General tips that work for any shoot!
Look at advertisements for inspiration. Companies hire art directors and stylists for thousands of dollars to create an outfit that is exactly, precisely, perfect to sell their product–so copy. Look at ads that are similar to your shoot. Kids in a shoot? Look at Gap ads, toy ads, children’s clothing brands. Engagement shoot? Look at ads for things associated with couples–ring ads, kitchen ads, house ads, Cosmo magazine, etc. Do you see where I’m going with this? I always wish I was in an American Eagle ad because they’re gorgeous, so I copy them all the time!Every picture I’m using in this post is an ad, so you can see what the big money buys you, and what you can copy for yourself and get inspired by!
Don’t match! Please, for me and everyone having to sort through these shots and edit them and make you happy with the end result, don’t all show up in matching colors, or worse, sweaters. How am I supposed to make a picture look cool when you’re all wearing khaki pants?! Keep in mind that pictures are flat enough, and only 2-dimensional, so by mixing up colors and textures you’re adding depth, but by all wearing a green sweater, you’re really lying flat on film. And…I say this with love…it’s super dorky.
Whatever anyone is wearing, be as comfortable in the outfit as possible! If you feel hot in it, you’re going to look hot in it! If your child really hates the sleeves on that shirt, but you force him to wear it, every picture of him will be yanking on the sleeves and frowning, and then eventually crying. If your husband loathes ties, just imagine the expression he’s making in all your shots for that Christmas card with the noose around his neck. If you feel fat in those pants, then why on earth would you wear them on film?? The best pictures are when everyone is having fun, not when everyone is as starched and proper as possible. Be comfortable.
You have everyone present. Mom, Dad, your annoying little sister, your less annoying older sister, and your brother who hates to smile in photos, or maybe you’ve dragged your husband to the location and somehow wrangled your three wild children into the car to get this done. Well, before you all left the house, I hope you really thought about your clothes! Here are my tips with family shoots:
Go easy on the family: Don’t take personality out of your clothing in attempt to make a cohesive picture. Yes, you think your son’s haircut is ridiculous, and your daughter is going through a “dark” phase, and your husband’s favorite jeans make you want to vomit–but do you want a picture of who you guys are, or who you are pretending to be? Let your husband wear the jeans if he has a great shirt, let your daughter find some goth garb that coordinates enough to get by as long as she doesn’t overdose on eyeliner, and let your son do his own hair, so long as it’s not hanging in his eyes. This is your family. Did you all see the season finale of Modern Family? They looked WAY better covered in mud, right?!
Layer: For some reason, clothes photograph way better when you have layers and patterns, not just one shirt in one color. It’s adding depth and something for the eye to be attracted to. So bring your accessories! Snow hats, galoshes, scarves, tank top over a t-shirt, fun shoes, jewelry–bring it all out! Since we’re in fall, keep the theme of the clothing the same, while not actually matching. Make a general rule, like everyone wear their favorite jeans with at least two top layers (shirt and sweater, shirt and jacket, tank top and cardigan, etc) and one accessory. As long as no one is emerging in a hot pink jumpsuit or an all-corduroy suit, you’re going to look great.
Color family: No, we don’t want you all in the exact same color, but sticking to a color family isn’t a terrible idea. If one is in bright green, one is in red, and one is in all black, this is going to look really non-cohesive. Pick a color genre–fall colors, brights, darks, primary colors–and then let everyone pick out their own from there. This way you’re not the matchy-match family, but you’re also not looking like a group of strangers someone pulled off a bus somewhere
The goal here is to look like the world’s greatest couple, ever, right? Well, then you need to dress like them!
Think of who you are as a couple: Are you two mega sports fans? Do you take ballroom dance? Do you have an inexplicable Mcdonald’s addiction? Every couple has quirks and habits, so bring those to your shoot! Wearing sports tees is cute if that’s your thing! Are you two from Texas? Then you better come in boots! As I said before, the goal is to add depth to these pictures, not create something you could photoshop any couple’s heads onto and never know who it is. We want this to be YOU.
Bring a few options: You want to have a few different “looks” planned. You want to at least bring a Date Night Look, and a Casual Saturday Look.
