#1 Eyes Will Go Where Skin Shows
If there is just one piece of clothing advice that we could give, it's this one! Control what a viewer focuses on by what you cover up. How?
People's eyes are naturally drawn to skin. This is especially true when viewing photographs. This means covering up anything you don't want people to be focusing on. We always recommend wearing long pants or jeans. Yes, even if the weather is warm. We never suggest shorts--you don't want people's attention being drawn down to your bare legs. However, that said, skirts and dresses are still fine as they're a little more formal and are generally less distracting than shorts. However, if you want to wear a skirt, but also don't want your legs to be seen, dark tights that fit with your color scheme are a great compromise.
Also... NEVER wear khaki pants or shorts as the color resembles a skin tone and will draw the viewers eyes down all the same. Instead, wear a long dark pant such as jeans.
But the "eyes go to skin" applies to more than just legs. For example, some people are uncomfortable with the way their upper arms look. A lot of people make the mistake of wearing sleeveless tops because it's cool and comfortable, but then are surprised or embarrassed by the way their arms look. To fix this, we suggest wearing long sleeves, even if it's a little warm. 1/2 or 3/4 sleeves are a good compromise.
Simply covering up guarantees that the attention will be on you face and not any parts you would rather keep out of focus.
#2 Coordinate Colors
Dressing like the rainbow might sound like a fun idea, but for portraits it can make your family look like a mixed-up box of crayons... which is very distracting. You don't want all of the attention on your wild clothes, you want the attention on what's important: You and Your Family!
So keep your color pallet limited. How? Pick one color and pair it with a neutral (such as grey). This will automatically make your family look much more united and put-together. In general, cool colors (such as blue) tend to work really well as they bring out the warmth of the skin tones. And medium to darker shades also help draw the attention to your family's faces.
Again... no khaki!
Another aspect to consider is where you will be displaying your family portraits. For example, if you plan on hanging wall portraits in your living room, think about what colors are already present in the space like the paint color and furniture. Some familys like to coordinate with the color scheme of their home so their portraits fit right in.
#3 Stick to Solids
Now that you know what colors you're working with, the next important thing is to make sure your family is mostly wearing solid colors. A ton of patterns is just as bad--if not worse!--than wearing a bunch of crazy colors.
Your family should wear nearly all solid colors. This means avoiding prints, patterns, and logos. If you want to add a bit of variety, think about mixing up textures and fabrics instead. Accessories, such as scarves and open sweaters, are also great at keeping things interesting without being distracting.
BONUS: The "Single Outfit Challenge"
Now you know that you should be coordinating colors and avoiding clashing patterns, but how do you know if you got it exactly right?
If you're struggling to decide if all of your family's clothes actually go together, do the "Single Outfit Challenge." Lay all of the pieces out in a way that you can see each piece. Now ask yourself: if you were to take the important aspects (color, pattern, etc.) of every single garment and wear all of it at once, would it look like you have a great sense of style? Or would it look like you got dressed in the dark?
If you wouldn't wear all of those colors or patterns at the same time, it's a sign that pieces probably need to be swapped out. But if it all looks like something that you would confidently wear out of the house, you're in good shape!
#4 Think About Your Family's Style
What kind of style fits your family the best? Fun and casual? Formal and sophisticated? Figuring out what look you want to go for as a whole will help your family look cohesive.
You don't want one person wearing ripped jeans and a t-shirt while another family member has slacks, suit jacket and a tie. You want everyone to look like they belong together!
Of course this doesn't mean everyone wears a uniform. You can certainly have a mix of tops, jeans, dresses, etc. just as long as they fall in about the same range on the "formality scale."
You can also think about the "season" of everyone's clothing. You might not want half of the family dressed for fall while the other half is ready for the beach. Of course keep a mix of fabrics and textures!--just make sure everyone looks like they're dress for the same weather.
#5 Avoid Wrinkles
Now we know that patterns are something to avoid, but the pattern you most want to get rid of is wrinkles. Wrinkled clothes can drag down your family's look, but it's also something really quick and easy to fix.
The night before your photography session, get everyone's outfits together and lay them out. Takes some time steaming or ironing anything that's wrinkled. Doing this ahead of time is a great way to take one little stress off of your plate the morning of. So even if the shirt you want had been balled up on the closet floor, pressing it the night before will let you relax and be confident that you look great on the day of.
#6 Contacts vs. Glasses
At Elite Images, we use professional lighting equipment, even outside! But all of that high-quality light can create glares on some glasses lenses, making it difficult to see the eyes behind it.
If you are comfortable wearing contacts, plan on wearing them to your family photography session. If you have contacts, but don't usually like wearing them, wear your glasses, but bring your contacts along just in case there is a glare problem.
Some people are attached to how they look with glasses and don't feel comfortable without them. So some will even bring in a second set of frames without the lenses so they can have their signature look without the glare.
Another thing to keep in mind is if your glasses are polarized, it may cause problems when photographing outside. If your glasses turn dark in the sunlight, it'll be nearly impossible to see your eyes in outdoor family portraits. You'll definitely want to make sure you wear contacts or keep your glasses off so you don't look like you're wearing sunglasses in all of your photos.
There's a number of ways to work around the issue, but these are just a few of the easiest routes.
# 7 Small Details
Dry skin and chapped lips are easily overlooked, but also really easy fixes.
Bring lotion and lip balm to keep on hand throughout your family photography session. Not only will they help you and your family look fresh, but they will also help you feel better. Itchy skin and painful lips can be pretty uncomfortable. So fixing these will help keep you feeling great and be a more confident.
You'll also want to make sure your and your family's fingernails are trimmed and clean. If anyone likes to wear nail polish, put on a fresh coat before the photography session so there are not chips or cracks. Small details like this can make a big difference!
BONUS: How to Dress for a Noir Blanc Session
The Noir Blanc Art Collection is a specialty photography series that shows the close relationship you have with your children in beautiful black and white photography.
Due to the nature of black and white images, you have to think about the colors your family wears differently than you would with other types of photography.
You don't have to think about the actual color of clothing, but you really have to pay attention to the shades. Wear clothing in medium to dark shades--things that would translate to a dark shade of grey. This means absolutely no white, even in undershirts since they might peek through at the collar. But things like dark greens, burgundy, or navy works great!
Solid colors are especially important for Noir Blanc sessions. Patterns become extremely apparent in black and white and will distract the eye. Working with different fabric textures is okay, you just want to avoid prints or the like.
Lastly, long sleeves and long, dark pants are a must. You don't want your bare arms and legs to be distracting. You also don't want to wear khaki or light pants as they don't translate to black and white well. When in doubt, dark wash jeans work the best!
ABOUT ELITE IMAGES
As a full-service photography studio in Dubuque, Iowa for over 25 years, Elite Images really knows how to make Family Portraits awesome! With fun, fully-guided photoshoots specifically created to bring out your family's best, confident self for images that you all fall absolutely in love with. Every Family Portrait session at Elite Images features professional lighting—even outdoors!—and all images are color corrected and fully retouched to bring out your family's best qualities. We even offer a wide range of fun wall art and display products so you can proudly show off your favorites!