Pro Styling Tips for Your Family Photo Shoot

It’s 2020 and the year of COVID and quarantine…. who else is crazy late on pulling together their annual family photo shoot?? Are you even doing a picture this year and holiday cards? So many aren’t, but we are “Camp Holiday Card” and say it’s better late than never. New Year’s cards are great too! I’m a fan of Shutterfly or Minted as the quality is good, and they make it easy to upload your mailing list and save time. Although I still prefer to hand address the envelopes, which makes it a little more personal. Whether you’re having a masked-up professional photographer take the picture-perfect shot outside or a camera-savvy friend, I’m sharing my pro styling tips to keep in mind as you prepare for the shoot, so you’ll love the results.

The first thing to remember is that it doesn’t need to be “perfect.” Your goal should be for the finished product to make YOU happy. The picture should represent your family’s vibe at this moment in time. Not only is the photo for your holiday cards, but it’s also to preserve memories of what your family looks like today… in the moment. When I look back over our annual photos, I feel a mixture of happiness remembering that time in our lives, sadness that some of our sweet dogs have since left us, and blessed that no matter what life throws at me, I have my family. This year more than ever. Here are a few tips to help you curate outfits that complement each other and give the overall photo a more polished look. Also, keep in mind that a little advance thought and prep work goes a long way.

  • PRO TIP 1 | Choose an underlying color theme. Black, blue, berry, burgundy – all flattering colors that photograph nicely and subtly say “holiday.” Depending on how many people are in your family, you may want to choose a couple of complementary colors (e.g., black & white or blue & burgundy) or stick to one color in both dark and light shades. Darker solids are always more flattering in photos (meaning more slimming). Also, there’s less chance of a color clash. Red & gold or blue & silver are more obviously holiday, but look pretty together and more glam-festive. Subtle prints can work well, but again make sure that everyone’s colors and styles are working together and not everyone should wear a print — break the prints up with solids when posing.
  • PRO TIP 2 | Select a style theme. Dressy clothes or casual clothes?  Dad is going to look out of place in his jeans if everyone else is dressed up and vice versa.
  • PRO TIP 3 | Avoid colors that aren’t complementary. Just as you would not wear orange and green together in one outfit, don’t let Dad wear green and one of the kids wear orange. Total color clash. Don’t wear red and green together unless you are intentionally going for a Christmas theme, then make it obvious and a little cheesy.
  • PRO TIP 4 | Enhance with accessories. Touches of metallic — gold, bronze or silver (pick one!) — can also be used to add a rich, festive feel to the look through accessories, including jewelry, hair clips, cuff links or shoes.
  • PRO TIP 5 | Hold a dress rehearsal. Next, have each family member try on their outfit from head to toe prior to the shoot and look at the style and color of clothing and accessories together with a critical eye. Think about where you are shooting the photo (inside or outside?) and what the lighting will be like. Determine if anyone’s outfit would benefit from tailoring. Does it need to be ironed? Shoes polished? Make sure these tasks are done a day or two before to avoid scrambling around at the last minute.
  • PRO TIP 6 | Schedule grooming appointments. Don’t forget to plan ahead and schedule hair cuts and colors, so everyone looks their best. Have pets? Make sure to schedule their grooming appointments a few days prior to pictures. If you have more than one pet, you may want to make it easier on yourself and hold your photo shoot at home.
  • PRO TIP 7 | Scout locations in advance. We shoot our photo at home every year simply because we have dogs, so it’s much easier. If you can go on location, it’s a great way to shake things up. Of course, this always requires some advance planning and discussion with your photographer. If you are doing photos at home, it’s still a good idea to think about where you want to shoot (outside light is generally the best) and consider how the lighting (sun, shadows, etc.) will be during the time of day you’ll be standing there. If you’re going to be outside in your yard, plan ahead to make sure your lawn is mowed and bushes are manicured. In Arizona, we need to worry about when and if our winter grass will be in yet… something to consider.
  • PRO TIP 8 | Recruit an assistant. Lastly, I recommend having a friend on hand to help manage your little ones, pets, the lint roller, blotting powder to eliminate makeup shine, and lend a critical eye at the shoot. This can be invaluable.
  • PRO TIP 9 | Just do it. It’s easy to shove aside making this happen… especially this year in 2020 when everything feels extra overwhelming.

Here are a few of our family photos with different color themes and combinations for inspiration, including the above one for our 2019 card. All photos below are by Jacqueline Hanna Photography.


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