Fall Family Portraits: Your Picture Perfect Clothing Guide

Guest Blog by Julie E. Hedges, Owner JE Hedges Photography, JEHedges.com©2010

Your Picture Perfect Clothing Guide

The autumn season, with its beautiful red, yellow, and orange foliage, is the most popular time of year for Professional Family Portraits. Many families use these images as holiday gifts and inclusion on or in their holiday greeting cards. Your family should have a professional portrait made at least once a year. Sure, dragging Dad to the session and getting the kids ready is a lot of work. However, photographs are the one heirloom that you can’t place a price tag on. Your children, grandchildren, and future family will treasure them always.

Beautiful portraits don’t just happen by accident. They are planned and prepared for with care and precision. It’s important to plan what clothing your family will wear for your portrait session so that the attention is drawn to the faces and not the clothing. You want to appear that you all belong together and share a family bond. Additionally, you want to keep your clothing as simple and classic as possible to minimize dating the portrait quickly. Stay away from clothing fads, wild colors, large clunky jewelry, rubber wristbands, and extreme hair-dos. Check the fingernail polish on all female family members, including children, to ensure it is neat and not chipped. Women should ensure their make-up is just a tad darker than their normal daytime style. Natural mineral style cosmetics photograph the best as they typically don’t settle into wrinkles, minimize pores, and provide you with a flawless finish. Having expressive eyes can be one of the most significant features of facial appearance. The eyes tell a story. With that said, consider natural style false eyelashes or heavier than usual mascara to enhance and draw attention to your best asset.

Picture Perfect Clothing Guide
Image 1 – The family went with dark jeans and black tops. This color scheme provided a uniform appearance. They look like they belong together. They are a family unit.

You want to first select what everyone will wear on their bottoms. From waist down, everyone should wear the same color and type of clothing. Simple black slacks, khakis, or dark dress blue jeans work best for all family members. We always suggest that even the woman and girls wear pants, as skirts and dresses can make certain poses difficult. Ladies should wear solid trousers socks and men solid knee high socks that match your pants. Now is not the time to put on those cool multi-colored zig zag socks.

Picture Perfect Clothing Guide
Image 2 – The family went with khakis and a two-color scheme theme of baby blue for the guys and red for the ladies. This family almost had it right and the two color scheme would have been just fine. However, what is the very first thing your eye is drawn to when viewing this image? The little boy’s baseball jersey in the middle? The khaki overalls on the boy to the right? Their clothing jumps out to the brain that something doesn’t fit with this photo. You want to look at the faces, but your eye keeps going back to the two subjects who are different. This proves how crucial it is that everyone in the family, including the little ones, follows the clothing guidelines.

Once you’ve all decided what to wear on your rear’s, now comes the hard part. From waist up it’s not necessary that everyone wear the same style shirt/blouse. However, staying within the same shade of color is important. For Fall Portraits, you want to select solid darker colors. Reds, Navy Blues, Hunter Greens, and Black are perfect choices. Stay away from whites, pastels, and neon’s. It’s okay to have a multi color scheme, such as the women/girls in red and the men/boys in blue, but limit your selections to no more than two solid complimentary colors. Please ensure that each person’s clothing matches in season; one person should not be in a short sleeved polo and the other in a turtleneck winter sweater. Additionally, avoid patterns, prints, stripes, plaids, polka-dots, floral, damask, paisley, sassafras lass, and checks… keep it SOLID.

Picture Perfect Clothing Guide
Image 3 – The family went with jeans and navy tops. This color scheme provided a uniform appearance. They look like they belong together. They are a family unit.

Women and men both look great in soft long sleeved v-necks or collarless shirts/blouses/sweaters that lay properly so the neck is exposed. You will want to avoid wearing turtlenecks that make double chins more prominent. The less skin, the better though. Avoid sleeveless shirts and blouses where your arm will compete with your face for attention. If you are on the busty side, avoid button down shirts at all costs so that you’re not fidgeting with a gap across your bust line during the session.

