What to Wear For a Family Portrait

Wardrobe Choices for Family Portraits | Lisa Maco Photography, Washington, DC

To ensure that you have the best outcome from a family portrait session, here are some tips on what to wear. While you don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy clothes, follow these 10 tips to make sure your family looks great in all your portraits.

1. Plan your wardrobe

As the photographer, I know you want you to feel confident in your wardrobe choices for family portraits. I encourage everyone to wear what they love, feel good in, and will make your portrait a piece of art.  When you walk by your portraits I want you to think of the love and good times with your family.  The main goal is for everyone involved in the portrait session to look unique while creating a cohesive unit. A family portrait session requires just a bit of coordination and planning to achieve the best outcome. Plan your wardrobe based on the concepts we discussed in your Design Consultation. 

Experiment with your clothing options ahead of time to see what works well together. Be sure that clothing fits and everyone is comfortable and feels good. If you plan well, and everyone feels confident, it will show!

2. Coordinate, Don’t Match

 You don’t want to wear exactly the same outfit however keep in mind basic clothing choices for everyone.  Keeping a cohesion in the type of clothing will ensure your portraits are “wall worthy” something you will be proud to hang on your walls. For example, coordinate clothing choices so that everyone wears the same type of bottom (jeans, khaki’s, etc) and the same type of top (button-down shirt, polo shirt, etc).

A good tip to see if your clothing choices coordinate without matching is to lay everyone’s clothes out on a flat surface like a bed or couch.  Stand back, and look at your clothing choices to see if everything goes well  together. If there’s one thing that really sticks out, pull it out and substitute it with something else.

You can also vary everyone’s neckline to mix it up. Your choice for neckline on your tops can add interest to your look.  A v-neck can be slimming while a scoop neck can be widening.

3. Choose Your Color Palette

When it comes to color keep in mind that you want people to see you first, not the clothing. Your clothing should enhance you, not overshadow you in the portrait. 

You might stick with a monochromatic color scheme. Choose shades of neutral colors like gray, blue, cream, etc.  This ensures a cohesive look without matching like I mentioned earlier.

Dancing Queen 2 - Refined Style | Lisa Maco Photography, Washington, DC

If you choose to add more colors, it’s best to  choose a palette of two to three complementary colors.

Framed Fancy Dress Casual Pose - Refined Style | Lisa Maco Photography, Washington, DC

Keep in mind the background is a color element, which means you should consider colors that are appropriate for the location.  For example, if you are doing an outdoor session in the fall, wearing fall colors will compliment you and your environment.

Family Photographer | Lisa Maco Photography, LLC, Washington, DC

Likewise, if you are doing a studio session on a plain background, you have more options for colors. Using color mindfully will tie your outfits together.

4. Think About Texture

To add interest, think texture like lace and ruffles for girls and jackets and sweaters for boys.  Some fabrics are soft and flowing, while others are stiffer or thicker. Try to think about how the fabrics in your outfit work with the rest of the family’s outfits and if it helps to creates a cohesive whole. Use texture to create personality in your clothing choices rather than pattern.  More on pattern in the next tip.

5. Minimize Pattern

Patterns like stripes, plaid, and paisley are busy and they can detract from the face and eyes.  To minimize patterns opt for  solid-colored clothing and patterned accessories like scarfs, and ties.  When it comes to patterns in portraits, a little goes a long way. Think subtle patterns for a pop of personality.  

6. Express Your Style

A wonderful way to express your personality is with accessories.  You can add jewelry, scarves, ties, and hats.  Use your imagination and get creative.

Contemporary Style | Lisa Maco Photography, Washington, DC

7. Wear Clothing the Fits Well

Form-fitting clothes rather than oversized, baggy, or slouchy are best. Even if a family member is not comfortable with their body, a fitted outfit will photograph better than a baggy one.  To add variety, Dad can roll-up his cuffs for a more casual look.  Or Mom could wear tops with a ¾ sleeve or push longer sleeves up for a universally flattering look. 

8. Prep Your Clothing

Clothing prep is crucial.  Have your clothes cleaned and pressed ahead of the session.  Bring any change of clothing on hangers not rolled or folded and stuffed in a gym bag. Also, pay attention to your shoes. Choose shoes that are well cared for and clean.

9. Add Interest with Mementos

As you are planning your wardrobe, consider adding a few mementos that are significant to you and bring them along to your session.  Some examples are Grandpa’s watch, Grandma’s ring, or baby’s blanket.

10. Let Kids Express Themselves

Bring your children’s favorite outfits like that superhero costume or a tutu for some epic portraits that express who they are right now.  After we get the images we planned, getting some fun, playful images keeps the kids engaged, makes them feel like stars, and ends the session on a high note.   

Contemporary Style | Lisa Maco Photography, Washington, DC


I hope these tips have inspired you to create a wardrobe that works for your family. The most important thing is to have fun with it! Family portraits are an opportunity for everyone to express themselves authentically so take the time to look through your closet with fresh eyes. Find something that expresses who you are as individuals and as a family unit to spotlight your personalities and your family story.