Dressing for Your Family Portraits- Part 1

August 05, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

One of the most popular questions I get asked before my family sessions is "What should we wear?"  Gone are the days of dressing in matching white T shirts and jeans.  It's the 21st century and colors and patterns, when done correctly, can really bring life to your family's portraits.  Consider the purpose of taking the family portraits in the first place.  You probably want to hang some of the portraits on your walls.  Make your walls come alive with beautiful color, while still keeping the focus on your beautiful family.

Let's start with the color wheel.  You probably learned about the color wheel in your elementary art class.  I like to think about the color wheel when advising people on colors that will look good in their family portraits.  The idea is that colors that complement each other will be opposite each other on the color wheel.  But this is not a strict rule.  It's always nice to have your clothing complement the background in your portraits.  The background can vary a lot depending on location and the time of year. Let's look at the four seasons and how you can choose clothing that complements nature.  

SPRING- In the spring, you will see a lot of pale greens and yellows in the trees, as leaves are beginning to bud.  There may be some pink or purple blooms in the background, with all of the flowering cherry and red bud trees we have in the area.  During this time of year, pinks and purples are great choices for clothing.  Sky blue can also look really nice for the boys.  Gray also looks really nice with greens and yellows and is very trendy right now. 

SUMMER- By summer, leaves are a darker shade of green.  A teal blue, bright yellow, or orange can also look very pretty in the summertime.  Variations, such as salmon, peach, aqua, and sea foam are also some light and pretty choices for summer.  

FALL- When the leaves start changing, the backgrounds in your portraits will take on orange, yellow, and red hues.  My favorite color for fall portraits is blue, especially navy.  Blue and orange are opposite each other on the color wheel and look gorgeous together.  Some other colors that look amazing are brown, tan, dark red, dark turquoise, and deep purple.  

I love the blues that this family chose for their fall portraits.  They combined dark blue with pale yellow, a great choice!

WINTER- You may think that winter really lacks color, but if you look very closely, those bare, leafless trees are actually a grayish purple hue.  Grassy fields sometimes turn tan or yellow in the winter.  Some pretty choices for winter are red, orange, dark blue, pale blue, black, and yellow.  

Orange clothing really makes this winter portrait pop!  

So now that you have some ideas for colors in your head, let's talk about how to coordinate your family's clothing.  It may sound a little tricky because we'll be taking pictures of multiple people, probably of both male and female.  You may love the color pink, but your husband and son would probably not appreciate being dressed in this color.  My advice is to pick 2 main colors and base everyone's clothing off those two colors.  You can also throw in a neutral color in addition to your two colors.  

Dark purple is an excellent choice for fall pictures.  This family paired it with green, a great choice for the daddy and baby girl.

Before you head to the mall, let's next talk about texture and patterns, and how they can be used to make you look good.  In general, texture is very flattering.  Clothing with ruffles, lace, etc. all flatter your figure.  Don't go overboard, however.  If you have fabric flowers stuck all over your shirt, it will become very distracting in your portraits.  Another way to achieve texture is in layers.  T shirts, collared shirts, vests, camisoles, scarves, and belts all add interest to your portraits.

When it comes to prints, less is more.  Solid colors with texture or layering work best, but if you want to wear a print, make it a small one that looks almost like a solid from a distance and allow only 1-2 people in your family wear patterns.  If everyone is wearing a different pattern, it can be a little overwhelming.  Horizontal stripes should be avoided because they can make people look wider than they are, although they sometimes work on children.  Thin stripes don't photograph well and can be almost dizzying to look at.  

If you'd like to see some photos of outfits that are put together for photography, look no further than Pinterest (www.pinterest.com).  There are many pins out there to inspire you.  If you visit my Erica Courtine Photography boards, I have several outfits shown for ideas.


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