Masthead header

What to Wear | Photo Session

Mother’s Day. Family beach vacation. Christmas card session. Congrats for booking. Now you need to figure out what to wear! It’s your session, so wear what pleases you and makes you feel most at ease — your comfort level will show in your clothing choices. That said, people often ask me what looks best in photographs. I can only offer my opinion, but I’ll provide some examples here in hopes you’ll see a look that inspires you as you make your clothing choices.

I love color and recommend people wear colorful clothing instead of matchy looks. It can require more time and thought to pull together, but take a look at some of these images and see what strikes you as fun and relaxed.

If it’s a family session, I recommend starting with a colorful choice for mom and/or daughter. After all, when Mom is happy and feels fabulous, the session will be easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Choose a flattering neckline with a little architectural interest or a fun piece of jewelry. If there is a young girl or two in the bunch, choose a fun print. I love texture, and it adds dimension and personality to your photographs. Sure, it shouldn’t be all about the clothes, but a cohesive look that is fun and age-appropriate is a good way to go. For this fun fall session, Mom started with textured and colorful Matilda Jane ensembles for her daughters, then pulled out solid colors (and a tiny gingham) that coordinated.
Colorful, textured ensembles for the daughters, and the rest of the clan wears solid colors (and a tiny gingham) that coordinates.

Layering is easier to do in the cooler months, but I love how each choice here goes together without looking contrived. Denim, knits, a floral scarf, a corduroy jacket. Everyone looks great, whether they are photographed as a group or on their own.
Carolina Photosmith Family Photography - Wardrobe ideas: Navy, green, some stripes, a floral.

Here’s a great example of a “this is us” lifestyle session. The daughter chose a fun top and cute braid, and the boys are wearing their favorite duds for beaching, biking and fishing. I typically advise against sporting shirts with bold graphics or logos, but it works at this family’s beach escape.
Kids biking at the beach while their fave furry friend looks on. Lowcountry living!

Consider the environment for your photo session. Darker colors pop against a sunny, watery backdrop. The color is doubled here since I incorporated the reflection into the shot. (#7 and #10 are my kids, along with ten of their first cousins.)
Carolina Photosmith Beach Photography. Colors pop against an ocean backdrop.

Against a lush, dark green island backdrop, lighter hues worked well. Mom was adorable in her blue dress (note the fun, flattering ruffled neckline), and all the guys looked handsome and at ease in their button-downs.
Classic styles in blues and greens look great in this island setting with bare feet.

Some people love the look of clean, crisp white shirts. It keeps the focus on the faces.
Charleston Family Photography by Carolina Photosmith. Classic white and khaki.

White can be tricky because in order to expose the skin properly, white shirts can “blow out,” losing all detail against a bright background. White can also take on color casts from nearby objects and clothing. For example, beneath leafy trees, white shirts can reflect some of the green. That said, white can lend a timeless look — especially in black and white portraits.
In summer, families converge at the beach for seaside reunions and quality memory making.

On the beach, I think this white with denim provides good contrast — better than a white and khaki combo, that could wash out against sand with similar tones.
Mount Pleasant, SC couple splashes at the beach with extended family

And simple white dresses work on this pretty mom, with her Ivory Girl complexion and curly locks.
Doll Baby at six months poses with her lovely mama

What about pattern? Sure, why not! Although you don’t want to go crazy with too many patterns, don’t feel like you need to avoid it altogether. I like the mix of big argyles and windowpane pattern here.
First Mates on the Amy Marie in Shem Creek by Carolina Photosmith

This family chose a pink color scheme, which contrasted nicely against all the green at Boone Hall. Their patterns were different sizes, and they look great!
Boone Hall family portrait by Carolina Photosmith. The poppy pinks look bright and cheery against the green.

And the bigger the group, the more you should incorporate color and texture. My family includes 22 people at our annual beach week. We broke from the khaki and white look years ago, and Mom and I have fun experimenting with color and pattern each year. The younger girls’ knit dresses came from Garnet Hill, and the boys madras shirts are from Kelly’s Kids. The adults stuck to solid colors, so we looked coordinated for the big group photos and the family shots. And with each child sporting color, their individual shots are fun, too.
Colorful family photo. My parents and their 12 grandchildren!

Not every clan could pull off this fun combo of purple, gray and magenta — or the leaptastic talents exhibited here. But they are Looney!
Cool purple and gray with pops of magenta -- fun combo for family photo session.

This family from Atlanta vacationed on Isle of Palms recently. I love the flattering pastels they chose, and the white works better when it’s not against their faces.
Isle of Palms family photography by Carolina Photosmith.

Chances are you haven’t had an hour-long photo session in a while, so make it count. Feel free to make a quick outfit switch because you will have plenty of new photos to display, share or use on a card. Once these tots were done with the extended family shots, they donned their beachy smocked crab outfits. So cute!
Cute kids sport smocked crab clothes for their Lowcountry beach photos

Okay, that’s all for now. I had ideas to post other photos, but between my zany out-of-school tots and my less-than-perfect catalog system for older files, we’ll go with this for now. Hopefully this will give you a few ideas as you plan your next family photos. Contact Jen to book your session. Oh, and follow me on Pinterest for What to Wear boards for both families and couples. Thanks, y’all!

  • Tyler - great family. love it all!ReplyCancel

  • Joseph - Great advice Jennifer. Excellent pictures too. I’m sure anyone reading this thinking of booking you is now even more convinced.ReplyCancel

  • /mariahedengren - So awesome that you wrote about this!! “What to wear?” is the always present question.ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *