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  • Writer's pictureDarcy Camden

How to style a family photo

Tip #1. Look like yourselves. The goal of a family photo is to capture the essence of your family and feature each member’s personality. Start by looking at what you wear every day. Ask each person in your family ‘What is your favorite outfit?” and start there. This is not the time to pull something obscure out of the back of your closet or buy something you will never wear again. And unless your family regularly goes out in public wearing matching outfits, avoid forcing everyone to wear the exact same thing.

Tip #2. Include signature pieces. My little boy only wears red shoes. Once I tried to get him to wear a different pair of shoes in a picture and it was a disaster. In the end, I’m glad the red shoes are in the picture. Never try to wrestle someone out of something that makes them feel comfortable. You’ll end up with much happier photo subjects and your photos will turn out better if everyone is feeling celebrated.

Tip #3. Pick a dominant neutral. I like to pick one neutral color, like navy or ivory or black, and make sure everyone wears that color in some way. The rest of the outfit can be customized, but having a single unifying color will tie everything together. NOTE: you’d be surprised how often a photo shoot comes together perfectly and organically with that single, minimal level of direction.

Tip #4. Think about the colors in the room where the photo will be displayed. If you’re planning to frame the photo and display it somewhere in your home, think ahead about the colors in that room and use your home decor colors as outfit inspiration.

Tip #5. Embrace (or at least accept) imperfections. It’s 2020. Some of us may need a haircut, we may be carrying a little extra weight. It’s ok! Don’t let that stop you from doing a family photo. One year, my family snapped our Christmas card photo in the diaper aisle of Target because that’s where we spent the most time. A lot of families love the idea of doing their photo in pajamas or sweatpants. Document yourselves just as you are.

Q: What if you’re coordinating a family picture with a large group of extended relatives and everyone shows up in something random and none of the outfits match?

A: Don’t stress. It’s fine! Focus on capturing everyone having a good time. Get nice smiles, have fun together. You can always turn the photo to black and white and Ta-Da! everyone matches.

Q: What’s the best way to avoid arguments?

A: I often encourage the rule “The person who cares the most wins”—Whenever I work with a family, I try to identify who’s steering the ship and just get everyone else on board. If mom is the one who cares the most about getting a nice picture, and she wants you to put on your navy shirt instead of your green one, just do it! It’ll be over in an hour.

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