5 Steps to Flawless Family Photos

Ok, so I can’t actually make your family flawless.  Have you seen my family?!  Lord knows I bribed them with everything I could think of and still couldn’t get good smiles out of them!  This is also an example of the best smile you’ll get out of my husband, ha ha!

We are currently in the prime season for family pictures to capture memories and make sure we have something nice for the holiday card, am I right?  While we won’t be sending cards this year due to our current nomadic lifestyle, we did have a milestone to capture – 6 months for the baby!

Seriously, not one smile!

While I can’t make your family flawless, I CAN help you to expertly coordinate their outfits so everyone looks like they go together.  Yes, it does get trickier with each additional family member, but I promise it’s not as hard as it may seem!

While I don’t agree with everyone dressing exactly the same (think blue jeans and white button down), I do think that you can dress using the same color in different ways to coordinate.  This also allows everyone to showcase their individual style if they are older than my kids.  One person can wear a dress, another a sweater, another a button down, etc.

This is a great example of denim and white done right:

Luckily, my kids usually will still wear what I ask them to. But, case in point, it’s always good to have a back up.  I remember for Ansley’s 18 month pictures I had the perfect little denim chambray shirt picked out and never tried it on her because it was size 24 months and then we found out that day that it was too tight and pulled at the buttons.  We had to pull out another shirt last minute and she had worn it the night before.  Thankfully, no messy dinner like spaghetti was involved.  I’m not sure what I would have done, then!

So in my family photo above, the colors I went with were cranberry and navy.  Navy can be seen as a neutral, while the cranberry is more of an accent color but they are basically equal players here.  My plan was to put the boys in cranberry and the girls in navy but then my husband had a late work meeting that night so he ended up in both colors.  The baby had a few additional colors, too, since it was his milestone.  As long as you have the colors you’re matching, you can always add a few others in, as well, in small amounts.

A lot of times, I like to pick one piece to start with and then build from there until I like the way it looks.  Usually I start with a piece for one of the kids.  Ironically, this time I started with my husband and he was the only one that didn’t wear his outfit.

It’s easy to get carried away with colors.  Once I picked his, I picked mine.  I knew I wanted something toned down for myself in case the two of us were right next to each other in some shots.  Even if I had gone for the same color, I could have gone slightly lighter or slightly darker and it would have still been ok.  With him in a check pattern, I probably would have preferred a solid for myself.  Or even that cranberry color in a scarf.  Once I had my top decided on, I knew that Ansley had a white dress with navy stripes so I figured the two would go perfectly, though if I had to do it over, I probably would have put her in jeans and a solid navy cardigan.  Turns out two is not the age that a girl knows to sit like a lady and not show her business/diaper to everyone.  At least not my two year old!

Originally I had Ayden in a grey pullover but just didn’t love the way it looked.  He has a vest that is maroon and navy but the maroon felt too dark and the vest felt too shiny on a whole.  I ended up with the red sweater and liked that it was a solid where the others were stripes or plaids.  It’s nice to have a good mix of the two.

The baby’s came together last.  I found the perfect vest for him but the smallest size it came in was 12-18 months and it was just too big for him.  I scoured the internet looking for some cranberry colored sweater or vest or something that would work.  I finally found this plaid shirt at Crazy 8 and I think it really ended up being perfect.  It had both the cranberry color and navy in it, as well as a few other colors that made it extra special for him.  The original was a set with a mustard yellow vest and I thought that would be the perfect accent for him but it was sold out in the store and I didn’t have time to wait for it.  So instead I opted for the gray and navy thermal shirt/onesie underneath and rolled the sleeves.

One of my favorite looks is one that uses an accent color.  Accent colors are easy to utilize because not everyone gets to wear it.  So, for example, among a family of 5, you will only have 2 or 3 people in the accent color.  This makes it easier because you have fewer pieces to find.  Additionally, it can be anything so one may have a scarf and another may have pants or a sweater, etc.

An accent color can be any bright color that pops against a base of neutral colors – think yellow, orange, red, green, turquoise.  Your neutrals can be black, gray, brown/tan/khaki, navy.  You can also mix some of your neutrals and then still have an accent color in there to tie everything together – think black and gray, tan and navy, gray and navy.

I especially love this visual from Karen Leslie photography.  We have black and gray in several forms as the base and then the yellow color is used as the accent.  The black is used here as a solid, a stripe, floral and argyle.

When talking about solids versus patterns, I believe that having a mix of the two is where it’s at.  While you very well could have everyone in solid colors, I find that to be a little harder to find and it can also be a little boring.  However, when looking for patterns, simple stripes and plaids are best.  You can also go with small dot patterns or tonal florals that still basically read as a solid color from a distance.  A trick I like to do is to squint my eyes and see how it reads as a general color.

What you (probably) don’t want, are bold words and phrases or pieces that have more than 3 or 4 colors in them.  These can just tend to be distracting unless the piece with many colors happens to be the inspiration piece that everyone else is matching to.

Check out this image from Velvet Owl Photography:

Dad has the most colors in his patterned shirt.  The little boy has one of those colors in his shirt as a check, which almost reads as a solid if you squint at it and the little girl has solid pants that match back to dad’s shirt and a simple stripe that also coordinates in with both brother and dad.  So then mom went neutral with solids and her solid shirt coordinates directly to the little boy’s pants.  Three out of four have patterns here and I think that mom in solid colors is what really grounds this and ties it all together.  Another pattern on her might have made it too busy.

This may seem obvious, but let’s be comfortable, ok?  It’s hard enough to get everyone to smile (trust me, I know).  We shouldn’t have them in uncomfortable clothes, too!  Pictures aren’t the time to wear the cute boots that hurt your feet or the skirt that’s short and tight and hard to maneuver in or wear a dress two sizes too small with multiple layers of Spanx just because it’s the right color or some kind of “goal” dress.  It’s also not the time for sweat pants.  There is a happy middle in there where everyone feels at ease and looks presentable.  And maybe one layer of Spanx is ok if that makes you feel good but that’s all!

This image from Amy Tripple Photography is a perfect example of wearing things you’re comfortable in, that you can also move in:

I hope this has helped you in the ways of coordinating your family for pictures.  Just remember that less is probably more in terms of pattern and color and if nothing else, you can throw together a bunch of neutrals and have it look like you planned it!

Do you have a family that needs coordinating?  Would you rather someone else just did it for you, already?  Get on my email list to be the first to know when I open up Family Styling!