What to Wear for a Great Family Portrait

My grandmother's 80th birthday is this October, and having an extremely tight knit familia, we plan on celebrating it in a big way.  Our family is flying in from Toronto so that we can all be together for this occasion and it has been a while since our last family portrait. The other grandkids and I have decided this will be the perfect gift for our dear Grams, so photo shoot planning is in full force!

I wasn't thrilled with our last family photo. Cue studio with a mustard draped background and our family all lined up in rows trying to smile for the camera while holding still. That might be someone's jar of jam, but it isn't mine.

Perhaps it's my past as wedding planner, but photography is uber important, and good photography is priceless. I am certainly more a fan of the photojournalistic approach, so I am happy we are the ones planning this photo and can have a bit more say.

I know we will still get a traditional family portrait taken, but I'm most looking forward to the candid shots. The kind where someone is laughing for real and you can just feel their happiness oozing out of them from a single photo. Those are the special ones.

Anyways, this post is more about "what to wear for a large group photo" then it is about anything else, so I'll stop the chatter and try and cut to the chase.

I am not a fan of the matchy matchy. We've done it before, and I'm sure you have too. Everyone in jeans or khakis? Check. White shirts? Check. Why? Who knows. 

I'm sure this will be met with some controversy, including in my family, but I just don't get it. It looks ....cheesy. Unoriginal. All the families blend together. No one's personality or individuality shines through. 

What other options are there, you may ask?

Well, how about plaids, sweaters, denim, navy and grey? Still looks cohesive, but so much more personality.

How about a combo of neutrals? Black, white and grey tops, choose your own bottoms. Looks so much more natural without being clashy.

And if you really really want to match to a certain degree (which I totally get), why not choose a colour family and stick to that. Ditch the khakis and white shirt, and have everyone dress in one colour (and allow various shades for even more visual interest). This one is done just right.

And if Tommy is your uncle, and your family is incredibly eclectic and cool, then please consider this. I will love you for it.

Any other great suggestions for family photos? Please share!

xo J


  1. Such a fun round-up, Jen! I really like the photo with the sweaters and plaids. Great for a fall photo shoot (like yours!) My runner-up would have to be the family in their combination of neutrals. It really pops with the natural setting of the photo. However, that last photo is awesome . . . but it's also a magazine ad. I'm sure somewhere there's a family like this!

    I hope everyone appreciates your suggestions so that you can give Grandma a beautiful keepsake. Do you have someone in mind to take the photo?

    1. The magazine ad is priceless. Would be really fun to try and replicate is as a gag, no?

      And yes, I've already hired a photographer. She's fabulous and I can't wait to see how the photos turn out!

  2. Love the all-grey family photo. Looks totally cool without trying too hard. Except they probably tried really hard to make it look like they're not trying hard :)

  3. When you have multiple families it's nice when you can tell who belongs to who, so maybe assign a neutral to each family then you can mix them up in the setting and still tell 20 years later who is married to who and who those cute kids in the front row belong to.

    1. So true and fantastic idea! :) Will have to run it by my cousins!

  4. I found this on Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/pin/275704808408933573/ which takes you here: http://www.antsmagazine.com/photography-2/50-outstantding-examples-of-family-photographs/

    Hope it helps!!


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