The holidays are coming, which means that your holiday cards need to be going out — which means that it’s time to take a family photo. While it can be hard enough to get the people who live in your house organized for a photo shoot, once you add in the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, well — godspeed to you.
Often the hardest part of the family photo isn’t wrangling the family on the day of but choosing everyone’s outfits ahead of time. Here are a few simple tips to make your family photo a keeper (and not a candidate for Awkard Family Photos).
Talk to your photographer — or, if this is an extended family shoot, to whomever is coordinating the whole deal. Will you be shooting inside or out? In a studio or on location? In front of a neutral backdrop or something more elaborate? Is everyone going to be lined up and posed or doing his or her own thing?
In the case of an extended family photo, be sure to ask whomever is in charge if they have any preferences about how each individual family is dressed. I’m not a fan of having each family unit match, but I know that some families like to do that. I am also not a fan of having the entire family match, or even just the kids, but if that’s what Nana wants, then you need to make sure everyone looks the same. You can do something different when it’s just your family.
(And this may be the push you need to actually have a family photo taken, right?)
If Nana wants everyone in khakis and white shirts, do your best to talk her out of it, for two reasons. White shirts aren’t flattering on anyone; you’ll all wind up looking like Twilight extras, but less sparkly. And khakis can make those of us over 40 look less slim than we may really be. If you really want to do the matchy-matchy photo, think about blue shirts (either a light chambray or a woven menswear dress shirt) for everyone, paired with dark jeans.
(But really, that’s so 1980-something.)
Bright colors are your best option for a family photo. Choose shades in the same family (all warm or all cool) that flatter everyone in the picture. One of the things I love about the Blair family photo (above) is that each one of them is wearing something that looks great, but at the same time all the colors work together to create a cohesive whole. The idea is to find a balance of your own personality and individual style with a sense of family. If you can do that, then the part where you look at the camera and smile will be easy.
What if you’re dealing with kids whose style statement is athletic shorts and a LEGO Star Wars t-shirt? (That can’t just be me, right?) Polo shirts are a simple and stylish fallback for little boys — choose bright, fun colors and pair them with jeans or khakis. If your boys are willing, go with a button down shirt, like Daddy wears — you can even put boys in shirts that look similar to Dad’s. But be wary of having all the boys dressed alike and Mom wearing something different. You want to look like a group, not like The Boys and That Woman.
Girls have lots of color options. A bright dress is always pretty, but so is a neutral dress with a bright cardigan or tights (or both). If your girls are into accessorizing, let them choose a headband or pin or necklace — but keep it to one statement piece per child. Family photos these days often walk the line between being quirky and full of personality and looking like the family raided the costume box for their shoot. You don’t want your picture to be boring but you also don’t want it to be too over-the-top.
Unless your family really is over-the-top. In that case, go for it.
If you’re buying something new for your shoot, I suggest wearing it around for a day or so before the actual session, to get used to the way it moves and fits. The last thing you want on the day of the family photo shoot is to find out that your V neck sweater is cut lower than you anticipated. And you certainly don’t want to get the proofs back and find your boobs front and center in the family holiday photo. That is unless you’re Ice Tea’s wife, in which case more power to you and your boobs.
Are you taking a family photo this season? What’s your strategy for getting everyone dressed?
Photo via Design Mom