Outfit Guide for Family Portraits

April 29, 2020

How to choose outfits for your upcoming family portrait session.

It all starts with you Mama!

First off, decide if you’re going to wear a dress. Not sure? Here’s a short list of why you should:

Dresses work REALLY WELL for all different figures, are comfortable, and function well for a portrait session.

If that doesn’t sell you on the idea, keep reading.

Here’s what to look for in a great dress:

The cut of the dress. You’re going to want a dress that cinches around your mid section, preferably right under the chest area. This allows for a distinct separation from chest to gown, which is really important to maintain a feminine shape, even if you’re carrying a little extra in your tummy area. Most maternity dresses are designed like this to allow the extra material to flow over the belly, but also flatter a belly that doesn’t have a baby in it!

Sleeves. Many women are concerned with how their arms look in Maternity dress with sleevesphotos. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the best shape of your life or like most of us, your arms are not your main concern. When an arm is pressed up against something like your body, it’ll appear 4x bigger than it actually is. This is true when holding a baby or even holding onto your partners arm when posing. Covering your arms with sleeves takes care of this issue. It’s that easy. I recommend wearing long sleeves or if it’s summer 3/4 sleeves. Bell sleeves and ruffled sleeves also photograph really well!

The length of the dress. Midi or maxi, high-low or just above the knee, you’re going to want a dress with a good amount of length to it. Long flowy dresses are a God-sent for family portraits and here’s why. Unless you’re a super model and do this for a living, no one is expecting you to look like one!! So drop the, “Ugh I wish I had…” act. You are BEAUTIFUL just as you are, it’s ultimately what you wear that will help you feel that truth. During a portrait session you might be chasing your little ones through a field, snuggling them up in your arms, laying with them on a blanket in the grass or swinging them around in the evening light. You’re going to want an outfit that is going to function as you need it to. A short dress just will not work and here’s why: if you need to squat down (very common pose for when you have toddlers to get down to their level) you’ll have to kneel to the side so we don’t see up your dress, and if the fabric doesn’t cover your full thigh, the pressure of your leg bending together, kneeling down can create bumps and bulges that you’re going to wish weren’t there!! Plus long flowy dresses photograph very beautifully when backlit, same as loose curls in your hair.

The print and type of material. This is a very important topic. I’ll White lace dressalways recommend a light, neutral floral print. It makes coordinating outfits a breeze, but there are a few things to watch out for. Firstly, we want to avoid bright colors, distracting patterns, logos and text at all costs. We want the portraits to be timeless so you’ll love them on your wall forever. But if you happen to fall in love with a tighter, stretchy dress well-known for maternity photos, you’re going to want to consider a body suit of some sort. Although, these dresses are beautiful, comfortable and show off your belly bump they can do you dirty. Pretty much anything you’re wearing underneath will show wear the elastic of the garment is tightest on your body. So a bra, underwear and leggings will create lines and bumps that you’re not going to want to see! Yes I can photoshop them out but do I want to? Not a chance. My goal is to get the photos to be the very best they can be in camera to decrease my edit time and therefore send you the images in a timely fashion. Imagine having to edit lines out of every.single.photo for 50+ photos that might take 5-10 minutes a photo! AHHH!!!

Shoes? You can’t go wrong with flat sandals. If you’re dress covers your feet, it’s just another reason to wear something comfortable and simple. Don’t stress out over this. If we know we’ll be shooting somewhere that involved a lot of walking, be mindful of it. If you know you won’t last very long in flat sandals, bring sneakers and you can kick them off in between locations. But for the most part, your feet may not even show in the photos, especially if you’re standing in grass.

Do I need any accessories? Nope not really, unless you want to bring a more stylish bag to hold onto in the photos and doubles for carrying your phones, a water bottle and a snack if you think you’ll need it! I do recommend wearing some dainty jewelry if you have. A little sparkle can photograph really well. Earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets can really take close up shots to the next level. Totally up to you though!

Here is a list of websites that have gorgeous dresses you can check out!


Dad’s are actually pretty easy when you tell them ahead of time what they’ll be wearing isn’t too much different than what they would normally wear.

Shorts or pants? Ask yourself this, how hairy are his legs and would it potentially it interfere with the photos. Most guys’ leg hair isn’t that distracting so they can totally get away with wearing shorts. But if you know he has an abundance of dark leg hair, make the right call. Either way, keep it neutral. Earth tones, gray or navy blue are always safe. Jeans or flat material? That’s up to you. Jean material has a bit more texture that might photograph better than flat material if he has a child on his lap but other than that, either it’s fair game.
maternity photography
A simple button up shirt is classic, timeless and guaranteed to photograph well.  Extra points if the sleeves can be cuffed and rolled up mid forearm, but that’s just me being hyper-specific. maternity photography
– Okay, but what Color?
Pick a color from the pattern on your dress
B) Pick another solid,  lighter color.

Pick out a pair of brown loafer/clog/boot type of shoe. Absolutely no sneakers, beat up work boots, or shiny black dress shoes. we’re focusing on timeless remember… Need a pair? Click the photo to buy online.

Accessories? If your guy has a thing for his watch, let him wear it. If he wears a chain, wear it in all the glory. Other than that, I cannot think of anything else your man should be wearing that won’t be a distraction.

If you’re only styling for two, congratulations! You’ve successfully made it through your styling training and have earned the passage to shop! If you have kids, keep reading…


You’re doing great. Keep it up! Let’s not veer too far off course, you’re almost there. Keep your kids outfits simple, I repeat SIMPLE! Let me remind you why you’re reading this in the first place to reinforce it, because you have a strong desire for beautiful, timeless portraits of your family and your sweet angel babies. You want yourself and your family to look the very best they can in order to achieve this.

We’re at an outfit intersection and need to be sure we’re making the right decisions to ensure out outfits won’t clash!

If you chose all solid colors for you and dad, follow this guide:boys overalls

Boys: Overalls are the perfect way to add more variety to the styles you’re already wearing and can really hit a home run towards timeless. Add a simple white t-shirt or onesie underneath. Depending on the season, choose from corduroy, linen, cotton or jean material.

Girls: White dress and leggings are always a win. girls white dress

If you chose a print for your dress, follow this guide:

Boys: I will recommend overalls again but jeans/shorts and a t-shirt work fine too. If you love the look of overalls on a child like I do, try to find overalls in one of the colors from the print of your dress.

Girls: Again, a white dress is always going to be a win but choosing a color from the pattern of your dress will really help bring all the colors of the palette together when photographed collectively as a group.

Here are a few links to check out for great kid’s clothes:

Take Action!

First, take a look in everyone’s closet and see if you already have any of these items that might work. If not, see what’s in stores close to where you live. If you know you get over-whelmed in stores especially when you have your children with you, make arrangements for someone to watch them so you can go on your own. But if you’re comfortable ordering outfits online, do you best to be distraction free! If you’re ordering online, be sure to do this 3-4 weeks before your scheduled shoot date that way you have time to send things back if they don’t fit!! This guide is supposed to help you minimize department store meltdowns the day before your photoshoot. Give yourself the time, you deserve that!!

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re feeling stuck and need help! This is a bigger task than it seems and I want to do everything in my power possible to make sure everyone is as ready as they can me!!
Send me an email hello@sweetmelissaphoto.com

Melissa xo

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