Date Night Look should be your sexy, going out, styled up gear. I like dresses for this look, personally, and high heels! I’m sure at least once in your relationship you’ve gone out somewhere nice and had to dress up, and that’s the look that’ll be so great in these pictures. Some things I’ve seen work amazingly are red dresses, men in black dress pants with great dress shoes, cuff links, sky-high heels, and great jewelry. I think even if that’s a rare look for you, it’s a fun one for engagement because the NEXT time you two get dressed up will be your wedding day! These are your first professional pictures as a couple, so to get a little out your everyday realm is fun!
For Casual Saturday Look I like jeans, favorite tops, long cardigans, sports tees if they mean something, and whatever makes you two feel good. I wear tons of dresses, so for me this would be a great sundress and knee-high boots, for my little sister it would definitely mean jeans. Pick out the best version of your casual, everyday look, and then add in a few extras accessories- a jacket, cuter-than-usual shoes, or even a hat. Whatever expresses yourself with an extra punch of style.
Help Him Out: Not a ton of guys wake up and think, “Oooh, I know just what I want to wear to the shoot today!” You need to help him look as gorgeous as he is, and he’s going to be depending on you for that, so do some research. Look at some ads featuring men and pay attention to what they’re wearing and what pieces look good. (Don’t turn to Abercrombie though, unless he’s a Greek god under his shirt, which in that case force him to do a shirtless shoot) Men can do great layering too, he doesn’t just need to put on a shirt and jeans. Get him a great sweater, or hoodie, or jacket, pick out some fun socks, and help him with his hair. He is just as self-conscious in pictures as you are, he’s just going to act like he’s not.
Get professionally made-up: I know it’s not clothing, but getting your makeup done by a professional is going to be the biggest difference to having the best looking pictures possible. While amazing lighting and an amazing photographer are the main things you need for an equally amazing pictures, a pair of properly applied false eyelashes are probably right up there with them. Ask anyone in Hollywood. Pay for the face, you’ll be very, very happy later.
Ohhh these one’s are the most fun to dress up! Kids can look so amazingly cute, even if you don’t do the clothes right, but if you do? They will be your favorite pictures in the whole world.
Props: Adults cannot put on a snow beanie, galoshes, and a pair of shorts and look anything less than mentally unstable. Kids can do this and look like the cutest things on Earth. If your child is willing, pile on the funky combos! Polka dot tights and a tutu? Yes, please. Suspenders and a fedora? Yes! Please! What looks ridiculous on us looks so great on them!
Patterns and colors: All I have to say is, the Gap commercial last Christmas. Does anyone else remember it? A bunch of little girls singing a hip-hop song saying things like, “How cute are these boots? How cute are these boots?” Well, watch it right here if you haven’t seen it. Gap Commercial Link These girls look SO freaking adorable because they are all wearing about 14 different colors and patterns and pieces of clothing, in similar colors. I love this commercial. I wished they would make those polka dot tights for adults all last winter (if you’re 5’9 you can’t make the kids’ ones long enough, no matter how much you try. Don’t ask how I know this) But look at these kids, who were put into outfits styled by professionals to looks as cute as humanly possible. And take note.
Babies=Naked: I mean, if it’s a newborn, there’s only one outfit. Don’t show up with a 2 week old baby in a prom dress stuffed awkwardly into it’s car seat. That’s just silly. Newborns and tiny babies don’t need an outfit, their little naked body is all that’s required. An older baby really only needs a cute hairbow or fun shoes. When they’re that little, outfits are just going to look rumpled and smushy anyway. Don’t stress on clothes until they’re toddling!
Be YOURSELF!! That’s my biggest advice for portraits of you and you alone. Dress up the way YOU like, wear the things YOU enjoy, and put as much YOU into the photo as possible.
Get into your personality: You love music? Wear your Ramones t-shirt. You golf? Rock the knickerbockers. You listen to Taylor Swift all day, everyday? Sundress and boots it is! Bring your personality to this shoot! This shoot is only about you, so bring it all out and be the most visual version of yourself as possible. It’s my only rule, besides the universal ones, for these shoots.