Ken Caryl | Family Photography

June 16, 2016
happy candid portrait of boy in Phoenix Arizona

Family session booked, haircuts looking fresh, reluctant husband on board, weather forecast is looking lovely, mountain location picked.  BUT WHAT WILL WE WEAR?!?!

I have to admit, I am SO glad the days of matching family outfits where everyone wears jeans, tan shoes, and white shirts are in the past.  While there are times in which that look can work… family photos on the beach, anyone!?!… I love that the trend is moving away from matching and more towards expressing personality, showing personal style, and embracing pops of color and patterns.

Not to stress you out, but what you wear to a family photo shoot is the second most important thing when it comes to creating beautiful images and loving your photos (the number one thing being: SMILE AND BE PLAYFUL).  Images are visual (duh), and it’s important to create visual interest through use of colors, layers, textures, and patterns.  You can have a gorgeous backdrop, and the light can be just perfect, and your kids can be adorable… but there’s not a lot I can do if you all show up in black shirts and dark jeans.

Fear not!  I don’t just tell you this and then toss you out on your own to sink or swim.  My clients receive a pretty awesome What to Wear guide when they book with me, and I am available day and night (okay, maybe not night… I have a 6 month old and go to bed at like 8:30 p.m., haha) to give advice.  One of my favorite things about being a family photographer is when I get to step in and be a friend.  Clients often send me emails, text pics, or share Pinterest boards to get feedback on the clothes they’re picking out for their family, and I love this part of my job.  I miss the days of living with 5 girlfriends in college and always having another girl around to help me pick out my shoes, give me advice on what top is the cutest, and even dish out some honesty if a particular pair of pants makes my ass look big.  I think most spouses know better than to open that can of worms… ha!  So, I get excited when clients reach out and let me get involved in their wardrobe selection.

A few of the most important tips I give a family before their photo session include:

*Wear clothes that fit.  Little ones can get swallowed up in clothes that are too big.  Similarly, Dad’s XL baggy shirt can make him look like a boy in man’s clothing.  And I TOTALLY get that a loose dress can feel like it hides our imperfections, but sometimes a great pair of jeans and a fitted top actually make you look slimmer than a bunch of flowing fabric that hangs awkwardly as you bend to pick up your toddler.

*Don’t be scared of color or fun patterns.  Pops of color add interest and make photos fun.  Patterns, when used well, are also a great way to step up your wardrobe game.  If you’re not comfortable in stripes or polka dots, put them on your kids!

*Matching is out.  Coordinating is in.  You don’t all have to wear the same color, and your kids don’t need to be in the same skirt, top, and matching bow.  I feel like the more color, layers, textures, and patterns you use, the more personality and fun shows through in your photos.  If you wear a pink dress, maybe put your son in a pink bow tie or give Dad some pink socks that peek out in a few pictures.   Consider what colors look good together, but avoid putting everyone in the same thing.  You’re a family.  You’re getting family photos together.  We get it.  You don’t have to all match for that idea to come through in your images.

*Consider your surroundings.  Dress for the weather and for the landscape.  A sundress when there is snow on the ground looks a bit absurd.  And a fancy dress and high heels just don’t work if you’re on a dirt trail in the mountains.

*Show off your personality.  I love it when clients take risks and get a little spunky and creative with their outfits.  While you might not wear a tulle skirt on most days, why not take the opportunity to rock one while doing family photos in a cool urban location?  If you’re bold, be bold in your clothing choice.  If you’re fun, go for a fun hat for Dad and suspenders for your kids and spunky shoes for Mom.  If you’re clam and relaxed, pick neutral earth tones, soft textures, and some flowy fabrics.  Whatever you do, just amp it up and add some spice to your everyday attire.

I loved that this fun family went for pops of color to show their spunk, and that Mom went for comfortable yet cute, so that everyone could run and play on our hike in the valley.  The colors and patterns add some personality and interest to their photos… not that these boys needed any help in the personality department.  🙂


What a wonderful family session! You captured some really great moments! That little boy is so happy! Great edits too!

Oh my gosh, I LOVE your active photo style. It captures SO MUCH LOVE! Great article regarding what to wear. Beautiful vibrant family photography!

I too love your active photo style. Especially with two little boys, this is real for them – always on the move! Great family session – so much love!

Lovely session~ And the clothing tips are spot on!

Oh my goodness I love this! The scenery is gorgeous and the family seems so full of joy 🙂

what a beautiful family and awesome tips on what to wear! I love the little boys expressions, priceless!

Love these! And I love when families/ couples embrace color.
Color is where its at!

love these Virginia!! I am so partial to families just having FUN! yay! Great thoughts on all the tips and such too! beautiful!

You are so good at capturing people’s true essence. These photos are amazing and your style is beautiful!!!

I love how you capture their personalities and love for each other so well. Beautiful images.

Great colors and advice!

These are amazing! I love the light and I love all the tips.

This family is so freaking stylish! I love how vibrant and crisp these photos are!