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Love Your Pictures: What to Wear for Family Portraits Outside

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Mother holding son and both smiling while during family portraits outside
I mean look at that smile!!
Tasha Boin Photography

Ok, Lets get into what to wear for family portraits outside and WHY you don’t want to miss these photos!

Why YOU NEED Family Photos

Family photos are like a treasure trove of memories that you can revisit whenever you want. They capture moments in time and preserve those moments forever. And family portraits outside are even more important. Because let’s be honest, life is so fast and so busy (not to mention the sleep deprivation!), our memories can get foggy, and even the things we said we would never forget start to fade. Capturing those moments is the best way to remember them! 

You may have 1 million photos of your kids on your phone, but how many photos of YOU WITH YOUR kids do you have?? And, I am not talking about the awkward stiff family portraits you took last holiday where your kids are force smiling (you know what I’m talking about). I mean a family photo session that actually captures the joy and connection you have. Your child laughing as you spin them. Their little hands holding yours. Those are the things you want to remember. 

family on a family portrait session outside, guide to what to wear

My Little Secret

Well, if you know me I guess it’s not a secret. But, I LOVE FAMILY PHOTOS. When done right I think they are pure MAGIC. They have the ability to capture the real love, laughter, and connection that you have with your family! We try and do family photos once a year and EVERY TIME we go on a big adventure. This way I get to look back on our adventures and watch my little nuggets grow up. Yes, I doom scroll my own family photos on the regular…don’t judge me! I also hang them up around my house because I’m fancy lol!

daughter squishing mothers cheeks and laughing an example of a casual family portrait outside
Wild is Our Love Photography

Ok, let’s get into some fun stuff: Colors and What to Wear For Your Outdoor Family Portraits!!

All About Color

Picking colors and deciding what to wear for family portraits outside can be a fun and creative process, but it can also be a bit daunting if you’re not sure where to start. Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to outfit colors in family photos to get you started:

Dos:

  • Consider creating a color palette or color scheme to guide your outfit choices. This can help ensure that everyone’s outfits complement each other and look cohesive in the photo. You could even make a pinterest board to help you organize!
  • Opt for solid colors or different shades of the same color to avoid overwhelming the photo with too many bold colors or patterns.
  • Use color tones to your advantage. For example, you could dress everyone in warm colors for a cozy autumnal vibe.
  • Experiment with different colors, but make sure they’re complementary or neutral so they don’t clash.
  • Consider incorporating bold colors or subtle patterns to add some interest to the photo.

Don’ts:

  • Avoid using neon colors, as they can be distracting and overpowering in a family photo.
  • Steer clear of bold patterns or different patterns on EVERY person, as this can create a chaotic and busy look in the photo. Having one person in a bold pattern and the rest of the group in solid colors that coordinates works (check out the pictures below where I am in a dress with a bold pattern and the rest of the fam coordinate with solid colors, also note the backdrop is all neutral colors which helps make the pattern not overwhelming).
  • Don’t rely too heavily on dark colors or navy blue, as these can make the photo appear too serious or somber. Plus it’s hard to see you, you tend to blend into the shadows. 
  • Don’t forget to balance out brighter colors with neutral or subtle patterned pieces to prevent the outfits from looking too overwhelming.

When it comes to outfit colors and deciding what to wear for family portraits outside in family photos, it’s best to keep it simple with a cohesive color palette or color scheme, opt for solid colors or different shades of the same color, incorporate bold colors or subtle patterns for interest sparinly, and avoid using neon colors, too many bold patterns, or too many dark colors.

example of a bold clothing pattern during family portraits outside on a beach
I wore a large pattern, but everybody else’s outfits were simple (Jenn Bakos Photography)

What to Wear for Family Portraits Outside Based on SEASON

The season effects your photos in two ways: Weather and Color

Weather

You want to be at least semi comfortable. So, dress according to the temperature outside. Spring, Fall and winter dress in layers. This is also great because you can take off a layer and your outfit will look different. So it will be like two photo sessions in on! The two photos below are the same session, with a quick change. My husband and daughter added a jacket and my son switched his jacket. With those simple changes which take under five minutes you can change the whole feel of the photo. The first is more dressy and the second is more natural and fun. If you are wondering about my outfit I MAY have changed behind a bush…

outdoor family portraits, family walking together along trail
More dressy photos (Tasha Boin Photography)
outdoor family photo session, how to do a quick change
More natural and playing (Tasha Boin Photography)

Seasonal Colors

Depending on the season the colors around you will be different. In winter there will be lots of white if you are in a snowy area. In autumn you could have lots of bright colors from the foliage. Take the colors and seasons into account when choosing your outfits.

example of family portraits in winter. a couple snuggling with red blanket outside
I chose the red blanket to pop against the winter background (Jenn Bakos Photography)

How to Figure Out The Right Outfit Combinations

My friends, this is the HARD part about what to wear for family portraits outside. There are so many options and colors!

