How to Style Your Family Portrait Sessions

Family portraits are such a special memory.  They preserve moments in time that you will never get back.  They also preserve fashion disasters, cheesy props, and hideous hairdos.  You know it’s true! So how do you avoid ending up on Awkward Family Photos (besides skipping all-demin jumpsuits) and look like someone just pinned you on Pinterest? 

My friend Whitney, who owns Whitney Scheibel Photography, recently snapped a couples/family photo session for us.  I’m absolutely in love with her work, and especially loved the way our shoot turned out.  I thought this was a perfect opportunity to answer a question I get asked alot–how do you style a family portrait?

How to Style Your Family Portraits

The secret to the perfect family photo is not to be too matchy-matchy.  Matching is okay.  It’s when you go for that perfect color match that you’ve crossed the line–unless it’s UK blue, and then you’re doing just fine!
Start with an anchor piece.  An anchor piece is that one piece of clothing that you just have to have in the photos.  In my experience, this usually ends up being a shirt.  You will create your entire family’s wardrobe around this anchor piece, and it ties the whole “look” together.
Base your color palette off of the anchor piece.  For example, if you choose a shirt for your child that has navy and maroon stripes, then navy and maroon are going to be your main color palette. If you are taking a 3+ people photograph, then mix the colors however.  This means that you can have mom wear a maroon dress and dad wear a navy gingham button-down.  If you have a 2 person photoshoot, such as with some of the pictures of just Chauncey and I, make sure the other person’s shirt picks up the accent color in the anchor piece.  Here, our anchor piece is an ivory shirt with black polka dots, so Chauncey dressed in a black shirt to pick up on the polka dots.

Make use of accent colors.  If your anchor piece is bright, then make sure to use neutral accents.  If your anchor piece is neutral in tone, then use bright accents.  Since our anchor piece was neutral, I accented with a moss green vest above, and then Kane and I accented with orange shirts below.  You can also throw in accent colors by using scarves, bowties, bows, jewelry, etc.

Same color tones, not exact same shades.  When you’re building your look around your anchor piece, please don’t try to match every shade exactly.  Here, Kane and I are both in orange shirts, but mine was brighter and more vivid, while his was more of a pumpkin orange.

Use props that are everyday items and that look natural in the setting.  Here, we pulled out my blanket scarf to add some extra pop to the shoot.

Make sure your clothing is comfortable.  If you put someone in itchy material or something too tight, they will be pulling at their clothes the entire time and the poses will look forced. 
These photos were taken at Jacobson Park in Lexington, Kentucky.  Whitney was such an amazing photographer!  She had great ideas and was very patient with Kane.  I was so pleased with these photos because they perfectly capture life with a toddler–always on the move!  You can check out the rest of our session on Whitney’s blog, and be sure to visit Whitney’s photography website as well!
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