January 1, 2020

What should I wear on our family photoshoot?!! A guide by Ruth

Photography tips

Every six to twelve months I schedule in a shoot for our family and each time I’m reminded just how much work the process of choosing outfits can be!! The other day a friend told me she’d put her family photo shoot off for a year, because she just couldn’t get her head around choosing outfits, so I was inspired to write this guide which I hope makes this process less indimidating. To start with the most important thing to remember is to choose something that you and your family feel comfortable in, because,  if you’re not feeling comfortable it’ll show. What you choose to wear can also impact on your experience of the shoot, if you are thinking about wardrobe malfunctions the entire time, it’s unlikely you’ll be giving out those relaxed vibes we all want from our photos 😉 So here’s a few things to consider when you plan what to wear for your shoot.

The environment: Depending on your photo shoot location, you’ll probably be moving around during the shoot, walking, kneeling, sitting and sometimes even lying, especially for family shoots with young kids. Dress appropriately for the environment you’ll be photographed in. For example heels for undulating terrain such as the beach or rock hopping might not work as well as it would in a flat environment. We did a photo shoot at the beach recently and I agonised over everybody’s shoes which of course we all threw off as soon as we reached the sand. If you are photographing near a body of water then also bring a change of clothes, even if it’s just for the way home. At the beach, I always pack a towel a towel and wipes as the kids will definitely get sand on their hands and faces at some stage throughout the shoot.

The weather:  Blue lips don’t look good on anybody, so look ahead at the weather forecast,  factor in the temperature, and bring layers just in case this changes. The beach is often super windy so an extra layer can be handy to keep the goosebumps at bay. I am a biiiig fan of floaty dresses but keep in mind that if you are in a windy environment then you might be spending the majority of your time keeping it down 😉 If you’re not sure don’t be afraid to bring a couple of options and change into them as you need to.

Coordinating: Choosing one outfit is hard enough right?! Let alone a whole family! My strategy is to lay it all out so you can see how the colours and textures work together. I pull out all the possible options I like from our wardrobe and then narrow it down by pairing things up or seeing where the gaps are. I take photos as I go and I can flick through these to compare which option looks better. For our last shoot, I flicked a few photos to a stylish friend who helped me narrow down my selection. Once I have the final options I can clearly see any bits and pieces that might be missing (cue shopping trip!). Sometimes I already have everything I need! An example below of one of my planning images from our Jan 2019 Photoshoot:

If you’re still stuck for ideas choose a favourite piece of clothing or the one piece you know for sure that someone in the family will wear and build everybody else’s garments around that. Once Ruby had a super cute mustard head wrap and I added a little mustard into everyone else’s outfits very subtly. I know this isn’t for everybody but another idea is to use a costume or dress up outfit your child loves and, bring that along too =) Once I had a whole family change into superhero costumes and they smashed it! I’ve popped in a couple of images below, or you can see the full blog post by clicking here.

Things to avoid:

  • Matchy-matchy. As tempting as it may be to all dress the same (and easy) it really takes away each individual’s uniqueness and personality to dress exactly the same. Similar colour tones are great, but not necessarily the exact same colour.
  • Patterns that are really large/geometric/very colourful/highly contrasting will draw the eye. I’m not saying don’t go there at all but just be aware that the eye will focus on these strong patterns, especially if only one member of the family is dressed like this.
  • Try to avoid wearing the exact same colour as the location you are photographing in. For example, if you are photographing in rustic woods, then try and avoid browns in a similar tone. In a lush green forest try to avoid wearing all green so you don’t get all camouflage on it.
  • For little girls – bows, sleeves, dresses can all cause slight wardrobe malfunctions when they move around. I’m not saying don’t wear these, just realise they will need to be managed on the day. Dresses will fly up, or ride up when a child is being carried so if you aren’t comfortable with a little flashing, go long, or pop something underneath. Beautiful large sleeves are on-trend at the moment, and I’m such a fan, but I’ve done a few shoots, where I’ve spent a lot of time asking a parent to pull them down so they don’t obstruct the child’s face, so this is something to keep in mind. Try the outfits and accessories on beforehand and see how they wear with movement and a little handling.


Maternity clothing can be difficult, I know I always found it tricky to find the perfect outfit when I was pregnant! The following advice really is dependant on body shape, how far you are along, and how you are carrying, but as a guide here’s what I recommend.

If you are comfortable with a form-fitting garment, this is ideal as with baggy clothing as it is easy to lose the baby bump shape and it means you have to constantly hold your belly if you want to show the curve. This can look a little unnatural and limits movement and posing options.

Do an underwear check, I know that when I was pregnant, my lingerie would get a little snug;) It’s best to have a partner or friend that can be honest with you double-check this before you arrive! Bring a couple of garment options if you aren’t sure.

In the images below you can see the black outfit I was in blended into the green environment and my baby bump got a little lost.  With the black dress and the shape of it you can’t really tell I’m pregnant from the front! Having a light or white option to change into can be great if you are photographing in a darker environment. Likewise, it is handy to have a darker option if we are shooting into a lighter background (such as the beach) although a lighter garment is totally fine for any environment!

Lastly, make the most of all the inspiration out there, pinterest is a great resource or check out style and select.  I hope this has helped demystify some of the considerations around selecting your photoshoot clothing! Feel free to email me if you have any questions or to book a portrait session on info@ruthgilmourphotographer.co.nz