Rule #1: Coordinate
For family or group portraits make sure your outfits complement one another’s. Choose a consistent color palette (which does not mean the same color). If someone is wearing a bold pattern, dress the rest of the group in more solids, but be sure each carries one or more colors from the “star” outfit for consistency. I like to recommend the “three color pop” method of coordinating – pick two to three basic colors, and add a “POP” color. For instance the Templeton’s went with white, black and grey, using red as a POP color. Their outfits are coordinated but not matchy-matchy. Usually picking a neutral palette with a vibrant POP color works well. But you also need to consider the decor of your home and locations you wish to display your final images. If your living areas are grey with touches of bright blue and yellow, perhaps red isn’t the POP color for you!
Scarves, hats, bows, bands…it all adds a fun twist to an otherwise “standard” look. Accessories are also a great place to coordinate looks. For example, if Mom is wearing a bright pattern with lavender, pink and gray, little brother can rock a pair a gray sneakers while Dad can choose a lavender vest and big sis with a pink headband. This inter-generational portrait of the Zuver ladies from Hinsdale shows great coordination and accessories, see the scarf, the flowers in the girls hair and belts, all picking up on the print in Grandma’s jacket – perfect!
Rule #3: Try for Texture
Layers and textures and add depth to your images. Look for clothes and accessories with rich, simple detailing—cable knits, tweed, ribbons, etc—or layer pieces to add dimension and texture. Texture is especially important if you want a lot of black and white shots, which naturally need more visual depth and detail than color images. The texture in the environment of the portraits here is complimented by the sweater knits, flowing scarves, fluttery flower petals, and so on. Also, because you’ll want to keep the pace going during your session, layering is a great way to make quick, convenient outfit changes—pull off the sweater, slip on the vest and you’ve got a whole new look. Change out a headband or tie, don a hat and something different takes your portraits in a new direction!
Rule #4: Dress Kids for Comfort & Movement
Kids naturally run, skip, dance and jump around during photo sessions—they’re kids! To avoid unnecessary aggravation, let them be comfortable in the clothes and opt for apparel that accentuates their natural energy. Skirts, fedoras, scarves, and knit sweaters allow for natural movement, so when the kids start getting wild, their clothes will look even better.
Rule #5: Be Timeless
You’ll have these pictures for generations—don’t date yourself! Choose classic, timeless pieces, or even vintage apparel and accessories. Opt for the latest trends and you may feel otherwise about that amazing outfit in a few years (or even a few months) from now. In both the portraits above the clothes are simple and classic. Who doesn’t look back on snap shots and school portraits and think “oh, that shirt is so 1990” or “wow styles were wild in the 70’s”. By choosing simple and classic wardrobe items your images will better stand up to the tests of time and feeling like classic pieces of art in your home.