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Stress-Free Family Photo Styling


Fall has fast become the default season for family photo sessions. And, as exciting as the change of seasons is, it can be overwhelming to pull outfits together for annual pictures usually featured on holiday cards. For many, this year also be more casual than usual. Whether you opt for relaxed or formal, hire a professional photographer or do it yourself with a tripod, my simple formula for stress-free family photo styling will help your family look coordinated without wearing the same outfits.


Start with the matriarch. Traditionally, this is mom but with so many different and beautiful family dynamics, this may not only be a mom. By matriarch, I mean the person in the family who keeps everything running — in a single parent household it’s the full time parent, in other families, it might be dad. If division of duties is pretty equitable in your house, who booked the photographer for the family photos? Start with that family member. I like to put the matriarch in a distinctive pattern she loves. Whether it is stripes, leopard, floral or geometric, the pattern is a way to visually highlight and commemorate the person in the family who keeps everyone else in the household going. In this example, I started with a dark floral midi dress. There are a lot of colors within the dress, and red appears in the smallest way so I selected red shoes to coordinate the outfit in a less obvious way.


Next, select the kids’ outfits. Look at the pattern the matriarch is wearing. Find a color or two in the pattern that appears in a subtle way then put the kids in textured pieces in that color. This might be a sweater dress or tutu dress for girls, and for boys, create even more texture by dressing them in layers or knits in the subtle pattern colors. In this example, I pulled the white from mom’s floral pattern for the girl’s outfit in a textured dress and paired it with metallic silver shoes and headband. Because metallics are neutrals, they go with everything else and will add more visual dimensions to photos. For the boys’ outfit, I focused on the blue from Mom’s floral, layering the chambray over a white t-shirt. This coordinates with both the mom’s and sister’s outfits in the example. I like to put the kids in different, subtle textures because when they’re photographed together, they subtly coordinate.


I usually source dad’s outfit last because sophisticated men's clothes are more readily available at all price points. I like to put dads in dark bottoms, a button up that pulls from one of the colors in the matriarch’s pattern, and a knit sweater. In my example, I chose a small scale check in blue for the shirt. This plays nicely with the blues in the floral pattern because it picks up on the color and offers a contrasting, geometric pattern to the softness the floral print. If you do elect to use a pattern for dad, make sure it’s a small scale and doesn’t distract from mom’s outfit. Unless you’re taking formal photos, knit cardigans on men are a great option. For this example, I sourced a light neutral one that coordinates well with everyone else in the family and I recommend light colored knits because the texture photographs very well. They complete an outfit without making it look too rigid; sometimes blazers, especially dark ones, blend in and fall visually flat when photographed.


Wherever you take your family photos, basing the styling around the family matriarch is a beautiful way to acknowledge her and offers a starting point to coordinate all the other outfits. This approach works well for all family dynamics and sizes.


Product Information from Sample Styling:

Mom's Outfit: Ann Taylor LOFT Dress; Vince Camuto Shoes (Nordstrom)

Girl's Outfit: Zara Dress and Shoes; J. Crew Headband

Boy's Outfit: Old Navy T-Shirt; Gap Chambray Button Down Shirt; Cat&Jack Denim and Shoes (Target)

Dad's Outfit: J.Crew Button Down Shirt; Banana Republic Denim; French Connection Cardigan (Nordstrom); Steve Madden Shoes


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