family photo

Wardrobe Guide

What to wear for Family Photos

from Apollo & Ivy Photography

De-stressing Wardrobe

I hear from my families over and over that deciding what to wear is the most stressful part of family photos.

And I agree, actually. I dread styling my own family for photos.

So you know what? I’m not going to give you a bunch of recommended color combos.* You can go to Pinterest for that.

You also don’t need me yappin’ at you to wear stuff that’s way outside your comfort zone.


What I am going to tell you is some basics on choosing clothes for your fam.

I’ll share the do’s and don’ts.

Guidelines on choosing items that photograph well.

And you can take it from there.


Above all, for your photos, I want you to feel good. That means being comfortable, so remember that. If you’re uncomfortable as all get-out, it’ll show. If your kids are pissed about wearing “hard pants,” they’ll be a lot less likely to laugh and have fun. And you won’t get the photos you really want.

So let’s get to it.

*If you really want color combos, some ideas are here.


Ladies, if you’re cool with it, look for a long dress or maxi skirt for your photos.

They are flattering on pretty much every size of woman, and photograph really well.

Some of my favorite places to find dresses are Joyfolie, Baltic Born, and even Amazon.

Need ideas? This dress is super cute, comes in tons of colors, and flatters lots of body types. This one is another fave from the same brand.


Texture is often overlooked, but it has a big impact. Ensure at least one item in your family’s wardrobe is varying texture than the rest. Think chunky knit cardigans (I love these over a dress!), lace skirts and tops, and velvet.


For littles in diapers, pick clothes that won’t show the diaper. A dress with bloomers underneath, or a onesie that snaps down below are two options to keep diapers out of sight.


Every kiddo is unique, and their wardrobe should reflect that! Look for ways to weave in their individuality: a rocket ship T-shirt, a subtle dinosaur print shirt, a sweet hair bow, etc. Dress children uniquely—even twins.



Ditch the smart watch (or any big watch). They’re SUPER distracting in photos. Worried about a watch tan? No worries; I’ll remove it when editing your photos. (Take those hair ties off your wrist, too!) 

prints to avoid

Avoid clothing with thin stripes or very small checkered print. Cameras read these prints poorly and it can create a color effect called moire that’s difficult (sometimes impossible) to remove.


Thick stripes should be in very small doses, on only the smallest family members, or avoided altogether.


Pay special attention to the details! Adding in a scarf, vest, statement necklace, bold earrings, headband, or a hat can provide the perfect amount of punch to any outfit.


The best shooting locations rarely have solid ground. Wear shoes that you can move around in, and make sure any heels are chunky (not spiky).

makeup & lashes

Ladies: wear your makeup 15-20% darker than normal. It will help add depth and contouring. Lash extensions and false eyelashes draw attention to your eyes and photograph well.


Dirty eyeglasses are easy to miss, especially on kiddos. Make sure glasses are clean and smudge-free. If anyone in your family wears lenses that darken in the sun, they’ll need to remove them for our session. 


  • Avoid neon colors. They cast colors on skin and can be a big distraction anywhere in an image. (Watch for neon stripes on kiddos’ shoes!)
  • Black and white in very small doses. No black head-to-toe.
  • These colors in moderation: cardinal red, royal blue, kelly green, canary yellow, and bright orange. 
  • Only one family member can wear all-black bottoms (you’ll end up with what I call “leg blob” if those 2 stand next to each other). Same goes with an all-black top.
  • Creams, browns, and tans are impossible to screw up and will never go out of style!
  • The goal is to coordinate, not match. That means everyone wearing the same two colors is going to look really cheesy.
  • Dad’s shoulders are usually the broadest in the family, so avoid bold/bright solid colors on him. 


  • The best ensembles mix and match solids and patterns. If mixing patterns gives you hives, use this trick: vary the SCALE.
  • A pattern’s scale refers to the size of the repeating elements.

Small scale: Hard to tell what the print is made of unless you’re up close.

Medium scale: In most photos you can tell what it is.

Large scale: Easy to see what it’s made of.

Some examples:

family photo outfits guide
  • Mom’s dress: medium scale
  • Daughter’s dress: large scale
family photo outfits guide
  • Mom’s jacket: large scale
  • Daughter’s shirt: medium scale
family photo outfits guide
  • Mom’s dress: small scale
  • Daughter’s dress: medium scale, but it’s a bit too small. You can see how they compete a bit. An even bigger scale would have worked more seamlessly.
Family of 4 at sunset
  • Baby’s jumper: Small scale
  • If you’re unsure about mixing patterns, keep it simple: one person in a print is a great plan.

Let’s talk about hair.

Long-haired adults: leave it down and let it fly! A breeze in your locks adds movement and looks awesome.

That said, if you really hate your hair down, go with what makes you comfortable.

