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What to Wear: Family Session

If we’re being honest, what we wear matters WAY more than we want to think about. Whether you fall on the “buy 3 different outfits for our session” end of the spectrum or the “oh wait, we’re taking photos tomorrow! What are we wearing?” end, this article is for you!

Just so you know where we're headed, start with the season your shoot is in, move on to the style you already have, pick your color palette, choose your clothing, and you're done!

Read on for all the details.

Season and Style


Every season says something totally different than the other. Fall is the most common time of year for family sessions but each month can have a wildly different look.

So let’s break it down into the seasons and then styles.

Spring- spring is the perfect season if you like color but you don’t want to really commit to it. If you lean towards those bleached tones and pastels spring is for you. That doesn’t mean you can just wear anything and get that look, but it is a good start. The sun is softer and buckets of rain can give everything a dewy, effervescent look.

Perfect example of a spring shoot that went a more vibrant direction because of their outfit selection.

Summer- summer is my personal favorite (especially late summer in August and Sept.) The colors are at their very richest and most pigmented. Summer light is strong and clean and colorful. There are almost infinite directions you can you go with summer styles.

Fall- yeah, it’s no secret that I think fall’s a little overrated but there’s no denying that those 1 or 2 weeks of colorful trees and golden sunsets are magical. And even once you start moving towards winter, you’ve got the blue-gray skies and dusty brown prairies.

Even though it was late October, we weren't seeing a change in leaves yet, but the colors Hannah chose for her family still said "fall."

Winter- at least in Rockford, there just aren’t a lot of directions you can take this if you want outdoor photos. I do love the winter look, but it’s a little limiting to a somewhat “formal” look (probably because everyone is bundled up and frigid)


Clean and Classic (and sometimes Colorful)- This is a low risk style and super popular for a reason! Your photos will never really age because your clothes aren’t cemented in trends. The one caution I would make is to avoid becoming bland by making sure at least one person has on a piece or two that makes at least a little statement.

Monochrome- I am hesitant about monochrome clothing because it can look dated easily or it will look incredibly stylish. All cream dresses on your children, all light blue outfits, etc. Be super cautious about this look. Generally, if everyone is wearing jeans or khakis and the same color shirt, you’ve gone the wrong direction. Everyone (or even the majority) wearing all black or any single dark color is also a really bad idea.

Boho/Free People/Etc.- This is just the all-encompassing category for styles that are on-trend. You’d see these kinds of outfits on Instagram influencers and your super cute mom-friend with her somehow-always-stylish kids. Because it’s constantly shifting, this style can easily look dated pretty quickly, however, it can also say the very most about who you are as a family and I LOVE that!

Mix and Match- MOST people fall into every one of these categories. Don’t be afraid to take your favorite style from each part to create a grouping of outfits that says “this is us!”

How to Actually Style Your Family

Pick a Palette-

Unless you’re going monochromatic, you need to start by creating a color palette. This color palette may go to caput by the time you get to the session but a starting place is important.

Once you know what season your session will be in, you need to pick a palette that is complementary to the colors around you. Here’s my personal hack >> Go to Pinterest, pick through the millions of family photos (you can start HERE) to find a couple of favorites that reflect your chosen season and pull the colors of the family. Look at the background- is it dark green like the summer session you’ll have, dusty brown like your late fall photos, etc. Then literally write down the colors you see the family wearing. So for the photo below it would be “muted dark blue, dark jean, chambray, khaki, butter yellow, and cream.” TA-DAH! Now you have a color palette.

Pick Clothing-

Armed with your color palette, head to your closets first! Grab your favorite outfits that fit into this palette. (If absolutely nothing does, take a second and ask yourself if you’re trying to force your family into a look that just doesn’t fit you. It’s okay to start over with something that feels more “you.”) Now you need to put it together like a puzzle and fill in the gaps. Maybe you have everything you need. Maybe you need to go shopping.

Take this palette with you shopping and a photo of the clothes you’ve already pulled so you don’t forget. As you go along, you may not find exactly what you need, but as long as you have colors that don’t clash, you’ll be just fine. Text a friend if you aren’t sure ;)

No, but WHAT Do We Wear?

Here’s the quick blueprint for any semi-dressy look>>

-As many people in dresses or super flowy outfits as will actually wear them (esp. mom!) Dresses and tights/leggings, twirly skirts, tunics and leggings, etc.

-Guys in polos, dress shirts, henleys, sweaters, or a nice t-shirt and good jeans, khakis, or the equivalent. A sports coat is a super addition if you want to dress things up easily.

-If you have any crew members who aren’t on board with the above, overalls are great and just a quick diaper cover for the baby who wants to live life free is totally cool too!

Henleys, dress, and jumpsuit. The Hill family totally killed it, both with their outfit styles and color palette

Accessories Make It

If it still feels a little undone, you probably need some accessories. Bows, high socks, cute shoes, baby bonnets, scarfs, hats, big earrings and necklaces, shawls, and cardigans help pull everything together.

And there you have it! You’re all done! If you ever are unsure, just give me a quick text and I'll be happy to lend my 2 cents. Now, let’s take some pictures of you looking so nice :)


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