Skip to content

Back to school: What to wear in family photos

2013 September 11
by Emily Hill

This week is all about back to school thanks to guest posts by some of my dearest blogging friends. Today’s post is from Kim and tackles the tough question of what to wear in family photos. The family photo is a fall tradition for many right around the time school is back in session.

Back to school always reminds me that fall is fast approaching, and with fall comes some of my favorite things. Layers, long sleeves, crisp air, and family photos.

I began taking photos professionally when my son was a little boy. I quickly learned what looked amazing in photos and what left people looking less than desirable. Clients ask me all the time, “What do you suggest we wear for family photos?” To which I have an easy answer which I can break down into four basic parts:

1. Coordinate: Perhaps one of the most important “rules” when it comes to choosing outfits for family photos is to remember to coordinate. I can almost guarantee that you will look a million times more awesome if everyone in your photo is coordinated and NOT matching. Long, long gone are the days of everyone wearing white polo shirts and khaki pants. (Yuck.) Coordinating allows individuality and more color into the photo which will look a lot more amazing on your wall than bright whites and khakis which will do nothing for you but wash you out and distract from who you are. Dressing this way will not take away from the most important subject of the photos: You. Your clothes will compliment you and not steal the show. I promise.

2. Prints and Solids: My recipe for choosing clothing for photo sessions, and I have done this since my first child was born, is to put one person in a print, and then coordinate everyone else around that print.Usually I will decide on the person who will be wearing the print and then pull colors out of that print for everyone else to wear. Doing this gives you a lot of options to add colors that will be flattering on different skin tones and hair or eye color. This way, no one is stuck wearing something that makes them look and feel awful about themselves.

This year I was actually inspired by my youngest daughter’s dress which is a teal green color. This was a bit opposite of what I normally do and required me to find a print with this color in it.

 photo DressingforFamilyPhotoswithKimOrlandiniPhotography002_zpsad4c6bac.jpg

Dress: Walmart
Shoes: Gap
Belt: Thistles Boutique
Earrings: Forever 21

It just so happened that I was photographing a family the same week I fell in love with Camilla’s teal dress. My good friend Kristina was wearing this amazing hummingbird dress with a blue cardigan and a cute coral belt and earrings. I texted her and begged her to let me copy her outfit for my family photos. She obliged and I owe her a million.

 photo DressingforFamilyPhotoswithKimOrlandiniPhotography004_zps883b3b88.jpg

Dress: eShakti
Cardigan: Downeast Basics
Heels: Forever Young Shoes
Belt and earrings: Target

Once the print was chosen I was able to pull navy and coral out for my older daughter.

 photo DressingforFamilyPhotoswithKimOrlandiniPhotography003_zps3505db11.jpg

Dress: TJMaxx
Shoes: eBay
Necklace: Downeast Basics
Earrings: Maurices

I coordinated my son’s outfit with his little sister’s dress by putting him in teal jeans. He coordinates with his dad through his burgundy shirt and the gray in his sweater, and I pull the blue from his sweater to coordinate with me and his sister.

 photo DressingforFamilyPhotoswithKimOrlandiniPhotography001_zpsc671518f.jpg

Cardigan: H&M
Shirt: eBay
Shoes: Ross
Pants: Macy’s

Finally, I coordinated my husband with my son’s outfit by putting him in a burgundy cardigan and pulled out some of the brown from my dress to coordinate with what I was wearing.

 photo DressingforFamilyPhotoswithKimOrlandiniPhotography005_zps0377fd05.jpg

Shirt, cardigan and pants: H&M
Shoes: Brazil

3. Layer: Here you can see all of our outfits together. Layers are flattering and can often hide “flaws” we may feel that we have. A cardigan will cover extra cleavage or flabby arms, or hide a bit of post pregnancy weight. Layering looks very nice in photos and allows an extra level of coordinating options.

 photo DressingforFamilyPhotoswithKimOrlandiniPhotography006_zpsde2d6158.jpg

4. Accessorize: By accessorizing you can put the finishing touch on your photos. Just like layering helps us hide our flaws, a great statement necklace can bring the eye to your face, or a great pair of heels can give your calves a little bit of extra umph and elongation to your legs, a very feminine touch. Add a little headband to your girls, and if their ears are pierced choose a pretty pair of earrings to help coordinate with their outfit or someone else’s.

Other ideas to accessorize? A great watch on your hubby, a pretty belt to cinch in that waist (I promise you will look 10 lbs slimmer), or a great scarf. Most important? Have fun! Remember to chill out and relax. A stressed out, yelling mama doesn’t make anyone happy. Promise your man a delicious dinner (and dessert *wink*) as a reward for his good attitude and cooperation. Promise your kids an extra song and book at bedtime for their smiley faces during photo time.

