As a professional family photographer, one of the most common questions I get from client is, “What should we wear?” It can be really stressful trying figure out your family’s wardrobe for photos. It is really easy to get bogged down by the details.

Which shade of blue should she wear with that shade of yellow?

Can we really mix stripes with plaid?

I really want to wear this dress, but nobody in my family has anything to match!

There are so many “What to Wear” guides out there, and so many resources available, if you know where to search. Check out the links at the end of this blog to see a couple more helpful resources.

Believe it or not, I also struggle with what to wear for my own family photos. Because I am the hardest person in my family to dress for photos, I always start with my outfit. Then we pick outfits for everyone else around that.

Over the years, I have seen some pretty amazing ensembles from my clients. I have created a list of helpful tips that I believe make planning easier. Hopefully this makes the process a little less complicated as you plan for your photo sessions this fall.

All of the outfits in this blog are outfits I feel look great together.

Stay True to You, and Dress It Up a Little

You know your style better than anyone. You know what looks good on you, what feels good, and what is comfortable. This guide is based on my personal opinions about what fits together, but you may have totally different ideas of what looks great for you and your family. Go with your style, and don’t change it if you have it figured out!

Dress it up a little more than you normally would for everyday wear. You want to look your best in photos, right? Add a little flare to your photos with accessories if you like. Make sure your outfits are clean and ironed. A little bit of effort goes a long way to having beautiful photos.

Start by looking in your closet first. Find the outfits that fit and feel right on you. It is easier than buying totally new outfits, especially during a pandemic. If you can't find the right outfit in you closet, then browse online. Start at the stores you like the best. I always start at Old Navy and Gap, because my entire family likes the styles and fits. We can get harmonious outfits with layers and accessories all at one place!

Adding accessories can add a lot to your photos. It doesn't have to be jewelry, if that isn't your bag. However, scarves, belts, boots and hair accessories can go a long way.

And don't forget about your feet! Shoes can make or break a great photo. Unless you are getting family photos done in your favorite baseball team jerseys, don't wear your everyday sneakers. Stick with casual, dress shoes, boots or sandals.

Creating Your Color Palette and Finding Shades that Fit

For me, this is the most enjoyable part of the process. I love looking through color palettes and textures for photos. I do this for most of my photography, especially when choosing and making props and backdrops for my newborns. This is also my favorite part of quilting, which is why I have three drawers full of fabric...

If you are having your photos done outside during the fall, especially during the peak of fall colors, you don’t want you outfits to compete with your background. Choose color combinations that compliment each other, and harmonize with the background.

You can choose dark and rich colors like maroon, plum, navy, burnt orange and teal for fall photos. Not only do these colors look great in fall, but they are also very versatile.

Darker colors look great with fall foliage, as well as city landscapes. Darker colors pretty much go with anything!

Or you can choose lighter and softer shades of yellows, corals, purples, blues and greens.

Lighter colors bring out the darker colors in the fall backgrounds, and make things look a little softer.

You can mix your lighter and darker colors also. Just pay attention to the tones, and make sure they are in harmony.

Neutrals are also very popular for fall. White, gray, tan, muted greens, browns and blacks all look great with most fall backgrounds and can also be very versatile.

Keep in mind there may still be a lot of green in the background. Even though the trees may be bursting with color, green is usually very abundant in the environment.

Go easy on the black and bright red.

I myself love black clothing and I wear black almost everyday. It is my dominant color!

Black is slimming.

Black goes well with almost everything.

Black is easy to accessorize with.

Black never goes out of style. It is a classic color and looks great on almost everyone.

Black is a powerhouse color. It is dominating and usually the first thing your eyes are drawn to.

If you background is dark and moody, black can darken the feel of your photos,

Use black as either an accent color or an accessory. If you want to wear it as a main color, break it up with layers or lighter accent colors.

Red is another powerhouse color. I think of that scarlet lipstick I was always too afraid to wear. Red draws in your eyes and doesn't let go.

I love red. In my mind, it is the most dominant color.

If you want red in your family photos, by all means, do it! However, do it as an accent color. Keep it small, and try to even it out.

When picking your color palette, think about what you will do with the photos when you receive them. If you plan on getting prints to hang on your wall, consider your home decor as well. Look around your home and try to match colors that compliment your home decor.

Pick one or two main colors to build around. Add colors that don't clash with, or overpower the main colors. Too many colors can be distracting and overwhelming.

Not enough colors can also be challenging. You don't want everyone to match 100%. If you plan on having some matching outfits, throw in some color or a pattern, or wear some colorful accessories to break it up and add depth.

There is so much to know about color and color harmony… We could do an entire collage course on the subject. However, Peak Week is fast approaching and we don’t have that kind of time. Just know, there are a few different roads to color harmony.

If you have the time and are interested in color harmony, watch these short videos from the amazing Canadian quilter Karen Brown. She pretty much rocks my world right now! The videos are about color and quilting, but the concept of color harmony applies to planning your outfits also. It’s very universal information.

Here are some of the trending color palettes.

Cool Color Palettes for Fall

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Warm Color Palettes for Fall

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Neutral Color Palette for Fall

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Give you closet a look though, and pull out clothes in some of these color palettes. Mix colors around and see how you feel about them. If none of these color palettes work for you, check out this tool from Coolers to see more trending palettes or generate a color scheme of you own.

Uniformity versus Matching

Some matching is great, and can add depth and character to your photos. However, matching everyone's outfit exactly the same can be very overwhelming in photos.

There are ways to match outfits and have it look great. I absolutely love  Mommy and Me outfits that match.

Just be careful not to overdo it.

Patterns, Textures and Layers

Patterns are great for photos. They can add relativity and depth to your photos. Include at least one pattern or texture to spice up the scene. Make sure your patterns and textures are not competing with each other. Some people say only one pattern. I say use your best judgement and see what looks great.

Big florals look great with small stripes, polka dots, plaid and other linear or uniform patterns.

I love stripes because they are very versatile. They look good with many different patterns.  

The above photo was a newborn session done in the studio, but I love their outfits. I would never have thought to mix small patterns together, but this family nailed it! Not only are the colors amazing together, the patterns go well together also.

Adding different textures to your outfits is a great way to add flare to your photos. Add a fuzzy sweater or textured scarf or shawl to your outfits and see where it takes you.

Layer your outfits for depth and for comfort. Fall weather in Wisconsin is unpredictable. I was wearing a tank top yesterday, and today I am bundled up in a big sweater!  It is better to be prepared for weather changes.

Plus, adding a vest or cardigan can add so much to your photos.

It seems like a lot of information to consider, but it can be easy. Check out Pinterest to find outfits that match your color scheme and go from there. Bring layers and accessories to add to your outfits. If you need extra advice, contact your photographer. She will be happy to help!