Family photo style guide

Let's get those finer details planned to get the most from your photoshoot!

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!! Recently 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. I hope it makes preparing for your shoot less intimidating.

In this guide you'll find my recommendation of how to dress for your shoot, to help make the session a little more seamless so you can just focus on each other and embrace this time together. Clothing choices can increase spontaneity or take some of it away - if you are thinking about wardrobe issues it's unlikely you'll look or feel relaxed. With some consideration we can achieve the highest level of both comfort and spontaneity so you have a great experience on your shoot.

First and foremost I want you to wear something you feel confident in. If your clothing choices don't align with my suggestions, that's fine, these are just guidelines and at the end of the day, the choice is up to you.  If after having a look over this guide, you are still unsure, pop me through photographs of your options and I will help you decide. Enjoy the guide and see you on our shoot!

Dress hire

If you can't find anything you love in your own wardrobe, Lend Me The Dress offers an amazing range of beautiful garments you can hire in a variety of sizes and colours. Use the discount code 'photographer20' for 20% off. We can use these at the beach, but need to keep them out of the sand and water.

Outdoor portraits

The environment: When shooting in an outdoors location you'll probably be moving around, walking, sitting and playing. You don’t want to be restricted with your clothing so wear an outfit that allows for movement.

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: You’ll likely get a little wet and sandy. Shoes will be likely be thrown off when we arrive. The beach is often super windy so an extra layer can be handy to keep the goosebumps at bay. A flowing skirt or dress in a windswept beach will create movement in your images which creates interest and drama compared to a tight fitted dress in the same environment.

Rescheduling: While you'll see plenty of golden light throughout my portfolio - if you take a closer look - you'll also see plenty of moody and stormy skies too. I absolutely LOVE to work in both scenarios and both will provide beautiful scenes. If however you have your heart set on a particular look - please let me know as it may be worth rescheduling. I limit my workload to have room for rescheduling so I'm happy to be flexible for you to ensure you will make the most out of this investment.

Hair and makeup

When it comes to professional hair and makeup for family photos, my vote will always be a resounding YES! I truly believe you will look beautiful either way, but having that little bit of extra can definitely add to your confidence level on the day. Once you feel great, it’s easier to relax and enjoy being in front of that camera with your babies. Below is a list of the gals I recommend, they are experts at creating beautiful natural makeup, and I know they will look after you. Each will have different prices and availability so please contact them to organize along side your session. I suggest also finding out their postponement policy in case we need to postpone your session due to wet weather.

A friendly reminder, if your cut and colour needs doing or you don't love your brows, get them done. If these things are important to you they will make difference to whether you love your images or not so get those appointments scheduled in=)

Hair

Make up

Things to avoid

  • 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.
  • Large logos - same as above.
  • 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.
  • GENERAL

    FOR BABIES AND YOUNGER

    CHILDREN

    With babies and toddlers pop them in a nappy cover to cover their nappies.

    If you have a spilly baby you might like to have a spare outfit just in case!

  • For little girls - Beautiful large sleeves, collared shirts and flutter sleeves on girl’s dresses/rompers can flip up and cover little faces from certain angles. Try the outfits and accessories on beforehand and see how they wear with movement and a little handling.
  • 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.

    FOR GIRLS

    Pants and shirts for very young boys are cute but not always that practical, as soon as you pick them up the shirt rides up and get creased, the pants ride down tags are out and the nappy is out, it’s fussy and can waste time. ( If you’re committed go for it) but rompers and all-in-ones are so much easier! They can be thrown up and around without worrying about adjusting the outfit to cover nappies etc

