Ask me about my top ten childhood moments of drama and my answer will likely include family photos. The pressure for everyone to wear matching colors when the person choosing the colors has vastly different taste, looks, and personal style. Color schemes are pulled from midair and look good on maybe one person in the group - but not everyone - and the color I'm assigned to wear doesn't fit well in the clothes I have in that color. Instead of feeling fabulous and smiling like a movie star, I'm left feeling like my personal expression has been completely stifled for the sake of the group photo, the photo that will grace the wall with my presence for years to come. Maybe that's why it took ten tries to get a good photo of me. Sound familiar? Now that my job (aka professional stylist) includes choosing clothes for joyous family photo moments, here are a few golden tips I have learned to have your photos not only turn out lovely but also preserve each family member's version of personal expression.
1. Know what the photo shoot location looks like. What are the colors in your background? Which do you want to emphasize? When you repeat these colors in the clothing, you will also highlight them and your people in the photo will become more in harmony with the surroundings. We knew this photo would be taken at sunset and chose to focus on the pinks, blues and dark greys. (Favorite colors of each family member.) It was helpful to have a photo in advance to know which colors to work with.
2. Find a patterned inspiration piece - a print, stripe, or plaid that includes a color scheme. The ideal inspiration piece will have a color in your home’s decor, where you will put said portrait, and/or the colors in the background of your photo, and should be enjoyed by the wearer. The color schemes for the examples below happen to both be inspired by the mother's scarf. (Yes, the inspiration piece can be something other than a scarf.) In this case, the scarves are very different from each other, and both contain colors from the background, the people and even the dogs. Who knew?
3. Choose clothing colors that have the same colors in common with your inspiration piece. These pieces of clothing should reflect the personality of the person wearing them, to a degree, or they may look and feel grumpy wearing them for the picture. (Not ideal.) They don't all have to be solid colors, hello creative expression. Mixing patterns is more advanced however, check out my guide to mixing patterns HERE.
4. Create your ideal figure when you opt for more fitted clothing for a slimming look and less fitted to fill out or enlarge. We come in many different shapes and sizes after all. Keep in mind that dark, dull, and cool colors tend to minimize and fade into the background while light, bright, and warm colors will appear to advance and maximize the place you put them. If you want your hips to look slimmer, put the dark, dull, cool color on your hips. If you want the adorable little girl/boy to stand out, put the light, bright, warm color on him/her. Tie the light, bright, warm color back into your look by putting it in a place you wish to emphasize.
5. Plan your outfits, don’t forget the accessories. The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you’ll be when the big day finally arrives. It helps to lay the clothes and accessories out on the floor, scarecrow style, to see how they all fit together.
6. It's also helpful to consider where your picture will be placed in your home. “Since a few of these photos will most likely be hanging in your home and on display for a long time, make sure that the clothing you select blends with the color scheme of your home.” Thank you Shutterfly for this tip.
Does the task of choosing clothes for your family photo op still seem daunting? Click below to take the stress out of family photos and truly enjoy your photo perfect memories.
Image consultant and personal stylist. Dani is happily married, the mother of 3 charming children, and an Aussie named Josie Wales.