Remember to be the real you. Love on your kids, tickle them, and squish them, most importantly, remember that they are kids. They might cry…embrace it. They might not smile, so what? Remember that this time is the time you want to take to capture the real them, the real you, not the “look at the camera and say ‘Cheese!'” them.

Kiss your man passionately, take family photo time as a way to remember how much you loved one another the day you got married.

Think happy thoughts and your love and happiness will shine right through into your photos.

Kim OrlandiniKim Orlandini is a dear friend of mine (in fact all the guest posts this week are from dear friends…I’m extremely blessed that way). She takes some of the most beautiful photos I’ve ever seen. And I’m so not exaggerating. Her birth stories make me wish I were pregnant again—at least for 5 1/2 seconds. She will be taking our family photos in October and I can hardly wait. (I’m hoping she’ll coordinate our outfits as well.)

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

21 Responses Post a comment
  1. September 11, 2013

    I already told Kim I wanted her to style my family for photos. Those outfits are perfection.

    I will forever remember when Sabrina had THE BIGGEST BLOW OUT right before pictures. :) Oh, and my favorite picture Kim took was Paul grabbing boobies. LOL.
    Von´s latest ~ VTech® InnoTab 3 Learning App Tablet Review + GIVEAWAY!My Profile


    Emily Hill Reply:

    That is still one of my most very favorites too! My kids always seem to have blowouts just before a baby blessing…
    Emily Hill´s latest ~ Back to school: French bread recipeMy Profile


    Kim Orlandini Reply:

    I WILL style you Von. Let it be done.
    Kim Orlandini´s latest ~ Harry Potter Wand Pencils | TutorialMy Profile


  2. Candise permalink
    September 13, 2013

    Fabulous advice, thanks! We have pictures coming up and this has the wheels in my mind turning. And how I have been friends with Leisha, Lindsey, and Kim for years and somehow missed this blog?!? Alas, dinner will wait – I have some more reading…


    Emily Hill Reply:

    Welcome, Candise! Thanks so much for visiting. We have pictures coming up too and I found the cutest skirt for the 6YO. Now I just need to build the rest of the outfits around it!
    Emily Hill´s latest ~ Back to school: Lunch lady peanut butter barsMy Profile


    Kim Orlandini Reply:

    I love Candise. <3
    Kim Orlandini´s latest ~ Harry Potter Wand Pencils | TutorialMy Profile


  3. September 16, 2013

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Excellent tips that are oh so doable. We have family photos coming up in October and I am a true 80s child in the fact that I adore color. I appreciate you getting my mind brainstorming lots of fun combinations for our family. :)
    Tahnie´s latest ~ My Life Is Awesome. So Is Yours.My Profile


    Emily Hill Reply:

    Yay! So glad it was helpful!


    Kim Orlandini Reply:


    Make sure to link us to your photos when they are done. I LOVE color and want to see!


  4. September 19, 2013

    She’s brilliant.
    Lindsey from´s latest ~ Date Night RulesMy Profile


    Kim Orlandini Reply:

    You’re nice. :)
    Kim Orlandini´s latest ~ Harry Potter Wand Pencils | TutorialMy Profile


  5. September 20, 2013

    You are amazing, Kim. Your tricks work every time. Especially the crazy mom part ;-) I tend to feel like the crazy mom by the time everyone is ready, I’ve redone the hair ten times since they rolled on the ground, stood on their head and wrestled with each other minutes after getting ready. Maybe this mama needs a bribe.
    Leisha´s latest ~ VIVE Weight Loss at ElaseMy Profile


    Emily Hill Reply:

    Kim IS amazing. And every mom needs a bribe now and then. I bribe myself all the time. ;)
    Emily Hill´s latest ~ My Last Days: Meet Zach SobiechMy Profile


  6. September 20, 2013

    These are great tips!! Thank you for sharing, Kim!
    Amy @ The Happy Scraps´s latest ~ Vintage Wedding DecorMy Profile


    Emily Hill Reply:

    Kim is awesome and has the most awesome tips and tricks. For reals.


  7. Amy permalink
    October 20, 2013

    I found this blog post while doing a google search about family photo outfit ideas. I LOVE the toddler girl dress that is from Wal-Mart. Is it old or recent? It would be perfect for my 4 y/o daughter and our color scheme.


    Emily Hill Reply:

    I will have to forward your comment to Kim. I have no idea when she bought it but it sure is cute!


    Emily Hill Reply:

    Okay, I just talked with Kim and here’s what she said:

    As of last week they still had them maybe online? It is actually a shirt from the girl’s section.

    I hope that helps!
    Emily Hill´s latest ~ 15 Halloween kids craftsMy Profile


    Amy Reply:

    You are so sweet! Thank you for the info, that color is out of stock in ever size. =(


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Back to school: French bread recipe - is this REALLY my life? | is this REALLY my life?
  2. Birth stories & the best family photos EVER - is this REALLY my life? | is this REALLY my life?

Leave a Reply

Note: You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

CommentLuv badge