Amy Sayre Photography | Chicago Family Photographer | What Not To Wear

Chicago Family Photographer | What Not To Wear

July 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

In the back and forth of email communications leading up to a shoot, I exchange a lot of information with my clients. But time and time again, there is one question I can almost guarantee my clients are going to ask. It's the question I get asked more often than any other question.

And that question is what the heck should we wear? But maybe they don't say heck.

And it's a great question. I have been known on occasion to try on four different outfits on a Tuesday morning before being OK with walking out my front door. So when you are the subject of photos that will hopefully be displayed in your home for many, many years, it makes sense to give some thought to what you and your family should wear.

I have a few tried and true tips that I like to share with anyone who asks about their clothing options. And they go a little something like this.


First, you want your photos to hang in your home, yes? Trick question. You better! If you're looking to fill your walls with images from your shoot, the first thing you should do is find a wall in your house and then survey that room. Take note of the style of that room and the colors already in it. If that room is decorated in a minimalist style with only blacks, whites and cool blues, you probably don't want to dress everyone in busy browns, yellows and reds. Your home should dictate to some degree your clothing choices.

Now I didn't pick my wedding colors to match my bedroom. This bedroom was painted after I got married, but knowing that my bedroom was going to be a mix of greys, greens and yellows, these photo selections made perfect sense with my decor.


There is a whole science to color matching which I won't get into here. To boil it down, colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel (red and green, blue and orange and yellow and purple) are complimentary colors. But most people don't want to dress their family in only primary colors, and who wants to take family photos in July wearing red in green? So don't think in strict primary color terms. There are variations of those color families that work really well. Think aqua and peach instead of orange and blue. Colors right next to one another on the color wheel also are pleasing to the eye (green and blue, orange and yellow, red and purple, etc.).

Some common colors I suggest for family shoots are:

  • Yellow and lime green
  • Violet and lemon
  • Aqua and peach
  • Pink and navy
  • Aqua and lilac
  • Lime green and teal

Honestly, a wonderful source of inspiration for great color schemes is any home decor magazine. Often times the rooms that your eyes are naturally drawn to in a photo have color schemes that are really pleasing to the eye.


Dressing for larger groups can be a bit more challenging. When you choose complimentary colors, it can get a bit busy having a bunch of different color sets. What I often suggest for large groups is picking one common color and having everyone dress in it. With the one common color, you tend to get a bit more monochromatic look, but with some variation in patterns and textures.

This group of 12 all chose to wear blue.

This group of 11 all chose to wear white.

I think both color sets are effective because everyone matches without having the clan look of everyone wearing the exact same thing.


If you are going to go for one common color for everyone, I would caution you not to base a shoot around the color red. Reds are the most challenging color for cameras to read. They tend to get saturated and blown out very easily. Reds as pops of color are great. My favorite accessories (shoes, necklaces, earrings) are red. But five red shirts are a nightmare to edit. Not to mention, having a red cast on your face isn't the the most flattering hue. Whether or not you realize it, the colors you put near your face can leave a color cast. So no red shirts. Please. 


The other thing is to avoid anything too trendy or busy. I don't care how much your daughter loves Justin Bieber at the moment. In a few years, photos of her wearing her favorite Bieber-mania shirt are going to look dated. You're spending the investment on custom photography, so make sure it lasts. Wearing clothing that years from now will be "SO 2013!" is the quickest way to ensure your photos will not have a timeless feel.

And if your daughter absolutely will not participate in the photo shoot unless she can wear her Justin Bieber shirt, that's fine. Let her bring it. I'll snap a few shots of her wearing it. But then for family photos, I'll suggest bringing a different shirt to change into.


That leads well into my next tip. Dress you family in layers. Layers allow for options, and options allow for a greater variety of photos within the same shoot. Not to mention, you get great textures when you layer and good texture makes for good photos. Shayla below will demonstrate.

Another reason for layers? Kids are messy. When they fall down and scrape their knee or sneeze and wipe it on their shirt, it never hurts to have a backup.

I recently photographed my friends son less than a week before his second birthday. He had an adorable little happy birthday shirt that I thought was completely appropriate for this session, but I knew wouldn't be necessarily as timeless. My suggestion was to bring a second shirt that was a little more muted and classic. The photos below were taken within 10 minutes of one another, within 50 feet of one another and yet they could have been taken at two completely different shoots.

The happy birthday shirt would have been a little to busy for the already busy flower background, and the plaid shirt wouldn't have made as much sense against the concrete and dark door. But bringing just one extra shirt allowed me to get a lot more than I would have with either one.


I love talking clothes, so when you schedule a shoot with me, we can and will absolutely go over clothing options. And if you have a Pinterest board (another great source of inspiration) feel free to share it with me. We'll figure this out together. But please don't stress. Just know that even if your entire family shows up in red Justin Bieber T-shirts, you always have the option to print you photos in black and white. And black and white photos will never go out of style.



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