5 Style Tips for a Family Portrait Session

Want to see some style tips for a family portrait session? Read below!

Post Updated: November 2020!

I wrote the below post four years ago! My how time flies. But the style tips for a family portrait session still ring true. The rules I try to stick by whenever I’m planning outfits for the whole family.

A few additional tips I’ve learned over the years:

Do Not Wait Until Last Minute to Shop Your Outfit

If you were around in September then you saw my whole cleave dress / leggy romper dilemma for our family portraits this year. I booked a last minute anniversay session and had an hour to shop with two kids in tow. I ended up with two options and had to make it work. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever learned how to tie a wrap dress correctly. 😛 If I hadn’t waited until the last minute, I’m sure I would’ve had better options that fit me well.

Shop Your Kids’ Closets

The boys’ outfits for this year’s family session was from their closets. One I decided on taking pictures in both of my outfits. I tried to find neutral / accent colors that would work well with my dress / romper.

You don’t need to buy new outfits for the whole family. Especially if you have multiple kids, their closets are full of options that you can repurpose for a family photo session!

Let Your SO Have Input

David is obviously easier to dress, but I also make sure to give him options so that he feels comfortable in what he has to wear. He’s not the biggest fan of family photo sessions, so I like to make sure that the outfit he wears is something “he picked.” This year, I gave him two shirt options. He was absolutely not a fan of the one I picked. 😛

Some of our fave pics from family sessions the last few years:

Jenn Anibal Photo
Jenn Anibal Photo

Post from July 2016:

It’s been a crazy summer! I can’t believe it’s almost July! Despite the craziness (and a mild case of HFM), we were able to squeeze in a family portrait session last Friday. I was able to throw together outfits for all four of us with just a couple of last minute shopping trips!

We’ve done a few family portrait sessions the last few years and each time I always freeze when it comes to the theme of styling our family. My goal is to keep us cohesive without being overly matching. Some years I’ve succeeded, some years I didn’t. Regardless of the outcome, these are five tips I try to keep in mind when trying to coordinate outfits for our family portrait sessions.

5 Style Tips for a Family Portrait Session

1.) Comfort is Key

I always try to keep that in mind when choosing outfits for all of us. If you aren’t comfortable and especially if your kids are uncomfortable, chances are you won’t get the photos you want! We’ve always gone the casual, comfort route for our family portraits. Some of my favorite shots are the candid ones that I know wouldn’t have been possible if any of us weren’t comfortable in what we were wearing!

(Navy, Mustard Yellow, Gray Theme – Fall 2013)

2.) Dress Appropriately for the Season

Prior to our littlest, we’ve usually had our portrait session in the late Fall/early Winter because that is A’s birthday time. Being in Michigan, we’ve always been in cold weather clothes. We’ve lucked out mostly with decent weather on picture day, but I always dressed warmer to be on the safer side. The session we just did last Friday was in the heat of humidity, so I dressed us all in light, summer clothes (more details below). Another tip for seasonal dress, is being mindful of choosing seasonally appropriate colors!

(Sweater Theme – Winter 2014)

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3.) Save the “Matchy Matchy” for Holidays

I’m not a fan of everyone in the same outfit (re: white tee and jeans, all one color, all flannel, etc.) BUT, for last year’s Christmas photos, I knew I wanted do an overly cheesy Christmas Jammies theme. We took the photo at home on our DSLR, so I didn’t feel like we were wasting an entire session. It worked for our holiday card last year and even our dogs cooperated (though I didn’t dress them up, haha).

 (Christmas Jammies Theme – Winter 2015)

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4.) Location, Location, Location

In addition to the seasons, I always try to dress us all appropriately for where we are going to be taking the photos. Most of our sessions have been outdoors, so coordinating (comfortable) shoes is always important. Our newborn/family portrait session was at our house last year. I knew it was going to be indoors and wanted to keep our color scheme light and bright, since we wouldn’t have the benefit of being out in natural light.

(Casual / Soft Colors Theme – Summer 2015)

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Jenn Anibal Photo

5.) Pick One Piece or One Person’s Outfit as a Starting Point

Being a mom of boys and the only female in the house, I usually start with picking my outfit first. But, since I’m so indecisive, I often default to picking out the kids’ outfits first. I’ll choose one of them as the focal point, whether it’s a milestone or birthday, etc. and then build the rest of the family’s outfits around the first outfit. I choose different patterns and colors based on that first outfit.

