What to Wear for Outdoor Family Photos

When planning a family outdoor photoshoot, one of the most important elements is picking out what to wear. Choosing an outfit for yourself can feel difficult, let alone having to coordinate outfits for the entire family! To make things a little easier and a lot more fun, I’ve put together these helpful tips to make sure everyone is comfortable, happy, and looking their best.

Pick the right location.

Start by picking a location that matches your vision for the photos. This will determine what type of atmosphere you want to create and inform your wardrobe decisions. If you’re going for a beachy vibe, think light and airy clothing in muted tones. If you’re shooting in a wooded area, go for rich earth tones like olive green, charcoal grey, mustard yellow, or burgundy. 

Start with Mom’s outfit and build around that.

Once you have the location down, focus on Mom’s outfit first since, let’s be honest, she will likely be front and center in most of the photos! Plus, choosing her outfit first can help guide the overall color scheme and style of the rest of the family’s ensembles.

Mom, I recommend picking something timeless that flatters your figure and can easily coordinate well with the rest of the family’s attire. Think solids or simple patterns and avoid super bright colors. Neutral colors like olive green, light blue, browns, off-white or beige are always safe options that will photograph well no matter where you decide to shoot. Some great (and sustainable!) companies to get you inspired are Christy Dawn, Valani, and PACT.

Once you have a general idea of what mom will be wearing, start building the rest of the family’s outfits around that central piece. Choose complementary colors and patterns that coordinate with her look, but don’t match it exactly. This will create a cohesive, coordinated look without being too “matchy-matchy.”

Coordinate colors.

When it comes to color coordinating your family’s attire, it’s important to remember that you still want everyone’s unique and individual personality to shine through. Start by choosing a few colors that complement each other and work well with your location. For example, if your photo shoot is taking place in the woods with lots of greenery, earthy tones like browns and greens can work well. Keep in mind that you want everyone to look coordinated but not too matchy. If mom is wearing a navy blue dress, consider pairing it with khaki pants for dad and a blue and green plaid shirt for the son.

A good rule of thumb is to pick a color on the color wheel (maybe the color mom’s wearing) and then select 2-3 accent colors from either side of the chosen hue on the wheel. This technique ensures that all colors will coordinate nicely with each other and give a feeling of harmony in the photos. However, there are many alternative ways to coordinate colors for family photos. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend reading this blog post.

Something to consider before picking your child’s outfit for them…

I don’t recommend making your child wear something they dislike as it will come across in the images. 

Additionally, I know how independent young children can be and how sometimes asking them to wear a certain outfit can feel like pulling teeth. Therefore I recommend picking out 2 – 3 different outfits (that match mom’s outfit!) and then letting your child pick the one they want to wear from those choices. Allowing your child to make their own choice makes them feel valued and builds confidence. Worst case scenario – they dislike everything you picked out and refuse to wear it all! In this scenario, I personally say let your child pick their outfit. A happier child during your photo session completely outweighs the perfect coordinated outfits! I promise you’ll laugh at the memories made and appreciate these images so much more in the future!

Textures and patterns.

Textures and patterns are key elements to consider when choosing outfits for your family photoshoot. Mixing different textures and patterns can add depth and interest to your overall look. Consider incorporating a mix of fabrics such as corduroy, lace, denim, and chunky knits to add dimension to your outfits. Mixing patterns can be tricky, but it can also add a unique flair to your photos. Keep in mind that it’s important to balance the different patterns and not overwhelm the look. A good rule of thumb is to mix a larger pattern with a smaller one, or to choose patterns in the same color family. Try to keep it simple and not overly busy.

Add Accessories.

I like to think of accessories as the cherry on top to the unique flavor that is your coordinated family outfits. They can help tie your look together and add a touch of personality. Consider jewelry, scarves, hats, belts, ties, wraps, shoes, etc. A simple necklace or bracelet can go a long way in completing your outfit!

Remember, accessories should enhance your outfit and not overpower it. Don’t go overboard by wearing too many accessories at once. Choose one or two pieces that complement your outfit and make you feel confident.

Add movement.

Adding movement to your family photo outfits can make a huge difference in the overall feel of the photo. Clothing that flows or adds texture can create a sense of motion and life, which will make your photos stand out. Consider dresses or skirts that have flowy fabric or maybe a colorful scarf that easily catches the wind. Shirts and jackets that you can easily move around in are always preferable. These types of clothing will add a dynamic element to the photo and make it feel more natural and candid.

skyler maire photography, what to wear for outdoor family photos, beach family photos

Dress for the weather.

The last thing you want to happen is for you to arrive at your chosen location and not be dressed appropriately. Children especially tend to stiffen up when they’re chilly and it shows in the images! This is why it’s extremely important to dress appropriately for the weather – and part of living in the Bay Area means you have to prepare for chilly weather even if the forecast calls for sunshine. Preparing layers for everyone allows you to easily adjust to the changing temperatures. If the sun is intense, I highly recommend sunscreen to prevent any burns. Remember to wear comfortable shoes as many of my favorite locations require a lot of walking (it’s well worth it, I promise)! I also recommend bringing an extra set of comfy clothes for the car ride home. It can be nice to change into a warm, dry set when your photo session is finished!

Above all, make sure you’re comfortable.

It’s natural to want to look your best for family photos, but it’s equally important to feel comfortable and authentic in your outfit choices. Avoid wearing anything that’s too tight or leaves a mark on your skin. You don’t want to be fidgeting with an ill-fitting dress or uncomfortably high heels during the photo shoot.

It’s important to let your family’s unique personality shine through – that’s what makes these photos special! The more relaxed and natural you feel, the easier it will be to convey that energy and joy in the photos. Ultimately, the key to coordinating outfits for family photos is to strike a balance between looking polished and authentic. By prioritizing comfort and authenticity, you’ll be able to create photos that truly capture the essence of your family.

In conclusion,

By taking these tips into consideration, you’ll be ready for an amazing outdoor family photoshoot experience! If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your photographer! I invite my clients to send me pictures of their outfit ideas ahead of time if they’re feeling unsure of their choices. While it’s important to look nice in family photos, what’s more important is spending quality time together and having these memories documented. Above all else, have fun and enjoy this unique experience with your family. When it comes down to it, joy and laughter in clashing outfits looks a whole lot better than crabby and stiff in the perfectly coordinated outfits. 🙂

Leave any questions you have in the comments below and book your epic outdoor family photo session with me today by clicking here!

With love and gratitude,



If you enjoyed this post, you may also love:

Reasons to Book a Winter Photo Shoot  – CA Bay Area Edition

What to Expect at your Outdoor Family Photo Session

Best San Francisco Bay Area Photography Locations

April 4, 2023

Leave a Reply