Pro Tips for Styling Your Family Photo

It’s mid-November already (Eeekkkk!) and it’s time to get moving on your holiday cards! Which is also the perfect excuse for an updated family photo. You’ll especially appreciate the yearly photos as your kids get older, head off to college, and pictures become more difficult to come by. It’s a fact that photo cards have staying power and are on average kept longer and more often than regular holiday cards. Plus, if you’re trying to save time when sending cards out, companies like Minted make it easy to upload your mailing list, so they can handle the bulk of the work for you. Whether you’re having a professional photog take the picture-perfect shot 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. 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 at least a week 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 dry cleaned or 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, especially if you tend to shoot the same background every year. Of course, this always requires some advance planning and discussion with your photographer. If you are doing photos at home like us, 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.

Here are a few of our family photos with different color themes and combinations for inspiration, including the above one for our 2018 card. All photos are by Jacqueline Hanna Photography.


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