Style Guide For Family Photos in Phoenix

One of the most common questions I get asked during the planning stages is “What to wear for family pictures?”  While styles and trends change, so does advice on what to wear on your photo shoot. Not too long ago, the popular trend was white shirts and jeans for the entire family. I’m more than happy to discuss your clothing options, help give you a direction to focus on, and help make sure that your clothing coordinates well with the locations chosen for your photo shoot. After-all, you don’t want to look like you should be at the beach if you’re shooting in the desert. Arizona can have some variety in vibes, depending on if your’e shooting in downtown Phoenix, the red rock background of Sedona, or the mountains in Flagstaff, AZ.

Here are some general guidelines to help you choose the perfect attire for your next family photo session in Arizona.

Step 1. Choose  Your Color Palette.

Start by picking a palette of 3-4 colors. When putting together your pallette, think in terms of tones: blue tones, earth tones, neutrals, pastels, etc. Try sticking to colors such as a neutral color palate (think organic/earth tones). Colors such as grey, tan, cream, blue, lighter browns, white. If you’re stressing too much over it, stick to the tried and true. Go with a classic look and style that still allows you to incorporate your own personality into the outfit with accessories. (Remember, matching is not the same as coordinating). You can use the color wheel to find complimentary colors. 

The Use Of Colors & Patterns

Colors are everywhere around us and bring things to life. Our eyes are drawn to color, so why not give your images some life! Again, be sure the colors you choose to coordinate with complement your location, the season, and each other. You don’t want to end up looking like one big color blob. Patterns can be tricky, but when choosing patterns, stick to smaller patterns that won’t pull attention away from the main subject. Use patterns sparingly…. if one person is wearing a print, try to avoid putting someone else in a competing pattern.

Here are several example color palettes, and colors I recommend for styling your family photos in the Phoenix, AZ landscape.

Dress It Up A Little

These are photos that you’re going to want to display proudly to your family and friends.  This is a great opportunity to wear some of your more stylish outfits. This doesn’t mean you have to wear a tux and ballgown, but think about leaving the jeans and t-shirts at home.  Instead, opt for some comfortable khakis, button down shirt, spring dress, etc. Not happy with what’s in your closet? It’s a great excuse to go shopping! Take a quick trip to Target or another store and see what the new styles are.

Coordinate (and Don’t) Outfits

This doesn’t mean everyone has to match 100% with khaki pants/jeans and a white/pastel shirt. While it may sound like a good idea, and even be a little tempting to match everyone in identical outfits,  I often recommend not doing this because it can affect the final outcome, and not be what you want. It’s best to complement each other’s outfits by choosing colors that work well together. If everyone is wearing the same color, people will tend to blend in together and there won’t be too much “pop” to your photos. 


When using texture, choose different ones that will give photos some interest. This can include options such as lace, corduroy, denim, etc. 

Skip the Distractions And Logos

As much everyone loves animals and funny videos, seeing a family wear outfits with animals, flowers, and big faces all over their clothing can be a bit distraction. Eliminating these distractions can put the focus on you and your family, where is exactly where it should be.

You don’t want to have “those photos” that everyone digs up and has a laugh over the styles of that time period (remember laughing at your Uncle’s bell bottoms?).

Also, make sure to avoid large logo’s, company names, emblems and graphics (ex: “NIKE” and “Old Navy”). You don’t want to be a billboard in your portraits, and because these are distractions that will draw attention away from you and your family. Plus, these types of articles can date your images.

Step 2. Dress for the Season & Location

Pay attention to where you’ll be shooting your session. Choose outfits that would normally fit in that setting. For example, if you are shooting at the beach, you wouldn’t want to wear a jacket, jeans, scarves, etc. Similarly, makes sure you’re comfortable temperature wise and choose appropriate clothing for the season/climate (sweaters/long pants if it’s cooler, and lighter fabric material). It can get hot and humid during the summer in the Phoenix area, so kept that in mind if you’re doing your family photos during the summer months. 

Step 3. Don’t Forget the Feet

This is one thing that many people tend to overlook. Don’t forget, your feet will be in your photos. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear, and that they’re clean/presentable. Another thing to consider if safety. Some outfits will require fancy footwear, so bring along a pair of sneakers or something more practical to wear while we walk to the location / in between locations.

Step 4. Showcase Your Personality

Everything I’ve mentioned are just suggestions, but the most important is to have fun and “Be yourselves”. The purpose of your session is to capture your family as each person truly is, including their personalities and quirks. If you end up forcing children to wear outfits that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar to them, it may cause some anxiety, grumpiness, and frustration, which will show through in your photos instead of their happy personalities. 

Here’s a Few Bonus Tips To Get Ready for Your Family Photography Session:

  • Decide who is the most difficult to dress and get ready and start there. Is everyone difficult? Gather all  the “must use” items of clothing for each family member and coordinate them somewhere together ahead of time. This will allow you to see the overall look/style.
  • Take a look at the colors, patterns, and textures you’ve gathered so far. Now, use the current color palette and your background info on who you have left to choose outfits for to decide on several colors that complement each other.
  • Raid the closets! Here’s a chance to get creative and combine items of clothing from various family members closets (or even a mini shopping spree if you don’t find what you need). Similar shades of the same color are very complimentary, so don’t worry about finding the exact same shade. Accessories such as necklaces, hats, jewelry, scarves, or even shoes can help add some “pop” to your photos.
  • Share with your photographer. Snap a quick photo and send it to your photographer if you’re uncertain about something, or have any questions. We are a helpful resource and do not mind providing feedback. Plus it helps us see what you’re planning to wear, and helps us prepare/plan for the shoot and think about specific locations.
  • For more information, Check out my other blog post, “Preparing For Family Photos“.

More than likely you’ll have some of these printed, framed and displayed proudly in your home so I want you you to look your best. I hope this helps you prepare and gives you some ideas of what to wear for your family photos.

These guidelines are here to help, but most importantly, wear clothing that you want to wear, and that you’ll feel good and comfortable in.

If you still have some questions, contact me today and let’s talk. I’m happy to help! You can also view some of my family photo sessions here.

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