How to Coordinate Clothes for a Family Picture

By Barbie Carpenter
Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Achieving the perfectly posed family picture is no easy feat. You might have to wrangle a toddler or two to sit still and pose or convince your full-of-angst teen to smile. With so many factors in your family photo shoot seemingly beyond your control, one thing you can control is how your family is dressed. Choose well-coordinated, complementary outfits for the entire family that aren't necessarily a perfect match. With the right outfits, you're one step closer to a family portrait worth framing.

Step 1

Plan around a pattern. Mixing and matching several bold patterns will be too much for your portrait. Instead, choose one pattern and build your family's wardrobe around it. For example, your daughter might wear a dress featuring hues of blue, green and yellow. Pull those colors out of her look by dressing the family in the shades from her dress. You might choose a green top for you son, navy slacks for your husband and a yellow cardigan for you, for example.

Step 2

Pair neutrals with a pop of color. A family in an all-neutral color palette might look washed out in their portraits. However, too many bold colors can overtake your photo. Strike the right balance by pairing neutral pieces with bolder colors. Gray shorts for the men or white slacks for the ladies, paired with a brighter color such as red, blue or orange, can create a well-balanced portrait.

Step 3

Add some dimension to your family's look with accessories. A statement necklace for mom, colorful hair bow for daughter or gentlemanly bow tie for the men can complete your look. Don't over-accessorize, though -- sprinkle a few accessories throughout your look, with no more than one per person.

Step 4

Layer your looks. Add some depth to your family's attire by layering your clothes. A solid-colored shirt can be enhanced by a complementary cardigan layered over it. Top your son's T-shirt with a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to enhance his look. Layered pieces for the family can bring the look together.

Step 5

Wear tones in the same color family. Choose a favorite color, such as blue, and have each family member wear complementary tones in this color family. You might wear a royal blue sweater, while your son wears a baby blue top. Choose three or four tones within the color family for some -- but not too much -- variety.

Step 6

Balance your color. Have some family members wear your complementary colors on top, some on the bottom and perhaps even some from head to toe. Shoes, skirts and pants can add some color to the bottom, helping to balance your family's color-coordinated look.

Step 7

Consider your setting. If you're planning fall family portraits outdoors against the backdrop of changing leaves, don't dress in a decidedly fall color palette. Shades of rich reds, oranges and yellows might leave your family blending into the backdrop instead of standing out.

About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.