You'll want the whole family to look its best for the family portrait, but when it comes time to choosing family picture outfits you're torn: If you go with a matching look, you run the risk of looking odd. But if you all wear what you want to, you lose the cohesive factor so important in family portraits. A few pointers can help to guarantee that you will be proud of the final product.
Watch What You Match
There's a certain charm in the family that dresses alike, at least for pictures. But we're not talking making everyone wear matching white shirts, high-rise khaki shorts and black socks. Think of an outfit that makes you feel comfortable -- something you might wear to a casual barbecue or day at the museum -- and then modify for your picture-taking needs. Avoid bold patterns -- or any patterns, for that matter. Stick with subdued, pastel or earth tones. Jeans are always a good option, and for shirts or blouses, the more you cover up the better -- stick with the long-sleeved look. It only adds to the uniformity. And always dress for full-length shots, which means socks and shoes that also match others in your family, at least in color.
Best bets: For beach or outdoor garden shots, try long-sleeve white shirts and jeans. The white shirts and jeans blend in with the white sand and blue sea for beach shots, whereas for garden shots they provide a nice contrast.
Don't Rule Out Formal
Think back to family portraits of your parents, or grandparents. Men are generally wearing a suit, while women are dressed formally. That's not a bad idea to follow today, particularly for indoor portrait shots against a white, black or colored background. This approach might help placate mom and the girls, giving them a chance to get dressed up, while even the most unruly boys can look cultured and refined in a suit and tie. And if your little ones don't have suits, don't fret -- all the big discount chains carry sport coats and slacks.
Best bets: Try black jackets and slacks and white shirts for the guys and any color dress for the ladies. You'll swear you've just stepped from the pages of a fashion magazine.
Push the Boundaries
If you are absolutely against wearing matching outfits, then at least coordinate styles. Don't have Dad wear a dress shirt while Junior has on a "No Fear" T-shirt; don't have Mom wear a formal gown while Sis has on a halter top and shorts. Coordinating colors also is critical -- if you're not all going to wear the same colors, at least wear colors from the same family -- ideally earth tones or pastels. Avoid bold colors and patterns, particularly polka dots. They are instant eye-grabbers and will divert attention away from family members clad in more subtle attire.
Some General Tips
Dress appropriate to your ages. Granny might not look as good in a mini as the girls do, so see if there's some middle ground for everyone. Avoid trendy fashions; there's nothing like seeing yourself in a powder blue leisure suit from the Christmas of 1979 photo shoot, or Member's Only jacket from Christmas 1989, to make yourself feel old. Avoid showing too much skin; you want the focus to be on your faces, and too much bare skin tends to compete. And by all means keep in mind your own personal grooming needs prior to a photo shoot; most men's haircuts, for example, require at least a week to "take," so don't get a haircut the day before your shoot and then wonder why the hair on the left side of your head keeps standing up. Ladies, the same goes for you -- with an added admonition to not wear too much jewelry or makeup, both of which can lead to glare.