What to Wear for Your Fall Family Photo Session

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Even though I’ve been a photographer for the past six years, I am the worst about preparing myself and my family (read: outfits) before a professional session. Let me paint you a little picture of what happened last year for our fall photos:

It’s 1:45 p.m. on a Tuesday in November and I’m six months pregnant, in Target, looking for a dress. I scoop up a bunch of things that could work and start trying on dresses in the dressing room, texting photos to my photographer (also a friend of mine). She responds to the dresses and then says, “Okay, heading your way!”


I TOTALLY forgot photos were that day. I thought they were Thursday, not Tuesday. My hair is not done (it’s not even clean). I have no makeup on. I have nothing to wear. My son is at Mother’s Day Out, and I have to go pick him up in 45 minutes. My husband is at work, in a meeting, and has no idea we have to do family photos in an hour.

Needless to say, I scrambled. I bought the only dress that fit and looked decent, grabbed my son, ran home to get ready, and threw about 75 outfits in the car for my husband to choose from. I was a mess. 

I’d blame pregnancy brain, but this is not the first time this has happened to me. I also was not prepared for my newborn session when my son was born (cue to me running around the mall two weeks postpartum looking for a dress), nor was I prepared for my maternity session with my daughter (I ended up having to reschedule due to clothing not arriving on time).

And yet, I preach the importance of being prepared and choosing outfits way ahead of time to clients. Typically, you’re putting a lot of money into a session and typically, it’s mom doing all the work to make sure it goes perfectly. 

These are the photos that you will come back to over and over again as the years go by. You want to LOVE your photos. So I think putting in just a touch of thought beforehand can really go a long way.

SO. This year I’m going to take the advice I give clients and prepare early for our family photo session. Here’s what I tell my clients:

Choose a Vibe

what to wear for fall family photos

Dress // Men’s sweater // Men’s pants // Hair bow // Girl’s sweater // Romper // Socks // Boy’s sweater // Boy’s pants // Boy’s shoes

Bear with me on the use of the word “vibe” here, but it’s important to think about. What do you want your family photos to look like? What do you pin over and over again on Pinterest? Where will your session take place? If you’re shooting in a golden field somewhere, a polished uptown look may not fit. Conversely, if you’re shooting in a downtown urban location, a bohemian look might not be best.

Choose a Color Palette

what to wear for fall family photos

Dress // Men’s sweater // Men’s pants // Hair bow // Romper // Tights // Baby moccasins // Boy’s sweater // Onesie // Overalls // Boots

I promise choosing a color palette is easier than it sounds. There are a few concepts to keep in mind:

  • Warm vs. cool colors: warm colors are red, orange, yellow, brown. Cool colors are green, blue, purple, gray.
  • Color opposites: each color has an “opposite” on the color wheel. That’s why green (cool) and red (warm), blue (cool) and yellow (warm), and purple (cool) and orange (warm) look so good together.

What I like to do is choose colors mostly on one side of the spectrum and then have one or two accenting pieces on the other side.

For instance: Pink dress (warm) for mom; brown pants (warm) for dad; mustard yellow (warm) for daughter; blue sweater (cool) for dad; gray (cool) for son.

I like neutral-ish colors on camera; they produce a really beautiful pastel look. Deep saturated colors also look gorgeous in fall. Just be careful not to go too matchy-matchy like the jeans-and-white-shirt days of yore.

Choose Mom’s Outfit First

what to wear for fall family photos

Dress // Men’s sweater // Men’s pants // Henley // Boy’s pants // Boots // Hair bow // Girl’s sweater // Dress // Tights // Baby moccasins

I always tell my mom clients two things: Choose their outfit first and wear a dress (preferable midi or maxi). Can I just be honest? So many of us don’t like how our legs look in photos. We’ll leave that topic for another day, but it’s true. And if you’ve got more than two people in your photos, it can start to look like a lot of legs if everyone is in pants.

Second, dresses photograph beautifully, especially if there’s a bit of a breeze. When a dress hem ruffles in the breeze, that’s what we in the biz call “movement.” It adds so much visual interest to your photos. If everyone is in pants, there’s very little movement.

And why should mom choose first? Because you deserve it! Pick what you really want to wear, what you think will make you feel beautiful, and build your family’s outfits around it. If your dress has more than one color, you can use those to create the color palette of what everyone else will wear.

Prepare in Advance

what to wear for fall family photos

Dress // Men’s shirt // Men’s pants // Hair bow // Romper // Tights // Baby moccasins // Boy’s sweater // Boy’s pants // Boots

Did my story about how I left everything until the last minute make you sweat? Yeah, me too. Please learn from my mistakes: Prepare in advance. 

  • Pull out things from your closet that you think will work. You don’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe just for photos.
  • Order/buy whatever you need way in advance.
  • Lay everything out together as soon as you have it and take a picture on your phone (make sure it’s in good, clean light).
  • Try everything on as soon as you have it; return and replace what doesn’t work.
  • Iron and steam the day before your session.

And there you have it! That’s the advice I give to all my family photography clients and the advice I will try to heed this year; no more last-minute Target trips for me!

Check out Fort Worth Mom’s “Guide to Local Photographers.”

Chelsea has been a writer for as long as she can remember. She blogs about sustainable fashion, clean beauty, sewing, and intentional living. A Northeastern native, Chelsea now calls the mid-cities home with her husband, Travis; son, Logan; daughter, Alba; and rescue dog, Argos.


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