FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, How to pick outfits, and everything in between

What to Wear?

What to wear is always the first thing that my clients ask about.  My biggest suggestion is coordinate, not necessarily match.

Think ahead to what you want to do with these portraits.  If you want to eventually frame this image and have it displayed in your home as wall art, keep in mind your home decor. If you have red walls, do you want to wear greens and have it look too “Christmasy”?  If you have warm earthy tones in your livingroom, you may not want to pick teal and purple for your family portraits.

My advice is to always say to pick an outfit for you first.  Then get coordinating outfits for your whole family.   I’ll break it down by style, colors, and accessories:


Your outfits should be a reflection of you, at your very best! You’ll want to make sure the outfit flatter’s your shape and something that makes you feel beautiful.  I’m a huge fan of having 2 outfits (If it’s not a mini session and there won’t be time for two outfits) – one with a long and/or flowing dress or semi-formal gown and another option with a more casual look.


Long gone are the days where couples wear matchy-matchy outfits.  Choose your outfit first and arrange the other clothing around what you feel you look your best in.  If you don’t feel beautiful or that you love how you look, you won’t love the portraits, and I want you to LOVE them! I am a big advocate of moms being in pictures with their kids, because they are often the unseen behind the camera.

So with your outfit chosen, it’s all about taking one or a few colors from your outfit for each family member. That way, there is a coordinated look in the end.  An example is you wearing a floral pattern (pinks, purples, and greens). One child wears a green shirt with kakis, your other child wears a  pink shirt, dress, skirt, and your partner a green and purple shirt.

Definitely avoid crazy patterns and anything with logos.


The image will look more amazing if you select accessories like belts, necklaces, bow ties, hats, earrings, jackets, scarfs, etc.  This will complete the style and show a finished look in the images.  You can also consider hiring a stylist to help you pick the outfits so you don’t have to think about it or use Pinterest to help you see options that you can copy.  You can view my Outfit Inspiration board here.

FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, What to Wear, and everything in between

Other Ways to Prepare

Make-up & Hair

Consider hiring a professional. Consider a professional to do your makeup and hair.  It will be relaxing and enable you to be taken care of and know your hair and makeup are on point.

If you aren’t hiring a professional, a subtle application of face make-up or foundation can really soften your skin and even out your skin tone.  Make sure it matches your skin tone, or your face may look orange or yellow compared to the rest of your body.  If you don’t usually wear foundation or face make-up, then purchase BB cream at your local pharmacy.  It’s a mixture of moisturizer and tint for a clean look. Consider mascara, and lipstick (even a pale color) to help the eyes and face pop in photographs.

For your hair, if you’re getting a haircut for your shoot, do so about a week or so beforehand, just in case it’s not as expected, so you can play with it to get used to it.  Remember to use hair spray if you curl your hair as it could drop by the time we are photographing.  You may consider bring bobby pins, hair clips, headbands, or any other favorite hair accessories for a different look or if where you photograph is really windy.

For men, a fresh cut a couple of days before the shoot is fine is a good idea.

Here is my hair and makeup recommendations, if you want to hire out.

FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, How to pick outfits, and everything in between


Make sure to follow your facial cleansing routine am and pm a couple of weeks before the shoot. Equally important, don’t cake on a lot of make-up to try to hide blemishes. It’s easier to edit away from a large pimple than to clean-up overdone make-up. For fever blisters, use Abreva.


You will probably wipe or lick your lips during your shoot, so bring fresh lip gloss or lipstick to do touch-ups. Use lip balm for a few days in advance of your shoot to make your lips look their best. There are also products like a sugar scrub to get your lips in shape.




If folks wouldn’t recognize you without glasses, you want to wear glasses in your shoot – however, the glare on glasses can detract from your eyes in photos. You can have your lenses removed from your frames for your shoot (don’t worry, it’s what Hollywood does to avoid glare in movies), ask your eye doctor to loan you a pair of similar frames, or you can also visit an inexpensive company online or at the dollar store and buy a suitable pair of duplicate frames on the cheap.

Red eyes

Getting sleep the night before and not drinking the night before your shoot helps, too. [YES! I’ve shot hung-over clients.].  When all else fails, buy some moisturizing eye drops.


If you want to brighten your smile, start your treatments about 2-3 weeks before your shoot.