Picture Perfect Clothing Guide
Image 4 – The family went with black slacks and red tops. This image is almost perfect. Two items that need tweaking: The smallest baby gets lost in her clothing. All we see is a head. Also, the grandfather is wearing a different shade of red from all other family members. Although everyone was in the same color scheme, this shows how a shade difference can cause someone to slightly stand out. Overall though, this family looks like they belong together. They are a family unit.

Children’s attire should be free of prints, characters, and slogans which can be distracting and can date the image quickly. Avoid outfits with straps that can fall down, such as overalls or jumpers. For the littlest ones who are unable to sit up on their own, keep it very, very simple. Although those multi-piece outfits and flowing dresses are adorable, avoid dressing your baby in layers where he or she can get lost in the outfit and appear to have no neck. Too much fabric looks frumpy. Your baby will look much cuter in a solid colored fitted long sleeve bodysuit (like a Onesies®) and a solid pair of pants that closely match what the adults are wearing. Children’s footwear should be clean and of neutral earth tone colors. Mary Jane’s for girls and loafers for boys work best. Please avoid white, bright, or multi-colored sneakers. At the very minimum your non-walking babies should have on solid colored socks that match their pants.

As a Professional Photographer, the request I hear most frequently is “Can you make me look thin?” I’m with you. I wish I could magically airbrush fifty pounds off each morning I look in the mirror. Unfortunately, Professional Photographers, although fantastic at what we do… are not magicians. If you are on the heavy side, be sure to wear clothing that fits you properly. Keep in mind that no one can see the size on your label. However, they can see when your clothes fit too tightly. Purchase your portrait clothing based on comfort. While in the dressing room, be sure to sit down in front of the mirror while wearing the potential outfit. Does the fabric pull too tightly across your bust or scoop down too low showing too much? Does the fabric go in, around, and outline your belly curves? Do the pants fit too tightly pushing your belly up causing the “muffin top”? If the answers are yes to any of these questions… go up to the next size or chose another style of shirt or pants. In my experience darted knits and sweaters work best for heavy set women. Sweater vests over long sleeved button down shirts with the top button undone work best for heavy set men. When your clothes fit comfortably, you’ll be more confident and have a much more enjoyable portrait experience.

Image 5 – Did you get lost? We’ve got contrasting colors from blacks, to whites, to pinks, blues, leopard print, floral prints, strips, plaids, white shoes, black shoes, nude legs… you name it… it is all wrong. When a family doesn’t follow clothing guidelines, you get a rainbow of contrasting colors and prints. Your eyes are unable to focus on the faces due to all the action of patterns going on around each face. Each person appears as an individual who just jumped in the photo. No two individuals look like they go together.

Finally, if you normally wear eyeglasses, understand your Professional Photographer will control the reflections to the best of his or her ability by adjusting your pose. However, sometimes it’s impossible to completely eliminate your glasses’ glare. Glare in your glasses can hide your beautiful eyes and the lenses may distort your cheekbones. It’s best to consider removing your glasses for your professional portrait. You may also speak with your Optometrist about loaning you a pair of frames with no lenses for your portrait. Most eyeglass stores provide this service with a simple deposit that is refunded upon return of the frames.

In conclusion, if all goes well, with proper clothing choices and everyone relaxed, the magic is created by your Professional Photographer who brings location, lighting, composition, and expression together for that perfect picture. Pick up the phone, call your Professional Photographer today to schedule your Fall Family Portraits, go shopping, and have fun! Happy Holidays!

This article has been registered with the
United States Copyright Office, Case 1-502288021, Ref 1-8B1RXS.
Duplication and/or Publication without permission is strictly prohibited.
For use, please contact Julie E. Hedges, JE Hedges Photography,
(706) 563-1761, or [email protected] for duplication/publication use.

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