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For this late summer, early fall session, I grabbed my navy swing dress with the crochet detail at Forever 21! I haven’t shopped there in years, but bought two separate things there last week! This dress for $15 and a Guns’n’Roses Tee for our date night last Thursday! (Yep, we went to a rock concert the night before our family portraits, we wild around here. Not really. Haha.)

family portrait

I don’t have the pro pics back yet, but we got a few behind the scenes snaps on my iPhone, so I wanted to share some of those pics with you!

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How do you like to style your family for portraits? Any additional tips?

hello + welcome!

My name is JeeYoung, a work at home mom to three boys. Consultant, Content Creator, Chaos Coordinator. This is a snippet of our happy chaos - mom life, family travel, easy recipes, home decor, and simple beauty. So happy you're here!

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  1. Love these tips! Family pictures can be SO stressful!

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Thank you!! Yes they can def be stressful! We were just dealing with the onset of hand, foot, mouth virus too!

      Posted 6.29.16 Reply
  2. Erin wrote:

    These are all great tips! I love coordinated looks for professional photos. Your Christmas photo is oh so adorable, too! I’m going to have to try really, really hard to get my hubby in some Christmas pjs this year! 😉

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Thank you!! Yes please do and send me a pic! I love Christmas PJ pics!!!

      Posted 6.29.16 Reply
  3. Susan wrote:

    Great tips!!!! Love all of your photos so much!

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
  4. Suuuuch good tips! I wish I would have planned what everyone was wearing at our family photo shoot a little better! Will keep these in mind for next time!!!

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Thanks mama, hope the tips help for next time!

      Posted 6.29.16 Reply
  5. Lauren wrote:

    All of your family photos are adorable! I especially love the soft colors theme. I always struggle when picking family photo outfits and this is so helpful!

    http://www.myplotofsunshine.com

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Thanks Lauren, that is one of my fave shoots yet!

      Posted 6.29.16 Reply
  6. Rachel wrote:

    You are so good at coordinating for pictures! My family did a portrait session together a few years ago and we did not coordinate as well as you guys do, hahah. I love all of your pictures. They all look so nice!

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Aw thanks friend!! I’m happy with how they turned out, though I would’ve changed outfits some years!

      Posted 6.29.16 Reply
  7. Lauren wrote:

    I love this!! Great tips!

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Thank you for reading, Lauren!

      Posted 6.29.16 Reply
  8. Thank you so much for sharing these tips! We’re planning family pictures soon so this was timely!

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Yay, hope they come in handy, Hannah!

      Posted 6.29.16 Reply
  9. Beautiful family and beautiful pictures. We have some coming up in July. I will definitely use some of these tips.

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Thank you, Justina! I hope the tips help with your session! I can’t wait to see them!

      Posted 6.28.16 Reply
  10. Sophia wrote:

    You guys look great in all your photos.

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
  11. ITS ALL TOO CUTE!

    Posted 6.27.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      Y’all are TOO CUTE! Thanks friend!

      Posted 6.28.16 Reply
  12. Corina wrote:

    I love the inspiration in the photo sessions from previous years! You guys make such a cute family!! <3

    Posted 6.28.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      You are the sweetest! Thanks friend!

      Posted 6.28.16 Reply
  13. Suzanne wrote:

    You have such a gorgeous family! I need to make myself have family pics taken more often. It’s always such a hassle at the time, but I’m always so glad I did it when I get the photos back. Great post, mama 🙂

    Posted 6.28.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      thanks sweet friend! I always let the pics sit in my google drive or dvd… BUT I’m so glad to have them when I actually get around to printing them for decor around the house and making albums for the kids!

      Posted 6.28.16 Reply
  14. Mal wrote:

    You guys are adorable, but I can’t help it, I love the matchy matchy!! 🙂

    Posted 6.28.16 Reply
    • JeeYoung wrote:

      hahaha, to each her own! thank you!

      Posted 6.28.16 Reply
  15. Your Christmas jammies picture is the greatest!!! I wish I would have seen this post before we had our portraits done last week. Oh well there is always next time. These are some great tips!

    Posted 7.6.16 Reply
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