How to color coordinated clothing for family portraits

A common problem that arises when customers have booked a family meeting is how to color-match clothes for family portrait photos. I can see why this seems like a daunting task, and as someone who has done their part of shopping for clothes online, it can take some time to complete that task (um, return, anyone?). Unlike an engagement shoot where you’re just trying to find clothes for two people, family portraits usually require you to coordinate outfits for at least three people!

We’ve probably seen that matching family vacation pajamas are all the rage these days, but for family portraits you generally want to choose colors that are complementary rather than exact. An exception to this rule would be if you want matching outfits for a session with mom and me. If your intention is to have a little mini then it would be absolutely adorable to have the same outfit! But how do you make sure your selection is well photographed? This is how I guide my customers in how they can color-match the clothes for their family portrait:

1. Start with your “star piece”

Start by choosing the garment that excites you the most. As a mother, I know that we often have more fun buying clothes for our children and putting aside our own needs. I encourage you to take this opportunity to put yourself first and choose the piece that you have always wanted to add to your wardrobe! Check out Cheryl’s colorful skirt in one of our Motherhood Mini Sessions – it was so upbeat, quirky, and allowed her to stand out even among her five lovely kids!

2. Draw color inspiration from the “star piece”.

When you have your “star piece,” see what colors are there and pick a few that you want to incorporate into your family members’ outfits. Using the example of Cheryl’s skirt, notice how she picked yellow, green, blue, light pink, and cream and had them depicted in her children’s tops. You don’t necessarily have to reproduce every color you have, but using at least two colors creates a sense of cohesiveness to the overall picture.

3. Make sure the colors are coordinated

Now for a little color theory 101! For photos, we want our colors to be harmonious rather than mismatched. We can create color harmony in different ways. One way is to go monochrome, that is, use different shades of a single color (e.g. rose pink, blush pink, etc.). Another option is to use analog colors. If you look at a color wheel, these are two colors that are immediately adjacent to the color you have chosen. If you want to be daring and add more contrast to your family portrait, choose colors that are complementary – that is, they are opposite each other on the color wheel. Blue and orange look very different and seem like a bold pairing, but there are scientific reasons why they work well together (which has to do with photoreceptor cells and wavelengths of light, but we won’t get into that here). Choosing outfits with complementary colors will ensure that your final images are pleasing to the eye.

4. Take some test shots

When you have all of your outfits on hand, either lay them out or have your family dress up and take some test pictures with your phone. Often times, when you see a scene on camera, certain things become visible that may not be clear in real life. You can trust your photographer to come up with ideas for different poses and accessories to balance the colors during your session. However, it is helpful to check beforehand if there are any problems coordinating the colors you have chosen.

Hope this post has helped reassure you that figuring out how to dye coordinated clothing for family portraits doesn’t have to be complicated. We are now booking for our annual Motherhood Mini Sessions and I am always available to take your old portrait photos or family photos. Feel free to contact us!

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