  1. I find it helpful to start with one person’s outfit that I know I want. Sometimes it’s a super cute kid’s outfit I want to use, sometimes it’s an outfit for me that I love (moms get to be the star too sometimes!). 
  2. Lay that outfit out on the floor or table. Then start adding the rest of the family’s outfits around it. See what you end up liking next to each other. Then play with different outfit combos that coordinate with the main outfit. Always keep the season and the location in mind. You want the entire family’s outfits to coordinate but not necessarily match.

Try and use clothes you already have, you don’t have to go crazy buying new outfits every time. 

If you don’t have the clothes and are buying new ones then I will take screenshots of the outfits and put them together in a word or google doc so I can see them all together.

family portrait session in Zion
Wild is Our Love Photography

General tips for photo sessions with small kids

  1. Keep their clothes simple: clothes they feel comfortable in or can move around in. Make sure it’s weather appropriate so they are not too hot or too cold. Remember the goal is to capture joy. A cold kid is not joyful… 
  2. Try to keep things moving. Have them walk or run, pick them up, spin them around, and give extra hugs. Coordinate with the photographer so they can capture all those in-motion shots. Kids generally will give you the best most natural smiles when you are interacting more naturally with them
  3. Refrain from telling them to smile and look over here one million times. Save that for a few group shots and keep the rest natural. Very young kids will feel overwhelmed and older kids will get frustrated very quickly. 
  4. Give them small breaks when needed, and do photos of other family members so the kids can take a break
  5. Pack them a spare set of clothes. No clothing is safe on a kid. Sometimes I don’t even get them dressed until we arrive because who on earth knows what may happen during the car ride.  
  6. Embrace the imperfections: recently I let my kids pick their own outfits and embraced any dirt or mess they got into. I wanted the photos to really capture their personal style and our real-life family. And in real life we are messy! 

Goal feeling of the shoot

Before you decided on what to wear for family portraits outside, photographer, or location; You need to pick the goal of the shoot, what moment are you trying to capture, what feeling do you want in these photos? Do you want soft and intimate moments with a new baby? Perhaps silly moments between siblings playing. Use this as your guide and as you pick a photographer make sure you see those types of photos in their portfolio. 

The best family photos (in my humble opinion) are photos that capture real moments between you and your family. Not everybody posed and looking at the camera (one or two of these might be nice, but they are not the goal). I want to see me and my kids laughing or hugging. I want to remember the joy. 

mother helping daughter on rope swing during a family photo session
Jenn Bakos Photography

Reason to hire a professional

Do you really need a professional photographer? YES. A professional photographer knows how to capture real moments. This is the best option to ensure you actually like your family photo session. They are trained to not just help you feel comfortable but know the right lighting, angles, and poses that will be most successful. Plus, they have the editing software to give those photos the perfect finishing touches. And bonus, they will help you pick what to wear for family portraits outside.

Your other option includes you trying to take the photos yourself with a tripod. This is possible, but then you are constantly running back to the camera and taking yourself out of the moment. Also, you are left to figure out lighting, and editing the photos on your own. Which is just not gonna happen, let’s be honest.

Helpful tips for picking the right photographer

You want to pick somebody that you chive with. Somebody that puts you at ease and whose photography style you are drawn to. 

  1. Look at their portfolio: Do you like the photos? Are the colors and style what you are hoping for in your family session? Do the people in their photos look/feel like what you want to look/feel like? For example: relaxed and having fun
  2. Get in touch with them and see if the vibes are there. I am not kidding. I usually email 2-3 photographers, tell them what I am hoping for and then, see what they say. We usually go back and forth a few times. Based on that I can tell if they will be a good fit. If I am already starting to be comfortable with them.  
  3. Budget: make sure they are in your budget. You want to love these photos and if you are spending more money than you have it will add too much stress and pressure. So, find somebody in your  budget, or give yourself time to save the money needed (they are worth it!). 
I convinced Jenn Bakos to wake up at 4 am to catch the morning light…have I mentioned I am a crazy person?? (photo credit: Jenn Bakos Photography who is always up for an adventure).