    FOR BOYS

  • I recommend women wear medium or long dresses as short dresses will be a challenge when we do any seated photos. Maxi dresses give you something to twirl in, kids hide in the fabric, it covers legs when you sit and provides a nice backdrop when kids are standing at your feet.
  • Consider colour and seams in undergarments. The right colour and the right type of underwear for whatever outfit you’ve chosen. Make sure there is no pulling/ cutting in on you, no tight elastic etc. Do an underwear check to see if you have undy lines showing. This is particularly relevant for maternity shoots (I know that when I was pregnant, my lingerie would get a little snug;) If you don't want bra straps showing choose clothes that properly covers your undergarments, in all types of movement scenarios.
  • Strapless dresses can pinch in, you’ll be moving around a lot not standing still in the ‘perfect’ position. You want to be able to sit/ stand / twirl in it.
  • Scrunchies and hair-ties on wrists
  • FOR THE LADIES

    FOR THE GUYS

    Keep it casual and comfortable, most guys don't wear dress shirts when hanging out with their kids and sometimes this has them feeling over dressed. Linen, loose cottons on collared shirts, breathable fabrics, or a Tshirt with an open shirt over the top will help look less business-y.

    Empty those pockets of phones and keys!

    Colour

    The colours you choose to wear will change the whole look and feel of your photos, and really depends on the story you want to tell. I love to work with warm, earthy and neutral tones. Think olive, rust, beige, dusty pink. However, these are your images, so if your favourite top is bright blue, wear that! For family portraits and larger groups, my advice is to colour coordinate tones but not to all wear the exact same colour. A really bright red does not tend to photograph well. Neither does black as all the details get lost in the shadows. Dark gray, dark wash jeans, and dark olive are great substitutions for black. On the opposite end, wearing bright white can cast bright spots onto faces in certain light, or look blue rather than white. Off-white and cream are great, though, and also white lace is fine because it has so much texture.

    Below are a few examples of colour combinations from some of my shoots in a variety of locations. I hope these inspire you!

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    To make it easy for you to create a complimentary colour palettes, I've popped some examples below to help you choose what combos to work with.

    For more inspiration

    Odds are, you already have a vision in mind about how you want to present yourself in these photos. But sometimes, that vision can be hard to describe when it’s not sitting right there in front of you. For more outfit inspiration Pinterest is where it's at. I've curated a bunch of helpful resources like the ones you see here, so take a look at my boards below, and feel free to re-pin to your own board!

    Co-ordinating

    Coordinating: Choosing one outfit is hard enough right?! Let alone for 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 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. The Bennetts did this for their extended family shoot, example below!

    Another great way to match tones is to 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. If Mum's dress or top has a print match the colours in the rest of the families outfits.

    Maternity

    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.

    In the images above 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.

    If you'd like to do some shots with the bump out I'm all for it! Depending on how much skin you want to show, Kimono, wrap dresses, button dresses or shirts are all great options for this type of shot.

    What do you want to do with your images?

    When you start planning what to wear and what type of location to have your photographs taken at, take into consideration your home and how you want to display your images. Do you want to put big frames on the wall or have a beautiful album sitting on the coffee table?

    If you want a beautiful set of frames to put above your couch or in your entry way, think about what colour the decor in your home is. Not everyone is in their forever home, but if you are this is something to consider. There might be certain colours that will compliment your decor, or you may not want to have certain colours on the walls as they might look out of place. I'm happy to chat over this if you aren't sure!

    What to expect

    FAMILY SHOOTS

    Here's what you can expect on your family shoot. In the beginning, I'll chat get to know you a bit better. At the same time I'll be scouting for the best light and may not shoot a single image for the first 5-10 minutes.  I'll  usually start with poses that involve movement (such a walking) etc. I'll always try to get one shot with the whole group looking at the camera and this is usually done at the beginning of the shoot. The rest of our time together will be determined by how the kids are responding, and will involve casual groupings that are semi-posed or based on an activity that provides something other than the camera to focus on. If you know there is a family member that is camera shy, please let me know. It can also help to share with them some of my work in advance so they know what to expect and put their mind at ease.

