Choosing Outfits for Extended Family Photo Sessions

by | Feb 17, 2024 | Family Photography, Kiddos, Senior Photos, Sessions

Outfit Options feel WILD

Picking your wardrobe for any photo session can feel like rocket science. I mean you’re going to have the photos on your wall for everyone to see, possibly for years and years and YEARS to come. Or they might be a gift for a beloved family member, or any number of other sentimental things. But for extended family sessions… there can be even MORE pressure!!

Maybe your family is only in Minneapolis once a year, and you HAVE to get the right pictures… or you’ve got to wait another year to make it happen. Or you want to make sure to capture extended family photos while your little ones are little, or before your teen goes off to college. There tend to be more time-limitations when it comes to extended family sessions, in part because there are more people involved.

So if someone shows up in red and you all agreed to wear blue… it kind of throws off the vibes, if you know what I mean. What I mean to say, is there is coordination involved!! But you also want to make sure the coordination is done carefully, so that you end up with pictures that capture the essence of your family.

How do I suggest you do this? In case you didn’t already guess… I put together a convenient list for you!!

brothers in matching navy polo shirts during Minneapolis Fall Mini Sessions

1. Pick a color, any color!

Your first step for choosing wardrobe options for your extended family session? Pick a color!!

Now, when I say that… I don’t necessarily mean you have to pick a single color for everyone, and they’ve got to stick with that color. You definitely CAN do it that way, but you don’t have to! Instead, you can pick a theme based around a couple of colors, to give people options. The more people you have involved in the session, the more important it can be to give options!

I recommend including a neutral option, like “blue, black, or tan” or “pink, red, or black” that way there’s an option included for family members who might not have a colorful wardrobe, or might not have items that match the specific color you’re wanting as the overarching theme.

Try to aim for something everyone will already have in their wardrobe

It’s going to be easiest to make sure that everyone follows the dress code if you pick colors that people are likely to have in their closets already. Theming things around orange and yellow might not work super well if your family is more of a blues and greens group, so try to think through what people will have access to when you’re choosing.

But do I HAVE to pick a color??

Realistically speaking, you don’t have to pick a color, you could also pick a style instead. Sometimes, when you’re picking a style, it’ll help dictate the colors anyway! For example, if you told everyone you wanted their wardrobe items to feel “whimsical” you’d probably end up with a group wearing a ton of different colors, but if you said you wanted it to feel “bohemian”… you’d end up with neutrals and fringe.

Your best bet though, is going to be picking a couple of colors, a couple of neutrals, and telling everyone to wear something in any of those colors that looks nice, and that makes them feel like themselves. Because like I talk about all the time, in front of the camera, everyone feels more comfortable when they’re happy with their clothes!!

PRO-TIP: To take it one level beyond, try setting up a pinterest board and sending people inspiration. It can help alleviate the stress of picking outfits!

A mom hugging her two daughters during a Minneapolis Fall Mini Session

2. If there are people who you’re thinking might show up in the wrong attire… check in with them ahead of time!

We’re looking at you, uncle Bob. Because that Hawiian shirt has NO PLACE in your upcoming photo session! I’m mostly kidding, because I’m pretty sure those are weirdly coming back in style, and also, patterns are a great tool to break up blocks of color in a group photo session! But none of that is the point I’m making here.

The point I’m making, is if there’s someone in your family who you think might go off script… check in with them. Give them a call, or send them a text, and ask whether they need any suggestions or if they want your thoughts on what they’ve picked to wear to the session. It’ll help make sure you’re not worried about people showing up in inappropriate outfits, and anything that limits stress where family is concerned is a good thing. Right?

Two teens smiling at eachother during their Minneapolis MN senior photo session

3. If you can, make a group chat

If there are a ton of family members coming to your session, consider making a clan group chat ahead of time! You can share your wardrobe items, look at inspiration together, make sure that everyone has chosen something that falls into the guidelines you’ve set… and it serves a double purpose too. If someone is running behind on the day of the session, it makes communication easy, and keeps things smooth! As group chats are intended to do.

Who knows, it might be the origin story of a “full family group chat” that sticks around for years – if you don’t already have one!

Two teens smiling at eachother during their Minneapolis MN senior photo session

4. Know that the goal should be “perfectly imperfect”!

The biggest tip I can give you when it comes to choosing outfits for extended family sessions, is you don’t want people to match TOO much. And I know that sounds counterintuitive and weird, but I promise it makes sense! It can be a LOT to have every single person wearing denim, or every single person wearing a purple shirt, when there are 15 people in a photo. Even when there are 7, it can be a LOT happening in an image!

Giving the option for people to wear some selected neutrals can help with this, but also… don’t shy away from patterns or textures! But also… try to aim away from “everyone wear a white shirt and jeans” because… that’s a lot of white shirts… and a lot of jeans. And if that’s the effect you’re going for, then amazing! But you might be happier with your final image options if there’s some more variation, so that your session looks a little more natural, and a little less like Mom dressed all the kids to go to JC Penney in 1996. (Although… again… every style comes back around eventually!!)

If you need help… I’m easy to find!

The gist is: pick a color (or two), add a neutral (or two), COMMUNICATE a ton, and show up for your session! Communication is the best way to keep things smooth, and that includes communicating with your photographer. If we’re working in the studio, it would be great to know ahead of time what kind of theme you’re going for, or the colors you’ve picked!

And if you need help choosing, or need some inspiration – I’m always here to help. Just reach out, and we can discuss planning for your upcoming extended family session!

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