My Recommendations for Professional Photographers

Worried you won’t find the right photographer?? Well, I have a list of AMAZING ladies that will give you the magic! I have worked with each of them personally and I can confidently recommend them to you. They are all a safe bet and amazing with families. 

My Tried-and-True Photographers List

family portrait photographer taking photos during a shoot

Jenn Bakos Photography

(New England Area)

Jenn has been photographing my family for YEARS, even before kids (which is hard to remember that far back)

She specializes in all things adventure. She takes select family clients who have an adventurous idea for their photos. She also does elopements, small weddings and product photography.

She is laid back and very easy to work with. Check her out here

Maxine Cadman

New Hampshire and Beyond!

Maxine photographed my sister’s wedding and I have been recommending her to families ever since!

Her goal is to capture the authenticity that makes your connection with one another unique. She is passionate about capturing beautifully real moments in all life stages.

She is full of enthusiasm and you will feel her authenticity the moment you meet her. Check her out here

picture of photographer and her son in the woods
Alaska photographer selfie

Tasha Boin Photography

Anchorage Alaska

I was lucky enough to find Tasha for our Alaska trip in 2020. She helped me to pick the right location and kept things fun and casual the whole shoot.

Tasha specializes in lifestyle newborns, families, couples, and seniors.

She recommends you think of the photoshoot as a fun family adventure where it’s okay to let your kids run, dance, laugh, and cry. She says “I am not in the business of capturing perfection, but real life”. Check her out here

Sarah Shaughnessy (Wild is Our Love Photography)

Southern Utah

I met Sarah after searching through sooo many photographers in the Zion area. Let me tell you I am so glad I found her! She jumped in and set my whole family at ease (even working so well with my son who has anxiety). We ended our time together with a huge hug. I will always feel a connection with Sarah after that shoot.

Sarah specializes in elopement and family photography.

Check her out here

Top Tips for What to Wear for Family Portraits Outside

Having your family photo session outside is a great choice, and the best option in my opinion (my 2nd favorite is a real life at home shoot). There are so many reasons to pick outdoor family photos

  1. Pick the right time of day: this is something your photographer can help you with. I do not want the sunlight to be too harsh. Usually, early morning or evening is a perfect time. 
  2. Pick your wardrobe with the colors of your environment in mind. If you picked an outdoor location that has lots of greenery, don’t wear green. You will either blend in or clash. So, as you choose your family outfits, think of them in the location you will be shooting. 
  3. Pick a location or activity that is meaningful. The goal is to preserve a memory, so make it count! My family has a favorite camping spot so last year we did our family photos river hiking near that spot. 
  4. Take family photos on a vacation. This is my number one tip in all my travel guides! Make the memories of that special vacation last a lifetime. It has become my family’s tradition and I know you will love it too. There is no better souvenir than those pictures. Bonus: hang them in your house so you can tell everybody that visits about the amazing adventure you just went on!

Adding Extended family

Having extended family members at a family photo session can be a wonderful way to capture memories and create lasting bonds. It allows everyone to come together, share stories, and create new memories that will be treasured for years to come. Whether it’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins, having multiple generations in one photo can make for a beautiful and heartwarming image.

Additionally, having extended family at a photo session can also make the experience more fun and relaxed. With more people around, there are more opportunities for laughter and lighthearted moments. It can be a great way to break the ice and make everyone feel comfortable, especially if some family members haven’t seen each other in a while

Keep it simple when picking what to wear for family portraits outside for extended family. Give them a few colors and let everybody pick their own outfits. As long as they stick to the color palate having different clothes and textures will ad interest to the photos.

Whatever you want your photos to be is ok, just make sure there is clear communication ahead of time. 

family sitting on a rock on an outdoor family photo shoot
Jenn Bakos Photography

The most important thing is to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. If you can do that then you will love how your photos turn out! Come back here and let me know how it goes!

Let me know how your session goes!

Post Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice.  Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs.  The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual

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