    Be aware that sometimes we may not need the full timeframe of the shoot, I work quickly and can capture a lot in a small amount of time. On occasion, we may need to photograph for slightly longer.  Sometimes children need to stop to eat, breastfeed or have some time out if they are misbehaving or just need a break ;)

    Children are unpredictable, so it's my job to be ready for anything!! Family shoots can feel chaotic and full of energy, don't apologise if this is how your session plays out, this is just kids being kids!! Some parents get frustrated because their children aren't doing exactly as they're asked, but it is often those unpredictable moments make the best shots. Don't worry  I have never had a shoot that was a complete disaster and usually parents are surprised at the results. Don't feel pressure to make it perfect, relax and join in with what your kids are doing as much as possible. Children match your energy, so if you can show you are having fun, they will join in too.

    I’m chasing natural interactions and unposed moments, there's no need to coax your children into fake smiles so please don't worry about having your children say cheese!  We will have much more fun ways of getting natural spontaneous & genuine expressions, from you and your children by way of play, singing & dancing for example.  I'll often photograph children away from parents for a bit so that they will focus only on me and my silly jokes, as they often will behave for a stranger, and this can make all the difference. Other than that, remember this session is showing you and your family with all the little quirks and things that make you unique, so relax and enjoy!

    Maternity shoots

    WHAT TO EXPECT

    I approach this more like an engagement shoot or if children are also involved like a family shoot. We'll use movement, walking, and non-cheesy poses. A lot of women are self-conscious about their pregnant figure, and I'm always conscious to pose I'll pose in a flattering way. If there is anything specific you are worried about please let me know in advance. I have found that Dad's to-be sometimes feel a bit apprehensive about maternity shoots, if it helps show them some of my work to put their mind at ease!

    Newborn shoots

    WHAT TO EXPECT

    Newborn sessions are a mixture of lifestyle 'candid' images, and posed shots. I'll usually start the session with baby on their own using my posing beanbag. Mum, Dad and siblings may also jump into these shots depending on settled baby is. It's important to keep the room and environment nice and calm for this part of the session, so it might help to have a parent or other family member keep other siblings occupied in another space in the house at this time, then we can have them come in as needed.

    The rest of the images will usually be taken in a bedroom or lounge space and are very relaxed! I'll guide and direct and if baby needs some time to feed or resettle that's totally fine too!

    HOW TO PREP

    Before your newborn session, please feed your baby around 20 minutes before I arrive. If you can, try not to let your little one sleep in the hour or so prior to me arriving. Instead let them kick around a little or even try giving them a bath. We want to set baby up for a nice deep sleep to help ensure those sleepy newborn pictures! Each baby is unique and sometimes this won't work - and that's okay, I'm used to being flexible. Please heat up the house to around 27 degrees before I arrive. This may feel super hot for us, but remember that our babies have just come from inside our bodies which is around 37.8 degrees and we want to replicate the womb to help baby drift into that deep sleep. To help keep baby awake before I arrive, just keep them dressed warm and in another room that is slightly cooler. I also recommend putting on some relaxing music or some white noise.

    What to bring checklist for on location shoots

    Any personal appearance touchup items you might want, including things like lipstick or a hairbrush.

    For TOUCH UPS

    Plenty to drink and some small snacks (nothing too messy or that will stain clothing). It's best not to tell kids about the treats before the session; wait until the kids start getting fatigued before you pull out candy card! They’ll usually perk right up then!

    Optional: A favourite toy, outfit, cuddly, bike, musical instrument, balloons etc can calm little people down if they are feeling overwhelmed during the session but if you don't want this in all the photos leave it at home!

    For LITTLE PEOPLE

    If you are photographing near a body of water like the beach or a river or lake pack a towel and wipes for sandy faces, hands and feet. I always bring a change of clothes, even if it's just for the way home.

    For SHOOTING NEAR Water

    Shops we love

    Barkers

    Farmers

    Country Road

    Hallensteins

    Three Wise Men

    H & M

    FOR THE DADS

    Jamie Kay

    The Vintage Plume

    Burrow and Be

    Le Edit

    Cotton on Kids

    Lullaby Club

    Baltic Born

    Free People

    Max

    Avy and Co

    Hazel and Co

    Lullaby Club

    Country Road

    FOR THE KIDS

    FOR THE MUMS