For my long-haired dudes, we can do some with your hair down and some with it ponytailed, if you’re cool with that.



  • Being able to see faces is important. If your child’s hair has a tendency to fall over their eyes and face, you might use a small bow to pin back a small front piece (no JoJo Siwa bows; think 4″ or less).
  • If bows are a non-starter, tuck back a front piece with a hidden bobby pin.
  • If both bows and bobby pins are a hard pass, we’ll just do some “tuck behind the ears” action during the session.
Family photo wardrobe in bold colors

for in-home sessions

In-home lifestyle sessions (family and newborn) have a vibe all their own.

  • Think comfortable! Many lifestyle at-home sessions feature jeans, tees, sock feet… chill and laid-back is the feel.
  • Fit the setting. What you’re wearing needs to feel natural for the environment.
  • Avoid stiff fabrics, too-tight clothing, and anything too fancy.
  • Some ideas: Sweaters, cardigans, leggings, sweatshirts… just be comfortable.


If you’re ready to throw in the towel, I got you!

OPTION 1, TEAMWORK: Let’s find you items that work well and photograph beautifully!

OPTION 2, OUTSOURCE: I’ll connect you with a local stylist who will suggest specific items to buy for a small styling fee. Wham-bam, done.

Email me to get started with either one!

Color Combos for Family Photos

Need some color and pattern inspiration? I pulled together some of my favorites.

Textures, patterns, colors, fit, and fabric can convey tone, emotion, and feeling (more about that here). 

Jewel Tones + Neutrals

I’m a jewel tone girl, and bonus: these colors work really well with my editing style.

Why it works

  • PATTERNS. Multiple patterns, but each is a different scale.
  • TEXTURE. The velvet bow in sister’s hair provided texture and color.
  • KEEP WARM. Clever wardrobe additions kept everyone warm. Vests, tights, long underwear, undershirts, and scarves are easy to add on.
  • FRAME IT UP. Hats add interest and frame faces beautifully.
Family photo jewel tones
Family photo in blue yellow gold navy

Creek Stompin’

Why it works

  • START WITH THE QUEEN. That dress on Mom flatters her curves perfectly! When choosing wardrobe, start with mom’s outfit and work from there. Mom should feel smokin’ hot on picture day.
  • MIXED PATTERNS. The dress and jumper.
  • NEUTRAL DUDE. It works well to dress Dad in neutral colors. His are usually the broadest shoulders of the family, and if he’s wearing the boldest brightest color, it can easily be too much.

Simple Blues

Navy is a color that pulls double duty: it’s both vivid and neutral.

Why it works

  • MONOCHROMATIC WITH A POP. The aqua blue is a great accent, and as little bro’s shirt, it’s in just the right proportion.
  • WARM NEUTRALS. Grays and browns can absolutely be used together.
  • MIX UP YOUR SOLIDS. Dad’s heathered shirt provides needed visual texture because of the solids on everyone else. 
Family in blues and neutrals
Family photo wardrobe in grays and navy

Textured Simple Blues

Mom absolutely nailed texture in this simple but classic take on blue, gray and cream.

Why it works

  • TEXTURE. Look at the variety of textures: the velvet dress, chunky-knit scarf, and gray sweater. It’s perfect and photographed beautifully.
  • NOVEMBER COLORS. Mom knew that November photos would mean brown, brown, brown! Her blue-and-gray palette provided great contrast with the backdrop. 
Family photo in blue yellow gold navy

Singin’ the Blues

Blues and yellows are gorgeous in spring, summer, and early fall, especially against Iowa’s summer greens. 

Why IT works

  • MOVEMENT AND MOOD. Loose-fitting, flowy dresses are comfy and give movement to photos.
  • SUBTLE PRINTS. Baby girl’s jumper.
  • WHITE IN MODERATION. I usually recommend avoiding stark white, but it worked well here.
Family in red, greens

Be Bold with Color

Neutrals are a good fallback, but they can make for some boring photos. Be bold with that color!

Why it works

  • COLOR IN PROPORTION. Mom’s cardigan is the boldest color of the bunch, and she wisely kept it to one clothing item. The brighter the color, the less there should be of it across the whole family.
  • MIXED PATTERNS AND PRINTS. All very different, but they just work.
  • WATCH OUT FOR… small checkered prints. This pattern was big enough to avoid that funky visual effect, but small checkers wreak havoc on cameras.

Laugh Factory

This family’s bold colors really popped against the fall leaves without looking obnoxious.

Why it works

  • FEEL GOOD, LOOK GOOD. This family is right at home in their jeans, so they stuck with it for photos. You can feel how comfortable they are.
  • COLOR IN MODERATION. Magenta in one clothing item.
  • WATCH OUT FOR… bright orange. It can cast an orange glow on faces, especially when family members snuggle up close.
Family photo wardrobe in bold colors