Have you taken a family photo recently?
Isn’t it amazing what talented photographers can capture with a few clicks? No bickering, no meltdowns (adult AND child), no insecurities — just pure joy and love come through their lenses. After recently borrowing some camera equipment from my friend and photographer extraordinaire, SHANNON AHLSTRAND, I came to the realization that:
1) Photography is physically hard work, y’all!
2) Shannon is a magician with the camera.
When giving back her equipment, I made sure to tell her as much and made her pinky swear that she would never leave me!!! She made me promise that I would help her put together a handy guide about coordinating complimentary color schemes and family photo wardrobes, which is apparently a HUGE source of anxiety/stress among her clients… even more so than getting everyone to smile pretty!
So here we are… and here YOU are:
6 RULES FOR NAILING FAMILY PHOTO FASHION
1) Location, Location, Location…
Prior to picking any color scheme or specific outfits, it’s important to know your location. In this case, location has two components:
a. Where are you planning to use these photographs?
When booking your photographer, make sure you let them know exactly what you’re considering using your images for. Now, think about that specific space – a hallway, an office, a bedroom… wherever. Those spaces all have different color schemes in place and you want your beautiful family portrait to compliment them rather than stick out like a sore thumb.
b. Where are you planning to stage your photo-shoot?
Are you headed downtown for an urban backdrop, a beach-y Lake Erie shore, or a grassy field? Is this going to be a shoot surrounded by the calming shades of blue waters, or a photo opportunity engulfed by intense fall foliage? Your destination and season should be the starting point for selecting complimentary colors — so let’s move on to Rule #2!
2) Select Complimentary Colors
Now that you have a location confirmed, it becomes much easier to hone in on the colors! A summer beach photo-shoot practically begs for more muted, neutral colors, while a lush park setting mid-Fall is the ideal backdrop for richer, bolder tones. It’s important to think outside of the black and white fashion box, because as we can all attest, that’s a sure sign of some great 1980 + 90’s era photography! I swear,every family has at least one portrait shot in matching black or white turtlenecks.
Obviously, the photo below came from awkwardfamilyphotos.com + the caption reads: ‘the family that caters together stays together.’
Need I say more?!
3) Start Neutral
Regardless of where your photo is being captured, each color scheme should be grounded with a neutral to keep it from skewing too circus-like or haphazard. Tans, browns, olives, greys are ideal for this task- and let’s not forget about denim. Yes, denim is a neutral!
4) Play With Color Pairings
So a neutral base has been established, now the fun starts! Let’s consider the beach background… obviously a blue would be a seamless compliment to your surroundings, but blue on it’s own will just fade away into the background. Instead, pair shades of blue with a contrasting pop of color to complete your palette — like a soft coral! Coral is on the opposite side of the color wheel, which is why it works.
Another approach to building a color palette is to complement a color with a color next to it on the color wheel. Continuing with the blue example, a purple or lavender would be a great match!
5) Layers Of Fun
So now you have the color thing sort of figured out, it’s time to make it look like it was all effortless. Easier said than done, right?
Actually, the easiest way to make outfits look natural and unstaged is through creative layering and the use of textures. Don’t be afraid of patterns, textures and layers! Think patterns under a solid jacket, or a plaid shirt open to reveal a solid color tee for men. Women, you’ve got lots of choices: a cardigan over a patterned dress, wrapped with a neutral belt, or a patterned scarf layered over a striped shirt, etc. Get creative, because this is where your personalities can shine through! The layers and textures also give your end photos tons of visual interest which keeps everything from looking too flat (a.k.a. BORING!).
This family DEFINITELY got it right:
6) Get Comfy
This rule is critical and may be the most important of all: find clothes that fit and flatter. Don’t wear something that’s not perfectly suited to you because it works with everyone else’s looks. Find something that makes you feel confident and fabulous – trust me, it shows in the final product!
Pro tip: A little bit of structure and shape (i.e. button downs, stitching & shaping) also has a way of making us look extra lean on camera!
Also, especially when kids are involved, don’t select anything to precious or fussy. Kids will be kids and therefore by universal law, get dirty. It’s all part of the fun. A good photographer will capture those special moments as they’re jumping in that mud puddle or picking up that disgusting worm, and those will be your favorite shots of the session. I promise.
So, what do you think? Think you’ve got this one?
In case you need a little more help in the visualization department, I’ve put together a few additional color schemes for a family of four.
Make sure to PINTEREST pin + bookmark for your next family shoot!