07 September 2016

tip time: dressing your family for portraits you won't hate

Of all the things that can make getting family portraits stressful for people, ranking high on the list is coordinating everyone’s clothes. When I was little, it seems that all a mom had to do was stop in to Sears and pick up each kid what amounted to a fall version of an Easter outfit, and you were good to go. Dad wore a suit from his closet, and mom splurged on a nice new top. Done and done. Now it seems so much more complicated and mysterious, time consuming and expensive. Let me see if I can reassure, and maybe even help you.

Here are a few simple tips for dressing your family for portraits.

1. It’s okay to buy some new things, but don’t underestimate the power of a favorite. People look best when they are comfortable and confident. You probably know which of your clothes make you feel like a million bucks. It’s okay to build from there.

2. Dressing everyone like twinsies is the worst. Trust me on this one. Do not tell everyone to wear jeans and a plain white tee shirt. Just: no. Coordinating outfits makes sense- but matching everyone is not cool anymore.

3. You may hear people recommending you plan “pops of color”. That can be great. Also great? Neutrals. And- tons of colors. Don’t stress yourself out trying to force an elaborate color scheme. Just lay out what you have and take a look. Chances are, if the outfits look good next to each other on a bed, they are going to look good together in your pictures. As my son's baseball coach says when a kid can decide themselves whether to bunt or swing at a pitch, "You do you." Save yourself an extra therapy session, and decide now that your goal is not to impress a vague crowd of "other people" with your clothes.

4. Part of what sets great portrait looks apart can be summed up in two words. No, it’s not “Crew Cuts”. It’s LAYERS and ACCESSORIES. It doesn’t matter if your clothes are from Walmart or Anthro, if you layer t-shirts and button downs and a vest for boys and use tights and belts, cardigans and headbands for girls, you are getting somewhere. Maybe your boys would sooner die than wear a vest- that’s not the point- but if you are conscious about planning some layers and accessories you will be happier with how complete your look seems.

5. Someone once told me that it’s easier to start with the girls’ outfits, and once you have those, build the boys’ clothes off of that. And they were right. I’m not sure why that’s easier, but it has always been that way for me. So I’m passing that bit of wisdom on to you, in case it helps.

6. Fit. It’s gotta be there. Your little one swimming in a ginormous shirt that’s too big but you lovvvve it? You, wearing the pants that kiiiinda fit? You will regret both those moves. Remember, when people are comfortable and confident, that shows in their body language. Which definitely shows in pictures.

7. When wondering how formally to dress your people, go with what you like. Casual and sophisticated outfits both yield charming results. With one caveat, however. Do I need to say it? I know you will always treasure the memories of your little guy in his Lightning McQueen shirt and your princess twirling in the Frozen logo dress she asks to wear 5 days a week. So take a couple dozen snapshots tomorrow. Today you say no. Out-rank them, bribe them, what ever you have to do to get them into some timeless clothing for your professional portraits. You, and probably your in-laws, will thank you for it.

I hope this helps you as you plan for your portraits. Maybe I’ll write another blog post soon about how to get your kids to actually wear the clothes you have carefully selected, without everyone losing their chill. Are there other questions you have about getting your crew ready for pictures? Or do you have any funny experiences getting your family ready for pictures? Post them in the comments below. We’ve all been there and can use both laughs and wisdom.

All photos in this post found on www.awkwardfamilyphotos.com.