to go. The last piece is to pull in some finishing touches.
TEXTURE, LAYERS, DIFFERENT MATERIALS
I love when families have a lot of different textures and types of materials to their outfit- it adds a lot of visual interest to a picture! This can be a bit trickier in the warmer weather, but still possible. Lightweight shawls, wraps, crocheted vests, suspenders and jewelry. Mix silk, cotton, leather, suede, lightweight wool, etc. This should not be your biggest priority in planning, but always makes a difference when you can incorporate it in.
I recommend keeping jewelry minimal and simple...although I love jewelry in real life, chunky necklaces or long layered necklaces may be annoying to keep in place for pictures especially with rambunctious little ones. If it's a cooler evening, a scarf or pashmina can give you a really nice pop of color around your face and add variety. Floppy hats can also be a fun accessory to wear for a portion of your session!
For the little ones, bows or headbands are adorable. But if they really hate them, don't fight it. A happy child, and non stressed out mom, is most important. It's who they are, and someday you'll want to remember them that way.
I have a variety of blankets that I will bring based on your color scheme, but if you find the perfect blanket to coordinate it can be a fun way to add more texture and visual interest to your photo. A plaid throw, a chunky knit, or a vintage quilt are all a wonderful finishing touch!
HAIR AND MAKEUP
I strongly recommend investing in professional hair and/or makeup for your session. Not only will it be an enjoyable experience, but it will ensure you look your absolute best. Professionals know how to apply makeup and style your hair specifically for a photoshoot.
If you opt to do it yourself, loose waves are popular for photoshoots as they can get messy and blow and still look great. For your makeup, apply it a bit heavier than usual as it won't show as much on camera as it does in real life.
Most of my warm weather sessions are done on the beach - they create the most beautiful backdrop for pictures! Here's a few things to consider.
1. Layers - The beach can be chilly, so bring layers in case the kiddos get cold!
2. Sand - Kids will hate the feeling of sand in their shoes. So, if you'd like we can get a posed shot with shoes on right away but plan on kicking those shoes off relatively soon. It totally fits the laid back atmosphere!
3. Breeze - The beach will have a breeze, and sometimes a strong wind. Keep this in mind when choosing your wardrobe and hairstyle. Loose curls work well with a breeze. Avoid ruffles on your dress at the neckline, as they are virtually impossible to keep down when it's windy.
4. Movement - The breeze gives us beautiful movement, which is one reason I love the beach! Look for dresses that are loose and flowy to get that movement. A side slit will allow your dress to move even more, while showing a modest amount of leg.
5. Colors - I always prefer a muted color palette against the muted tones of a beach. Bright or bold colors will be a very strong contrast against the backdrop we are using.
Still Need Help?
1. Check out my Stefanie Cole Photography Mama Wardrobe - available at no extra cost for all Custom Family Sessions: http://www.stefaniecolephotography.com/scp-mama-wardrobe
2. I've created a Pinterest board where I pin family photo inspiration as well as links to specific items I love and I will be adding to it over time- check it out! PINTEREST BOARD
3. Just don't have the time or desire to pick out your outfits? I do offer personal styling for your session for a small extra fee. I will work within the clothes you already own as well as the budget you provide me with to plan your outfits for you. Please reach out to me for pricing information on this service.
4. Another great option is a website that will style your session for you! This is a new service that many have raved about who have tried it. Check it out: https://styleandselect.com/