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What To Wear for Family Photos

I’m a little bit of a history nerd in my free time.  I have always enjoyed understanding people and places from years long ago.  I particularly enjoy genealogy, and I have worked tirelessly to put together my family tree. Seriously, I can go back 15 generations on my dad’s side.  It gives me goosebumps to see photos of my long-lost relatives, and to realize that they look like me! Wow.  These relatives, even though I have never met them, have played a huge part in where I am today; they have shaped me, my father and mother, and my grandparents as well! THAT is why I love family photos. It is the opportunity to pass along tangible gifts to future generations.

So, get out there and take photos. Print them off and preserve them. And get in the photos as well! And that is where I come in. We are caught behind the camera too much and too often. Make this year the year that you get in front of the camera with your partner and your children.

Here are some tips on what to wear for family photos and a few extra tips on making sure that your family photos are stress-free:-)

Smoky Mountain Wedding Photos

 To prop or not to prop.

I’m just gonna start it off right here. The photography community seems split on the idea of props. Some photographers love props, and some don’t. I will say that I am totally down for some props if its something that encompasses you as a family and speaks naturally to the location. Blankets and family pets are perfect examples of props to take to family photos. The best prop yet: your home! Documenting your family in the place where 99% of memories are made is a wonderful treat for me.  I love lifestyle, in-home family photos.

We also have to be aware that children may rip, destroy, or refuse to hold the said prop. Especially if it something that they are not used to holding, such as large signs.  If they are not, then frustration may arise and that is the last thing that we want to feel during wedding photos.

The final thought: Are the children physically able to do the task that we are asking them to do? Are we asking a 3-month-old to sit up unassisted? Or asking a 5-year-old to perform in front of the camera?  When discussing your family photos with your photographer, make sure that he or she is aware of what you want during your family photos and ask the photographer’s opinion.

Knoxville Engagement Photographer Erin Morrison Photography

Coordinated, but not matching 

The Cantrell Family in the above photo nailed their family photography wardrobe. And it all started with Junie’s little outfit. Bethany pulled together the rest of the family’s outfits from that one item of clothing; all of their clothing is coordinated, but it doesn’t match.

Further, all of the members need to look like you are heading to the same place. If the father is wearing a suit while the rest of the family is wearing shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops, it’s not going to look right.  Everyone should wear clothes that are on the same dress level.

Plan for Location

Not only should your family look like they are going to the same place, but the right place. Let’s say that the whole family is dressed to the 9s, but your heading to your uncle’s farm. It might not look quite right… So, choose a location that fits your wardrobe!

Plan for Weather

I know that little bunny outfit looks adorable on your 2-year-old, but if you are outside on a cold, winter day your child is going to be absolutely miserable. And his.her face is going to show it.  And so is yours. There is no way to Photoshop a smile over that frown of disappointment. So, grab some of your favorite mittens, throw on a scarf and have fun with your snow bunny in warm clothes instead!

Contemporary Warehouse Family Photos by Erin Morrison Photography

A few-ish final Don’ts…

  1. Don’t wear clothing with words or characters on them. Abercrombie and Fitch may be your favorite place to shop. But, when your child is sitting on your lap and the only words visible are “itch” then that could be a problem.  Further, your child may love Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street right now, but she may not like it tomorrow. She can totally bring her Abby doll for a few fun photos.
  2. Don’t wear super bright colors near your face and neck.  Some colors can color cast onto your skin and we want to make sure that your beautiful skin tone looks even and natural. Florescent green is a no-no.
  3. Don’t wear crazy patterns. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t wear a print, but don’t overdo it. If you decide to wear a print pattern, then recommend that other family members wear a solid color for balance.
  4. Don’t dress in your PJs. In all seriousness, don’t wear ripped or stained clothing or super casual apparel such as crocks or t-shirts.
  5. Be aware of fashion trends. Everyone thought that scrunchies were the hot new thing, but they didn’t last. Make sure that you choose an outfit that can stand the test of time.
  6. Don’t be too seasonal. In reality, you want your photos to be up year-round. Including reindeer or Santa in your photos might look odd when the photo is still up on your mantle in June.
  7. Don’t Worry. Kids act out. The weather may not be “perfect.” But, enjoy your time with your family. Us family photographers have seen it all. Your kids are going to act the way they are going to act and there is nothing you can do about it. Guess what? That’s OK!

A few final Do’s!

  1. Be. Yourself.  Your family photos are a portrait of who you are and who you are as a family. Please make sure that when you step out of your house you feel like you.
  2. Let the photographer know if there are mental, emotional, physical, or behavioral issues with your family.  Please inform the photographer if your children, partner, or yourself are unable to complete any tasks or understand the direction of the photographer. We want to make sure that everyone is happy and healthy and has an amazing time during family photos.
  3. Plan ahead. 
    1. Schedule naps, bedtime, snacks/dinner, and feedings accordingly.  Usually, I schedule family photos to end at sunset. The start time for family photos will change with the time the sun sets. If you have an issue with the start time of the session, please coordinate with your photographer. The last thing that we want is to be outside at 7pm, when that is your children’s normal bedtime.
    2. Schedule your family photos months in advance.  Before you know it, mother’s day has passed…and father’s day and fall is on the horizon. Contact your family photographer months in advance and put it on your calendar. That way, you can begin to inform your family of the photo session and plan your wardrobe!
  4. You know your children best. If there is anything, and I mean anything, that you need to let the photographer know, please do. You know when your child is upset, scared, or cranky. Keep us informed so we can work together for many years to come.


Natural light + honest photographer for all humans.


Knoxville, Tennessee



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