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What Not to Wear…

kidding. It was just too easy to play off of my favorite TLC show back in the day. I would never post examples of “bad” outfits. So, let’s flip it and call this post “What to Wear.”

Honestly, “what should we wear?” might be the most frequently asked question of me when clients are preparing for a session. And I get it. You’re investing in photos and you want to look your absolute best on camera. I totally understand and appreciate where this question is rooted, and I will start off by saying you should absolutely pick an outfit that you feel best in. If you dig yourself in it, it will translate well on-camera. This could be something old, something new, something borrowed, and, well, not to be cheesy, but something blue. I gravitate towards blues. That doesn’t mean you should. Just because I like the way blues look on me doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same. So, absorb the following advice, and then you do you. Because, after all, the images we create are for you.

Jeans and a navy v-neck sweater + a navy jumpsuit and a jean jacket are very “on brand” for me because it’s what I feel comfortable in and always reach for

Here’s a couple ‘main idea’ points to keep in mind when thinking about picking outfits and coordinating outfits with others:

  • Does it fit well?
  • Is it clean and free of wrinkles? I’m only slightly joking on this one.
  • Does it draw attention to or from your face? Ideally, when someone looks at a photo, their attention is first drawn to the faces and then works outward from there. You don’t want to choose an outfit that is so bold it detracts from you, which is the main attraction.
  • Do you feel great in it? Wear that.
  • For groups, is there a common theme? For example, does everyone have a touch of blue? Are you all rocking a neutral in some way? Do you use patterns that complement each other rather than fight with each other?

Here’s a quick rundown of outfit examples from past sessions that worked really well, and I’ll explain why:

Mixing Patterns

Okay, I know I’m setting the bar high to start because Kristen and her crew are just naturally fashionable, but here’s why their outfits work so well together:

  • All neutral colors (aka they all match even though they’re not from the same hue…that color class during J-Term at Middlebury is paying off…)
  • Brett’s pattern complements their dark hair (it wouldn’t look as good on someone like me with lighter hair)
  • Subtle patterns + bolder patterns (Kristen’s sweater knit + Ellery’s light pattern on her shirt + Brett’s buffalo check all complement one another rather than fight against each other)

Here’s another example of when the Longchamps hit it out of the park: The blues and off-whites in the image below coordinate really well with the natural green backdrop. It was late spring (I think?!) which contrasts very differently to the barer trees above when we snapped those shots in December.

Not to be outdone, Kristen’s sister’s family also crushed the wardrobe game.

The Sodens are rocking the perfect mix of patterns and solids that complement rather than battle each other.

This throwback image of the Drivers (when they were just a party of 4!) is another example of color and pattern coordination that works well together and against the backdrop of their front yard:

Whites become Black and Whites

During summertime, you can’t go wrong with neutrals, especially whites. Chances are (if you’re unlike me), you’re tan, which looks great in white. And, similar to what I was saying above, it looks great with a summer backdrop. You’re likely going to be taking photos somewhere where there’s grass, trees, or the beach, and white is always a winner.

Also, whites and light blues, like the Howrigans are in above, convert to great black and white images. If you’re someone who loves a good black and white, consider that when you’re choosing your outfit. If your wardrobe hue is too similar to your backdrop, it won’t translate well to a strong black and white image. Also, if you’re wearing a busy pattern, it often doesn’t work well as a black and white image.

Consider your backdrop

I know it’s hard enough to coordinate outfits amongst your family members, but also consider where you are being photographed. Is it in your home? What colors did you decorate with? Choose something that coordinates well with those. Here’s a few examples from in-home sessions that worked really well with the home decor.

Karah + Isla are rocking the simple neutrals and it worked so well with the living room decor
Kanoa, Liz, and Emery wore simple, neutral solids, which made a portrait in front of their adorable nursery wallpaper work perfectly. If they had patterns on, the look likely would have fought against the wall decoration than complemented it

I’m going to say this happened totally by accident, but it was a good accident. At the end of my session with Lacey, Scott, and Finn, I suggested we hop outside for a quick stoop photo at their South End apartment. Turns out their neutral outfits coordinated with the neighborhood backdrop perfectly, and the warm summer temps allowed little Finn to hang out in his birthday suit

A pop of color

While I tend to preach “neutrals! neutrals! neutrals!”, a pop of color can work really well, especially during the darker seasons of fall and winter.

Erick’s bright red sweater provides the perfect amount of pop against the late-fall backdrop in Atlanta. If there were leaves on the trees and if the leaves on the ground were still vibrant with color, it might not be the best choice. Rather, against the muted December backdrop, he pops. And Kyra’s adorable headband is a great example of how a simple accessory can give the perfect finishing touch to a staple like a nice sweater and a dark jean.

Here are some examples of families who used bold colors to brighten up images taken in November and December:


No, I didn’t choose this image because Bailey is the cutest human on the planet (and I’m fully biased as her godmother, I know). Jimmy, Megan, and Bailey coordinated really well for Bailey’s 2-year-old photos while incorporating more than just neutrals. The pop of coral from Megan’s shirt complements the coral pattern on Bailey’s dress. I love that Bailey’s jean jacket breaks up the pattern and also balances Megan’s jeans. And, well, Jimmy is always well-dressed.

Now, full disclosure: I styled the image above. No, I won’t do that for everyone, but when I arrived at my brother’s house and Conor was in his pajamas, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. Naturally, I reached for the navys. Don’t be afraid of patterns as long as there are some solids to break them up and balance out the image. If I could change one thing (and I’m only being critical because it’s my own family and I chose the outfits), I would probably put Conor (far left) in a less busy sweater. I feel like my attention goes to his sweater pattern first and then his face whereas I look at Patrick’s face first and then his sweater.

Extended Families

It can feel daunting to style yourself or your immediate family, so pulling together an overall look for an extended family can feel like a major challenge. I feel ya; I’ve been there.

Not surprisingly, we went with blues. But there’s a reason why blues are the most frequently chosen color: because they look good on everyone. And, various shades of blue always compliment one another.

The Johnson family rocked the blues and whites in Goose Rocks Beach, Maine

If you want to change it up, throw in a little variety like the Sylvesters did. While blue is the common thread amongst their outfits, a pop of coral and patterns add interest while not interrupting the overall cohesiveness.

The Healds absolutely crushed the outfit coordination. No two outfits are the same, yet they all work so well as a unit. When I showed up to this session, I’m pretty sure I blurted out, “YESSSS! These outfits looks soooo good together!

Don’t be afraid to go for it!

Dress up! Put on something sparkly, and don’t let the cold weather stop you. Remember, outerwear can be stylish, too, and your kids will be way happier (= more smiles) when they’re not freezing.

Get your hair done! I’m still obsessing over the braid Brit had done before her mini-session with her little guy, Smith, last fall. It’s a great excuse to get a little pampered.

Britt needs no pointers from me on how to prep for a shoot. I love her style, and a long dress gave her something to gently grab in the image on the right. So often people wonder “what do I do with my hands” and while I will give you posing direction, a long dress or jacket/sweater often provide built-in props and places to put your hands that look natural.

Okay, that was long. Hopefully it provided you with more guidance than confusion! The ultimate goal is to end up feeling as good as Patrick did here in the outfit you select!

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