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What to Wear | Family Portraits

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Picking the right clothes is one of my most frequently asked questions. Here are some methods for deciding what to wear to your Alpharetta, Milton, or Roswell photography session. (This is basic advice for family and group photo shoots, but much of the advice can be applied to individual shoots as well.)

Start With Your Home

STEP 1: Keep in mind where you will be displaying your portraits.

Think about the areas in your home you will be hanging your finished portraits. The family room? Bedrooms? Going up the stairs? Use the décor in that area inspire you as to the style and color of your outfits. Now you are ready to start.

STEP 2: Choose clothing for one person first.

You can get a great look by building your clothing around one person's outfit that goes well with your décor style. It's usually best to start with the person in the group who has the least amount of clothes or who is hardest to pick an outfit for. Look through their closet for a great piece you want them to wear for the photos. You might also consider buying an outfit for that person and going from there.

STEP 3: Build the rest of the group's outfits based on the first person.

Now that you've got one person's clothing done, you can build the rest of the group's outfits. Note that mixing solids with patterns and prints is okay!

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Color Options

GO NEUTRAL: Neutrals like jeans, grays, browns, blacks, creams, etc. are always a great way to start building your family photo shoot's outfit. This season, you can easily pair your neutrals with leather, animal prints, metallic accents, and fur.

ADD A POP OF COLOR: A pop of color mixed with neutrals helps your portraits have more personality and flair. This is one of my favorite ways to build on option 1. The pop of color could be a scarf, a pair of shoes, a tie, belt, or necklace -- or all of the above -- on top of neutral colors.

JEWEL TONES: Deep, rich jewel tones like ruby reds, royal blues & purples, emerald greens, teals, burnt oranges & yellows are great in fall and winter seasons. These may easily be mixed as long as you stick within the same intensity of color. For example, it would be inappropriate to put one person in a light blue shirt when others are wearing deep jewel-toned shirts. That poor guy in the light blue shirt would stick out like a sore thumb!

BRIGHT VIBRANTS: Bright, vibrant colors like reds, oranges, greens, and blues are happy and eye-catching in any portrait. You can mix and match colors as long as you stick with the same general color intensity.

MONOCHROMATIC: Monochromatic color schemes (shades of the same color) are a classic way to make your group look cohesive. Be aware that the "white shirts and khakis" option is dated, so even if you go with a monochromatic color scheme, you are going to want to mix it up with different pieces so each person looks a little bit different. I'm not a huge fan of everyone in all white or all black, but that's a personal preference. 

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Incorporate a Theme

I'm not suggesting you dress up for your photo shoot like you are going to a costume party, but a well-chosen theme can inspire accessories, hairstyles, props, and the general look of clothing in a shoot.

SEASON-CONSCIOUS OUTFITS  like fun chunky sweaters and winter hats with personalities can really set the scene for a shoot, especially if you are planning on mailing holiday cards. Also, remember that you don't always have to get your family photos taken in the fall (or whenever you generally have them taken). Personally, have our family photos taken twice a year so we aren't wearing the same type of clothing in every portrait.

YOUR SHOOT LOCATION can inform the type of clothing you wear. If you are shooting in an urban setting, you may want to go for a contemporary look. Shooting at a historic site with a lot of texture? Consider something nostalgic or classic. 

VINTAGE-INSPIRED LOOKS like Victorian, World War II-era, 70s, or other iconic time period can add flair to a portrait session. Do you already have a vintage hat or prop? You'd be surprised how one piece can transform the look of an outfit. I love how an authentic 40s hat transforms any boy into a little Frank Sinatra.

Final Tips

STICK TO ONE STYLE: Make sure everyone in the group is wearing one style of clothing such as classy (formal wear, suits, dresses, etc.), casual (shorts, t-shirts, sandals, etc.), or contemporary (a mixture of classy and casual--like a dressy top with jeans and heels).

KEEP LARGER PATTERNS TO A MINIMUM:  Small or medium patterns on part of an outfit look fine, but keep it to one or two people in your group. Patterns should compliment each other, not draw attention away from the main subject of the photo, you! Colors don't have to match, but they do need to go together. Clothing from the same color palette or based on colors in one outfit tend to create a cohesive look without feeling too "matchy." I love fun and vibrant colors; they help the portraits "pop" off the screen or print, but remember, the emphasis of the photos should be on your faces, not your clothing.

THINK ABOUT SHADES OF BLACK AND WHITE: Since we may decide to create black and white versions of your portraits,  you will want to think about how your outfits would appear in those shades. This is an especially important rule! Remember to keep intensity of colors similar. Don't let someone wear a light-colored top when everyone else is wearing dark-colored top.

KEEP LOCATION IN MIND: Are you going to be indoors or outdoors? Is the area paved, muddy, rocky, or grassy? What kind of colors would look best in that setting? If you will be outside, it's a good idea to wear clothes you would be comfortable sitting on the ground in. Typically, we come to your home, so if an outfit change is necessary, that's not a problem!

EMPTY POCKETS: Take keys, phones, wallets, and change out of pockets. I've made this mistake before and had to Photoshop out the pocket bulges. I hope to never do that again (grin).

LEAVE ON GLASSES (OR GO WITHOUT): If you wear glasses, you can choose to wear them or go without them in the photo shoot. My least favorite kind of glasses are ones with transition lenses. No matter what the lighting situation, transition lenses do not look good. If you have an alternate pair of glasses, contacts, or can go without, I would suggest doing so for our photo shoot.

USE ME AS A RESOURCE! When you book me as your Alpharetta, Milton, or Roswell family photographer, you are always welcome to an over-the-phone consult about what to wear to the shoot. I often help finalize outfit choices in person too!

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