Dress to Impress for Your Fall Mini Sessions!

I never realized how much dread goes into coordinating outfits for family pictures until I shopped with my sister to create the ensemble for her family photos. It was nothing short of a nightmare. Once we found the perfect dress for her daughter, her daughter had a meltdown and refused to wear it. When we found one the daughter would wear, the son would refuse to give up his original choice and coordinate with her. We went to so many stores and spent so much money. I was amazed at how stressful it was to prepare for one simple family photo!

I’m offering my best advice below to reduce your stress in planning your perfect outfits. Fall Minis? More like Fall Fashion Week!!!

Tip #1: Don’t Overthink It.

Seriously. Yeah, you want to look your best, but the point of the photos is to see your beautiful faces. The focal point of the photos is your face. That’s mostly what people are going to be focusing on when they look in the pictures. So take a deep breath. You got this.

Tip #2: There Are No Rules

You will find dozens of articles online with all of the rules of family portrait fashion. There are even some egomaniac photographers who go so far as to require approval of your outfits before their shoots so you won’t commit any fashion faux pas in their portfolios. I think that is insane! It is not that serious, people! This is a family photo. Every family is different. This is not the runway. This is a snapshot of the ones you love.

For every photo fashion rule out there, I can show you a thousand awesome photos that break those rules. These photos should reflect your personality and style, so don’t let any rules out there make you question your instincts.

Tip #3: Don’t Distract

The overarching guiding principle of selecting wardrobe for family photos is to find clothing that will not distract from your beautiful faces. This means that simple is usually better. Some clothing items that look awesome in everyday life, like graphic t-shirts, will stick out like a sore thumb in your photo, distracting the viewer from what they should really be looking at, which is not your shirt! Busy patterns and plaids can also be very distracting and unsettling in a photo, as can bright colors. That being said… There are no rules! I have taken killer photos of kids in graphic t-shirts or couples in plaids. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but think about what look you want to portray in your photos and what you want people focusing on. If crazy fashion is a major part of your personality, by all means, wear the craziest getup you can find.

Tip #4: Choose Color

White and black generally don’t play the best in portraits. It can wash you out or hide important details. Though we’ve all heard that black is flattering in real life, in a photo it can make you look like a giant blob. It is best to avoid all white or all black clothing. That being said, remember, there are no rules. I mean hello, wedding dresses are white, and we’ve all see fabulous wedding photos. For the best results for family photos, though, neutral colors work the best.

I do not think this photo is bad, but I think the people would look better if they were not wearing solid black! {Photographer: Jane McDonagh}

Tip #5: Coordinate, Don’t Match

We’ve probably all taken a super cutesy family photo at some point in our life where everyone was wearing matching outfits. This was especially trendy back in the 90’s. Today, this is considered to be a no-no. You know how I feel about rules, so I am going to tell you that if you want to match, that’s fine. If you think that is a cute concept, go for it! What you might like even better, though, and which will take your photos up a notch is to coordinate colors instead of match. Strictly matching outfits can tend to distract, and remember that our goal is to not distract from the faces of the people in the photos.

Above is your standard matchy photo. Half of you are like, "Awwwwwww!" right now, and the other half are dry heaving. {Photographer: Unknown}

Above is another example of a classic matchy look. Love it or hate it; there is no in between. {Photographer: Raye Law}

To coordinate colors, try choosing a color scheme first with three or four coordinating colors that look good together. You can find inspiration for this all over the internet. Heck, you could spend hours on Pinterest with color schemes. Once you find one you love, assign each member of the family one of the colors. You can also accessorize and have little pops of the colors your chose on each family member.

Here are some amazing fall color schemes that you are welcome to steal! How did we live before Pinterest?

Also think about your home décor. If you are planning on blowing these photos up and making a giant canvas for your living room, what is the color scheme in your living room? You might want the photos to coordinate with your decorating, so incorporating that color scheme into the outfits in the photo will help the photo flow seamlessly into your décor.

Remember that these are fall photos and the leaves will be a flutter of rusty oranges and red. Try to pick colors that will look great in the leaves!

Above is some great inspiration for fall family photos from Sherri Kelly Photography. Note that the outfits are almost all solid, neutral colors and relatively simple. They aren't matchy-matchy, but they are coordinated.

Tip #5: Layers Slim

In photos, layered clothing tends to be slimming! Throw a cardigan over your shirt to look slimmer!

