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What to Wear to a Photo Session: Family edition | Charleston SC photographer

The time has come! The session has been booked, deposit paid and date written on the calendar. You’re just weeks away from updating your picture frames and being ready to make your holiday card. There’s just one thing left to think about, What in the world will everyone wear? I always offer a few general guidelines before a session but wanted to take this opportunity to provide some ideas and examples to go right along with my tried and true ‘rules’.

  1. Dress the hardest person first - If your daughter has lots of opinions, or your husband has very few wardrobe options start by selecting that family member’s outfit first. Once they’re done you can coordinate everyone else’s look around their's. With opinionated kids I like to suggest you include them in picking out what they should wear. Young kids love showing off clothes they love and that’s a great way to ensure you get some sweet smiles!

  2. No characters or logos! I love prints and patterns but you don’t want your photos to contain anything too distracting. We want your pretty faces to be the star and sticking to clothes without sayings or licensed characters is a great way to make sure that happens.

  3. Keep everyone comfortable! I don’t suggest you show up in sweatpants, but I do think it’s important to dress everyone in something they’ll like to wear and be proud to be photographed in. This is especially important for the least resistant family member. If big brother is dragging his feet about having to be in photos and hates sweaters, putting him in a sweater will almost guarantee it’ll take him a while to warm up.

With my 3 main rules in mind, you can have fun with your choices by mixing in colors, picking fun coordinating patterns or adding smart accessories.


You don’t ever, ever want to all show up wearing identical shirts in either style or color in my personal opinion. A big cornerstone of my artistic style is being to capture your family as they truly are! I want to see how all of your personalities blend together and you want each family member to be a good representation of themselves. When everyone is wearing white and denim, images tend to lose individuality and can end up looking like a big blob of white. Instead, look for colors that are complementary. Decide on one color you know you love, and you know everyone will look good in. Then select a second, coordinating color. When you have a two color palette, decide what one neutral will work best. Now you’ve got your 3 color palette to work with.

Some ideas:

Navy, Mustard yellow and tan

Pink, dark green and brown

Red, pink and black

Blue, orange and gray

Some examples:

Pink, Navy and white

Blue, pink and gray

Navy, purple and gray

While I can’t say enough that you shouldn’t all wear the same exact color, you can opt to wear variations of the same color. Think of how many different kinds of blue there are. Coming from the same color family, they simply can’t clash. The same can be said for mixing and matching neutrals. They are called neutral for a reason, I truly believe you can not go wrong with any combination. Much like choosing a color palette, find one or two neutrals to focus on.

(Tip: Coordinating everyone to wear variations on one color can help you dress a large group of people easily. )

Some examples:

Variations of blue

White and navy with a bit of teal


Gosh I love a good pattern. Floral, stripes, checks, you name it and I’m a sucker. A safe bet is to put one family member in a fun pattern, and use that pattern’s colors to decide what everyone else should wear. If you’re feeling adventurous though, pick a few different patterns that can all work together. When you start with patterns that tell a similar color story, you have a good chance of them all working together.

(Tip: Avoid tiny check patterns that sometimes come in button up styles. The tiny little squares can look pixelated in images and give a trick illusion to the eye.)

Some examples:

Different patterns, same color story

Letting a pattern dictate the color story


Accessories and additional layers are one of the best ways to add a pop of color or fun pattern. They also add a bit of personality to your outfit helping each of your family members to stand out in their own way. Consider throwing on a cardigan or jacket which can help bring your outfit together and add a touch of dimension to the images. When you can add an accessory that has a sentimental story attached you’re also adding a little 'inception' to the photos. Just think about how you’ll feel looking at images of your family, in which you’re wearing the same necklace your Mom wore in your childhood family photos.

(Tip: The easiest trick to coordinating family outfits is to dress everyone in a base outfit with coordinating neutrals, and then put layers on top in the form of a scarf, headband or cardigan.)

Some examples:

There are 7 people in this family photo, and since they are each in layers and coordinating colors each of their personalities really shine!

Coats, scarf, plaid and florals. All the patterns!!

For this session, this couple brought a few different scarf options. We swapped them in and out for each location and in the end got different looks for their gallery with just an accessory change!

When the session is done and the gallery sent, it won't be what you wear that matters the most. It will be about how much fun you had, how big your smiles were and how much you just enjoyed being together as a family. Smiles and laughter look good in any color.

Kayla Rochelle is a photographer based out of New York City who photographs families in the NYC and Albany areas. To check out her latest work, visit Facebook or Instagram.

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