What to Wear for Family Pictures | A Fool-Proof Guide

What to Wear For Family Pictures | Martinsburg Family Photographer

I’ve been there…

As a seasoned Martinsburg family photographer (and a Mom of three), I understand the stress of worrying what to wear for family pictures. 

I’ve seen you pilfering through the Target racks the day before your family session praying for a last minute find.

I’ve heard the panic in your voice on the phone when you realize you forgot to look for shoes and now your son only has bright green Crocs to wear with his khakis.

On our way to our Fall family pictures last year, I realized my 3 year old had no shoes *face palm*. We too are Croc lovers. We swung by Wal-Mart and snagged her a pair of boots that were one size too big. 

See? Even photographers make mistakes. Ha!

My goal is to make choosing outfits for family pictures so much easier for Moms. I’ve created a fool-proof system for you to piece together a family wardrobe in no-time. 

A note: I understand you are already making an investment by booking with your favorite photographer and the thought of needing to purchase clothing for your entire family *just for photos* may feel like a lot. Trust me, my husband’s wardrobe is mostly Maryland-red and I love oversized tees and leggings. I’m not swimming in neutral basics over here. But when it comes time for our family photos, I invest in clothing that will make my photos worth it. And you should too.

Let’s get started!

First, I want to make a case for color. 

Rule: If you love light + airy photos, you must dress light + airy. 


I always suggest my clients wear NEUTRALS (white, cream, khaki) with muted pastels or muted earth tones.

These colors are most flattering in ALL types of light. When light bounces off of bright colors (red, pinks, royal blue, green, yellow, orange), there is a terrible, no good, very-bad color cast that reflects back onto your skin. My lovely and absolutely adorable assistant will help me show just how big of a difference color makes.


boy shows color cast comparison for photography

Notice how the sun hits the color and bounces that same color back onto his face? You can especially see it in the creases of his smile and under his brows.

Now notice how the light dusty blue and white provide the most clean light on his face. The reflection of the white is actual so bright it’s causing a haze on my iPhone camera. The more light that bounces back onto your face, the better skin tones look on camera.

In the words of Kelly Kapoor, the bright colors on camera are, “Ugly and I know it for a fact ’cause I got the evidence right there.” 😉

This is not to say the bright pink summer dress you love to wear isn’t flattering. But a good thing to note is that there are plenty of outfits that look beautiful in person but do not look great on camera.


When putting together family photo outfits, be on the lookout for these colors:

Textures & Patterns

I love the extra detail textures like linen, corduroy or lace give in photos. Only choose one person to wear a pattern. More than one pattern can become confusing to the eye in an image.

There are some patterns and colors that DO NOT photograph well.



  1. Small, close-together stripes.

Usually seen in sweat-proof men’s golf shirts or button-downs, these stripes cause an effect known as “moire”. It cannot be fixed in photoshop. Large stripes are also very distracting and take the focus off your beautiful faces. So please avoid stripes, BIG and small, altogether. 🙂

2. Large patterns (large patches of florals, polka dots)

These are popular in maternity dresses. But any large floral patterns are distracting to the eye and again, take the focus off you and your family. I love florals and if you want to incorporate them, go for very small floral patterns. It must pass “the squint test” which means if you look at the dress through squinted eyes, it could pass as a solid color.


3. Dark colors and black shoes. 

Again, if you like light + airy photos, you must dress head-to-toe in light colors and neutrals. Avoid black dress or tennis shoes at all costs. They create a bit of a black hole in the image that draws the eye in.


4. Anything with a logo, words, symbols or cartoon characters.

Anything that could possibly take away the focus on you is a no from me, dawg.


There are some rules you should photograph by and my hope is to train your eye to look for these particular colors and styles when shopping for your family.

If you’re a visual learner like me, this is for you.


When you book family portraits with me, you’ll receive my custom, in-depth style guide to make prepping for family portraits easy-peasy!


For now, I leave you with my Cheat Sheet: Is Your Family Photo-Ready?

BONUS: Get my Checklist: Family Session Essentials by joining my e-mail list here! 


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I'm Karly! A Maryland Wedding & Family Photographer based in Martinsburg, WV. Originally from the Old Line State, you can find me dipping fresh-cracked crabs in melty butter, wrestling my three babies and impatiently waiting for my husband to get home from work everyday. 

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