Tip #6: Fit It

Having well-fitted clothing is the most important fashion tip I can give you for family portraits. The camera is unforgiving and what seems like just a hint of muffin top in the mirror will look like a jumbo muffin in a photo. Find clothing that fits the curves of your body so we can see your shape (clothing that is too loose will drown you and make you look bigger than you are), but make sure it is loose enough that it doesn’t cause bulging. Sit down and move around in the clothes before your shoot, because in your shoot you will be sitting in some of the photos.

Tip #7: Don’t Trust the Mirror

Mirrors lie. Take some test shots in outdoor light to see a more realistic view of what your outfit will look like in photos.

Tip #8: Trendy or Classic?

The choice is yours, but you should put some thought into this before our shoot. “The rules” out there will tell you to aim for timeless, and then point to photos from the 90’s featuring hilarious 90’s fashion trends. I say… Yeah, so? Isn’t part of taking pictures every year to see how things change? I love looking back at our family’s old photos and seeing all the cringe-inducing teased hair and bell bottoms. I love photos that reflect their era. If you hate seeing the fashion trends in your photos and just want classic, timeless photos, then opt for less trendy, more simple clothes and hair styles.

I'm all for trendy outfits in photos.

Tip #8: Hair and Makeup Matter

Hair and makeup are even more important than wardrobe in a photo. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do your hair and makeup. For makeup, wear it a tad darker than you would on a normal day. I always recommend a more natural look with muted colors, but again, if you wear blue lipstick every day and that is you and that is how you want to be remembered, go for it. I always recommend that you practice your hair and makeup before the day of the shoot. Also, if you have the means, I can’t imagine a better day to get your hair and makeup done by a professional than on a day when you are having your photo taken!

Wear a little extra hairspray in case there is wind the day of our shoot. I know people throw around the term “oh, we can just Photoshop that” a lot, but I always aim to get the photos right as I’m taking them. Even though Photoshop is amazing, doing edits like fixing hair and makeup is extremely time-consuming. And even a relatively simple edit, like removing a zit, has to be hand-done to every single photo from your shoot. When preparing for a shoot, details matter. Please be mindful of those details and help each other out. Your photographer isn’t going to say your hair looks bad, because they don’t know how you normally wear your hair. Rely on your family members to check you out between shots and make sure nothing is out of place. If it is, just stop me and we can readjust. Those few minutes now will save hours of editing later. Mini sessions include only light re-touching, and I don’t want you to end up with a giant bill later because you wore the wrong shade of eye shadow.

That being said, please don’t panic if you wake up the day of the shoot with a zit! Just let me know when you arrive for your shoot and we can figure out how to minimize it, or yes, I will Photoshop it out later.

Tip #9: Think Ahead

Just like fashion magazines plan ahead and shoot their swimsuit issues in the dead of winter, you should plan ahead for your photos. If you are using mini sessions to create holiday cards, why not go for a winter look instead of a fall look? Bundle up in your cutest coats and scarves and fake shiver your way through our 15 minute shoot. Or bring your “ugly” sweaters or other fun props that you want to showcase to the world. I am all about the art of the Christmas card.

Here is an adorable Christmas look you could easily pull off at mini sessions! Wouldn't this be the most adorable holiday card? {Photographer: Unknown}

Throwing on your winter coats takes almost no effort whatsoever but can make the most adorable family photos! {Photographer: Unknown}

Again... Winter coats and scarves? Always a do. {Photographer: Unknown}

I know it's still fall, but it's okay to have a little fun an winterize your mini session with holiday gear. {Photographer: Amanda Fraisse}

Tip #10: Start Now and Have Fun With It

Do. Not. Wait. Don’t wait until the week before the shoot to start thinking about this!!! Start now and build the photo one outfit at a time (and if you’re the one reading this, I think you deserve to have first pick of outfits and then let everyone else build off of you, you fabulous thing you)!

Check out some more inspiration below. These are some of my favorite fall family photo looks of all time! Most are muted and neutral, but some have little pops of color that are not distracting!

{Photographer: Chelsea Elizabeth}

{Photographer: Sweet Sassafras}

{Photographer: JOPHOTO}

{Photographer: Carey Crooker}

{Photographer: Wren Photography}

{Photographer: Unknown}

{Photographer: Sweet Sassafras}

{Photographer: Tracy Jane Weidel}

{Photographer: Tracy Jane Weidel}

{Photographer: Tracy Jane Weidel}

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