The Do’s and Don’ts of What to Wear / by Shana Berenzweig


With family photo season upon us, I’ve been working on putting together some posts to help y’all get ready. Besides questions about how to get the family ready mentally for the session and whether you should bribe your kids (that post is coming next), the most frequent question I get is about what to wear.

I love helping clients through this part and usually send some tips before the shoot and help actually pick outfits if someone asks. I also have a Pinterest board full of inspiration and advice. But despite my best intentions, I’ve never put together a blog post. And while there are no hard and fast rules, there are some tried and true tips and tricks for looking your best.  

First things first. Just be yourselves.  Wear something that makes y’all happy and feel your best.  Not to mention, something that looks like you and your family. For everything from makeup to hair to clothing, keep it somewhat natural and looking like yourselves. There’s no need to be someone y’all are not. Just polish things up a bit, you know?

I also tell clients not to feel the need or pressure to go buy anything (unless, of course, they want an excuse to go shopping).  This can often lead you down a stressful road and why add more stress to your life. I also usually suggest that whoever is the most style-conscious person in the family picks their outfit first, then plan the kiddos and the rest of the family around them.

Remember, this is just advice, won’t apply to everyone, and some rules are meant to be broken, but there are some general do’s I’ve learned over the years.

Do keep it simple. Stay with a color palette of 3-5 complementary colors and mix in neutrals like denim, khaki, white, or gray for a nice balance for each look. Personally, I think neutral color palettes with a pop of color (like yellow) photographs especially well. I’ve noticed there are also some colors to think twice about, such as large amounts of true red, bright greens and blues, and neon colors.  The key word here is large. In small amounts, you’re all good.

Do mix things up. Everyone should look slightly different and not matchy-matchy or all wearing the same thing.  

Do add some accessories, layers and patterns.  Small patterns of polka dots, plaid, florals, and stripes can photograph beautifully, just don’t over do it.

Do add some movement. This is especially good tip for the ladies. Something that will move with you and the breeze photographs really well.

Do put it all out there. Lay it all out together and see how everything looks.  Then take a few pics and text a trusted and stylish friend or me/your photographer for a second opinion.

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Now, of course, for a few don’ts.

Don’t advertise for anyone but yourselves. No big logos, text, tv/movie characters, etc, all of which can be distracting and take focus away from your lovely faces and shining personalities.

Don’t just wing it. Maybe you’re one of those cool people with effortless style and can throw together some outfits last minute. But for the rest of mere mortals, skipping the planning step and scrambling the day of, doesn’t always result in the best look but usually adds unnecessarily stress. And who needs that?

Don’t be too casual. While you don’t have to wear your Sunday best, family photos are a special occasion and dressing too casually is discouraged. So, please no athletic wear, or Crocs, Keens, or the like as their bright colors can really stand out and be distracting.  

Don’t try a new style. The week before your shoot is not the best time to try out a new haircut or makeup for the first time or wait to try on that new look or outfit. These are things to test out well before your session.

Don’t forget to check the forecast. Have an outdoor session? Stay seasonal and check the forecast and plan accordingly.

Don’t forget about your shoes. I tell my clients to keep ‘em cute but comfy.  We’re usually walking and moving around during sessions, so keep that in mind for everyone’s comfort, as well as ladies’ heel type. For the guys, converse, casual loafers, boat shoes, leather sandals, or nice flip flops are all good choices. No need to go too dressy or athletic.

Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty. You never know where your session will take you and sitting on the ground or leaning against a wall or something may make for the best shot, and you don’t want getting a little dirty to get in the way of that, now do you?

My talented friend and photographer, Megan of The Penny Gray Photography Co., recently wrote an excellent post about putting outfits together that y’all should most definitely read before your session, and if you’re in the Washington D.C. area and in need of a fantastic photog, check her out.

And to my clients, if you’re ever stumped and feeling stressed out, I am always here and happy to help.

XO