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 Carrie Werner 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 will ensure you love the way you look and aren't stressing out the night before your session. 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. Not only do they photograph beautifully (hello, movement!), but they are comfortable, 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.
We often think of maxis for the spring and summer, but they are great for fall too! Look for richer colors (like black, burgundy, navy or mustard), pair with booties and add lightweight layers such as a jacket or scarf to get all of the benefits of a maxi with all of the coziness of fall.
My favorite places to find them: 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!)
3. Be realistic and think ahead
In the fall, a lot of people love to go more casual than a dress and instead choose to wear jeans and boots to really get the cozy fall look. I love this look too! When choosing your pieces, remember that in a session you will be bending over, chasing your kids and moving around so try to find pieces that fit well, are comfortable, and cover areas you don't love. If you are self conscious about your mid-section, which is a common area of concern for moms, definitely choose a loose fitting top and add layers. We want you to be comfortable, to not be distracted by tugging/adjusting your clothes, and to love the way you look!
Step 2: The Family
Coordinate but don't match. For fall, stick to light neutrals (creams, greys, etc) and rich jewel tones (blues, mustard, burgundy). 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!
TEXTURE, LAYERS & PATTERNS
Probably the best part about styling fall sessions is that in the cooler weather you can incorporate so many layers and textures into your session. Doing so adds visual interest to your images, and are also very flattering on your body.
Textures: I love accents like silk scarves, fur vests, flannel, denim, leather, suede and tassels/fringe. You can pull in fun textures with your boots, clothing, jewelry and accessories.
Layers: I recommend choosing lightweight layers. Even though the weather will be cool, you will be moving around and don't want to get hot and sweaty. Also lightweight layers are less likely to add bulk.
Patterns: You should stick to one bold pattern per family (perhaps a floral print or a bold plaid). Depending on how large your family is, you can pull in 1-2 other patterns as well as long as they are subtle and layered. For mom, avoid large patterns as they tend to not have a flattering effect.
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!
In this example, notice how the Dad is wearing a pink shirt, and his low-to-the-ground toddler daughter is wearing a pink dress (which keeps the pink spread out). His blue shorts pair well with Mom's blue dress, and the baby being held is wearing coordinating blue denim.
If Mom and Dad are both wearing jeans, a great way to still achieve the X-Rule is to wear knee high boots! You will still get the appearance of broken up colors when posed next to eachother.
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.
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. As we talked about before, jackets, vests and scarves are a great way to add layers and texture. 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.
Still Need Help?
1. 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
2. Just don't have the time or desire to pick out your outfits? I do offer personal styling for your session. 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.
3. 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/