7 Tips for Choosing Outfits for Family Pictures

It’s September, which means it’s time to start thinking about holiday cards and family pictures! As crazy and stressful as family pictures can be, they’re such a treasure, and when you look back you’ll be so glad you have them.

But let’s get you through the stressful part. I’m sharing seven tips prepping for and taking family pictures, plus a bunch of outfit inspiration, AND a ton of outfit options.

Tips for choosing your family outfits and having beautiful family portraits

Ready? Here we go.

Step 1. Choose a location.

Do you want a beach location? Trees and greenery? A cozy photoshoot in your home? Maybe a snowy background? It’s best to decide this and PICK a location before you do anything else. This will help lay the foundation for the entire shoot so it’s easier to make the rest of the decisions.

Step 2. Find a photographer and schedule a date.

If you’re traveling this month and want to take family pictures while you’re on vacation, ask local friends (or bloggers!), or look on Instagram under local hashtags (like #orangecountyphotographer). If you need a photographer in your area, look through your options and decide whose style fits what you’re looking for. Do you want something bright? Moody? More posed or more lifestyle? Look at different photographer’s work and choose accordingly. Don’t find a photographer and ask them to edit differently than their natural style.

And remember, this is every photographer’s busiest time, so book early!!

Now it’s time to pick outfits. Always the most stressful part!

Step 3.  Choose YOUR outfit first.

Try these tips when picking something for yourself:

  • Wear a dress. Trust me on this one. You’ll feel prettier, and it’s more flattering than anything else you can wear.
  • Pick a dress that’s figure flattering. I recommend any kind that has a fitted waist. Skip the shift dresses and swing dresses because one gust of wind and you suddenly look twice as wide as you actually are.
  • If you’re not a big fan of dresses, choose a skirt and top combination. But again, choose one that’s an A-Line style (fitted in the waist and flows out over your hips). I promise it’ll be 1000x more flattering than anything else you could pick.
  • Wearing something more dressy than your everyday. T-shirt material doesn’t hang as well as chiffon, rayon, linen, double knit, or silk, and could look cheap and unflattering from some angles.
  • Choose the color you want to wear and build from there. We all know it’s hardest to get us dressed, so start with yourself instead of fitting yourself in at the end.

I’ve rounded up a TON of flattering and pretty dress options at the bottom of the post from all my favorite dress retailers — even for maternity (since you guys requested that!) You’re sure to find something!!

Step 4. Choose your family color palette.

Now that you’ve picked your outfit, it’s time to figure out the entire color palette. I created a Pinterest board with a TON of family outfit ideas that will help you decided which direction to go. Or maybe you’ll need to start here and that will help you pick your outfit and location. Either way, there’s tons of inspiration there for indoor, outdoor, neutral, festive holiday, beach, snowy, etc.

I’d recommend choosing 2-3 colors for your color palette, and then have variations of those colors, like darker or lighter shades of blue.

Step 5. Choose your family’s outfits.

If you look through the Pinterest board I created, you’ll notice that most of the outfits have solid colors. If you’re going to do patterns, keep them subtle, and in small doses. The point of family pictures is for your beautiful faces to show, so don’t let them be overpowered by large, loud patterns.

Also play with layers like vests, jackets, or sweaters (stay away from scarves cause they’ll get in the way and look bulky in photos!), or tall socks under boots, so you have more opportunity for incorporating your colors, and adding texture and dimension. Your outfits will feel more complete if everyone’s in something more than just bottoms and a top.

And can I recommend one more thing? Try to keep the outfits as classic as you can. Obviously this is a personal choice, but staying away from super trendy pieces will help your pictures stand the test of time.

Step 6. Keep it low key, and set expectations.

A few years ago everyone got really into props for photoshoots. While they can certainly be fun, they’re usually more of a hassle than they’re worth. My favorite pictures are the ones with families just walking, hugging, playing, or snuggling. No props needed — just lots of love!

Also, set expectations and bring snacks. Usually the day before the shoot, I prep my kids and tell them we’re doing a photoshoot and it’ll be 30 minutes long, and then we’ll go get donuts. I’m not above bribes 😉 An incentive helps, and reminding them during the shoot that it’s just 10 more minutes until donuts usually keeps everyone pretty happy.

During the shoot, we usually do fruit snacks cause they don’t make a mess.

Step 7. Get the shot.

Make a list of shots you want before the shoot, and then tell your photographer when you get there. You’ll probably want a variety of posed and candid, some with just mom and dad, some pictures with just dad and the kids, some with just mom and the kids, one with all the kids together, one of each of the kids individually, and one of mom and dad together.

In the craziness of the shoot, I can never remember which shots I want, and we almost always walk away without all the shots I wanted. So make a list and check it before you finish the shoot.

WHEW. Ok, now it’s time to start shopping for that dress for yourself! I’ve rounded a bunch of the best ones below, categorized into knee-length, midi, maxi, maternity, and skirts.

But if you want to look farther, my favorite retailers for good dresses are Nordstrom, Asos, Anthropologie, LoftOld Navy, H&M, ZapposShein, and even Amazon!








  1. Tarah says:

    THANK YOU for this post! It’s perfect timing, we’re having our family pictures done next weekend & I’ve been trying to figure out outfits!

  2. Alana Inouye Okiishi says:

    This post is so helpful and has so many great ideas – I have never worn a dress in a family picture. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Alex Petrov says:

    Welcome to the world of creativity. If you are an adherent of an individual style, then this site is definitely for you. I am Tanya Novi-designer and textile artist. My products are made of natural materials and in a single copy. Also I create author’s capsule collections. I will be pleased to consider cooperation proposals from clothing manufacturers and private With love, Tanya Novi.

  4. This will be very helpful to alot of photographers out there! My sister is one and she have many times been struggling with families showing up in all sorts of crazy outfits! I will definitely make sure to send her your list of suggestions to give to her clients 🙂


    • Lauren says:

      I understand not feeling comfortable in certain types of clothing, but that is no reason to be rude to Merrick. You shouldn’t hate someone for being a different body type. she’s trying to help others with her personal experiences by sharing what she has found to work. we should spread positivity, not hate.

  5. Jenni says:

    Wearing a dress only works if you’re skinny! Im fat and I feel awful when I put a dress on. This is not something you will ever understand though. And I hate you for it.

  6. Lu says:

    This was perfect! Thank you!

  7. Nida says:

    Thank you for adding Maternity outfits! Great pOst!!

  8. Julie says:

    Loved this merrick! we move alot and I like to take yearly family photos that show where we were that year. in tn, we had our photos in a cotton field. in ga, we had our photos under oak trees dripping with moss. this year I want to have our photos in front of the buffalo ranch right after a snow, lol! (south dakota) this might be difficult to arrange but fingers crossed! what kind of dress would you wear in the snow standing in front of a field of buffalo?

  9. Judi says:

    Thank you for your recommendations! These are great and helpful tips. But first of all, when choosing clothes for your family photo, it is better to take into account the style of the clothes. It will look great if all things are in harmony with each other. It is even better to come up with the theme of your photo. We recently took a picture in the style of bikers, wearing leather jackets and various accessories such as SKULL STINGRAY WALLETS the photo was very cool!

  10. easton says:

    I like the tip that you gave to choose your family picture clothing with a color theme. My wife and I have been talking about finding a finding new clothing for our family pictures next month, and it would be important for us to know that we can find the right clothing for all of us. If we decide to get new clothing for the pictures, I will be sure to choose a color theme.

  11. I just had some baby pics done at Wal mart the base package was… the pictures come back they will include more pics that you have the option to buy.

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