How to prepare for a photo shoot: What should we wear?

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You have done the research and picked your location, date and photographer. Just a few weeks (hours or minutes :)) to go until your session and the question pops up, what do we wear? Now this question either fills you with dread or glee. For me, it is the latter. I love putting together a beautiful collection of clothes and accents that capture the feeling, season and our personalities all in one go. If this seems like too much to do, not to worry! I have broken down my thought process into some tips you may want to consider next time you want to maximize the fun and beauty of your photo session.

Color, color, color

When selecting outfits for a family session, the first step for me is to pick a color palette. A color palette is a range of 3 – 5 colors that you want to have represented in your pictures. You might want to start as simple as asking yourself a couple of questions.

  • Is there a special article of clothing I know I want to include? Sometimes you already have a special dress or other item in mind. Its color is a great starting place. 
  • Is there a primary color in the setting that want to resonate with? The yellows and oranges of fall, the soft lavender of a bluebell forest, deep greens of summer are all important elements of your color palette.
  • Is there a seasonal element to consider? Bright and cheerful during the holidays, muted and soft in late summer. What color first comes to mind when thinking about the season you are in?
  • What is the mood I am going for? I find it is a helpful exercise to come up with three words to describe the images you are after. For example: bright, fun, happy or romantic, rich, sweet. When you pick a color scheme, ask yourself if it evokes the words you had in mind. 

All of these questions are designed to help you pick just 1 – 2 colors that you would like to include. Next stop is one of the many online resources to help you round out your palette. I always recommend using Design Seeds because they let you browse through image based palettes based on one color you choose. Do NOT skip this step!  I often find color combinations that work beautifully but I would have never thought of by my own. Don’t have a color in mind yet? I suggest browsing in season. You are sure to find something you will fall in love with.

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Balance light and dark

Whether using a palette or not, be sure to balance light and dark. Even the gorgeous, rich palette needs some pops of light! Remember the eye goes to the lightest part of an image so balance your highlighting color across the group to make sure the eye travels to each person.

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A splendid harvest
Rich and balanced

Be bold and have fun

The number one piece of advice I give to families preparing for a session is to wear something you are comfortable in that represents your style. This is key to having fun and also getting timeless images that you love. That being said, I think there is also some space to make some bold choices your might not usually consider. That sparkly skirt that catches your eye that you might not wear to drop the kids off at school could be just the thing to bring fun to your session. A so-soft knit sweater, a new piece of jewelry, your son’s favorite impish hat.

If you have an idea you like but are not 100% confident about, bring it along to the session and ask your photographer what they think. They should be able to give you some good advice. I have had client’s come with whole suitcases of clothes and we always work together to create a great look. Just make sure this process does not cut too much into your photo time.

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Apple Blossoms
Fresh and bright

Lay it all out

An absolutely critical step is to lay everything out together! Literally lay your outfits on the floor and you will quickly see if you are on the right track. Do the colors and fabrics work together? Is there one outfit that brings it all to together (see middle below)?  Is there a balance of light and dark? If you are debating on a few items, just switch them out here. Don’t forget to test out accessories in this way as well.

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Some mistakes to avoid

As in all endeavors, there are some mistakes to avoid…

  • Are we going to the same party? You plan a casual look and Dad shows up from work in a suit. Oops! A quick check should tell you if everyone is going to the same place. 
  • And for our next look: I think it is great to have 1 – 2 looks for a session. After all, you might not take pictures together very often so nice to have a more casual and a more dressy set! However, more than two changes can eat into your time more than you might expect and can quickly burn out the kids. 
  • Picking things out the night before: To be avoided if possible. You are making an investment in your images. Take some time to feel your best. 
  • Logos, characters and brand names: I try to avoid logoed and branded clothes as the images can end up looking like advertisements. 
  • The big negotiation: Our little angels are often quite set on their favorite fashion choices that may not be the same as yours. That’s fine! I often suggest letting your little ones each pick one special item that they can bring for a last picture. Yes, even that Elsa dress. 

Why not pamper yourself?

If you have the time and desire, a little pampering can give you extra confidence in your photos.  If you feel like you look great then you it will absolutely come across in your pictures! So go for a manicure, massage, beard trim or facial if you can possibility squeeze it in. You deserve it.

Moving on

Going all out on a coordinated look is fun but not necessary! Your photo session should capture life as it is and sometimes it is enough of an accomplishment just to book and get everyone to a photo session! Indulge, if you please but always have fun. 🙂

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