Facial hair

Men, be freshly shaved with a new razor, shaving cream, and a moisturizing after-shave lotion to avoid bumps and redness. Trim up your beard, sideburns, mustache, or goatee, especially looking for wiry stray hairs.

Ladies, even if you have some light facial hair (particularly around your lip or chin), indulge in a waxing in advance of your shoot or consider a hair remover or bleach that you can purchase at your local pharmacy. Even barely-there light facial hair could be noticeable in your photos. Men and women should both pluck and clean-up those eyebrows.


Dry skin can really detract from a great photoshoot. Start moisturizing nightly a week in advance of your shoot. When you get out of the shower, dry off until lightly damp, and slather on moisturizer. Focus on your arms, shoulders, neck, face, hands, anywhere you’ll be exposed to the camera. This includes your legs if you’re shooting in shorts or a skirt. And please don’t use location on your body that has sparkles in it.  It does weird things in photos that you won’t like.

ProTip: For dry skin on your face, especially around your nose, use a sugar scrub. Mix a cup of sugar with about a quarter cup of olive oil, or just until it looks like wet sand. Scrub your face with it anywhere you have flaky skin, wash it off, then wash with soap to remove the oil. The sugar paste shouldn’t be oily, just wet enough to moisten the sugar. Also, be sure on your face to use a facial moisturizer as a regular lotion or body moisturizer is too thick and not made for the facial skin.  This will almost certainly lean to breakouts.

FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, What to Wear, and everything in between


A fresh coat of nail polish will make a world of difference in your photoshoot. Pick a neutral color that won’t distract in your shoot or clash with your outfits. Freshen the morning of the shoot.  Your photoshoot is a great excuse for a fresh manicure, but if you can’t go to the salon, make sure your nails look tidy and clean, including the cuticles.


Ladies, avoid high salt and high-fat foods for two to three days in advance of your shoot. Being bloated will sap your confidence and comfort in front of the camera.


Make sure that your undergarments don’t show with your outfit.  Try your outfit on and move around, sit down and stand.  If you often pull on your shirt as your bra strap peeks out, consider a strapless bra.  Also, underwear lines might show in images, so wear undies that blend in with your outfit.

Sunburns, Tan Lines, + Spray Tans

Contrary to popular belief, sunburns aren’t easy to fix in photoshop and most photographers would charge for that extra work.  If your shoot is booked for Saturday, going to the beach on Friday will not be helpful. If you plan to tan before your shoot, do so at least a week beforehand and don’t get burned. Be mindful of clothing tan lines, sunglass tan lines, hat tan lines, etc.  If you choose to get a spray tan or use a tanning bed, the same rules apply, don’t do it the day before, give yourself at least 3-7 days in case it results orangey color.


If you iron, iron the night before and then hang the clothes for your shoot. If you’re wearing something that wrinkles easily, don’t wear it in the car on the way to the shoot – just change at the location in a bathroom or in your car.  This way the clothing is as fresh as possible for photographs.

FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, What to Wear, and everything in between

Should You Bring Props?

This is entirely up to you but they can definitely be a great way to add fun and creativity to your shots! One of our clients brought a bunch of brightly colored balloons with them which ended up being a BLAST!  Having your shoot in the fall or winter? Bring cold-weather accessories such as hats, blankets, and scarves!  Or bring brightly colored umbrellas or see-through umbrellas so you can shoot in the rain.  Shooting in the spring? Bring a picnic basket filled with all of your favorite foods! Again, think of what makes you guys you! Is there a sport that you both love? Bring a football along! Did you meet at a coffee shop? Bring his and hers mugs! The more creative the better! Lacking inspiration? Pinterest is also a great resource that you can check out for fun and creative ideas!

Being Confident

With all the tips given above, the best tip is to have confidence.  It’s everything in photographs.  All the tips above from what you wear to being prepared enable you to feel more confident.  And don’t worry – most people feel awkward taking photographs.  My job is to help you to feel comfortable and guide you into poses so that you get the best images.I have an upcoming Fall Mini Session, click here to book yours before they are booked!

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Family Portraits Outfit Inspiration

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Family portraits - wha to wear and how to prepare
What to Wear and how to prepare for family portraits
FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, What to Wear, and everything in between
What to Wear and how to prepare for family portraits
FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, What to Wear, and everything in between
FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, What to Wear, and everything in between
What to Wear and how to prepare for family portraits
FAMILY PORTRAITS: How to prepare, What to Wear, and everything in between