Remember back in the day when the family portrait uniform was light blue denim and a white t-shirt? Remember how awful that was? Somehow the world made a unanimous decision that this 90’s style of matching was what all family sessions needed to be photographed in. While I’m extremely thankful that phase is over, that idea is still somehow in the back of our minds… everything must match.
Our clients still need to hear the truth– the clothing you and your family decide to wear needs to coordinate and compliment each other, not completely match. I know I know, it can be cute if your husband and son wear the same outfit, or you want to match your cute little daughter. Trust me, you’ll thank me when I suggest you select different outfits.
Explaining this concept to your clients can be somewhat challenging. Even if they are in love with your work, and the outfits of clients in your gallery are perfectly curated, their own ideas of what outfits should be worn will come creeping in. We understand that the thing with matching outfits is that they show zero personality. Each person in the family being photographed is unique and our goal is to showcase that personality. If the LAST thing the son you have to photograph would ever wear is a button up shirt, don’t make them wear a button up shirt. They’ll end up feeling uncomfortable the entire session and it’ll show. If the daughter you’re photographing is into fun prints, let her pick a pattern for an outfit. Long gone are the days of plain items for kids– let her be creative and fun in her outfit selection. She’ll feel more confident and you’ll see it in how she photographs.
I like to try to explain things to my clients in a few really clear and easy ways and provide them with examples and options. Let’s take a look at what I have had success with so you can try it out.
1 – Explain Complimentary Outfits
When your client selects complimentary outfits, each person can showcase their personality and vibe and as a family, it’ll look amazing together. When thinking of complimenting, it’s more often with colour palettes than anything else. A colour palette that coordinates means each person’s individual style can be on display while keeping a unified look during family images. Stress the idea of colour palette more than exact outfit as a priority and that will help them make the connection to less matching.
2 – Explain the ‘General Guidelines’
I have a few general guidelines I offer to every single client I work with.
- No logos that date the clothing. A favourite band t-shirt can be cool, but a giant Adidas logo on your shirt is not.
- Parents wear solid colours and let your kids wear patterns. This makes the shots of everyone together interesting.
- If your child is under one year old, keep their outfit minimal. Big bows or overwhelming accessories are just going to distract from the already small child. You don’t want your kid to compete with what they are wearing– let them be the focus.
3 – Offer Inspiration
I have two Pinterest boards loaded with inspiration for spring/summer and fall/winter sessions. Clients can go onto these boards and see if they have something in their closest that is similar or even see if they find something a friend might have that they can borrow. I curated these boards so that most things on the board will all work together. I have this to be a better option than boards for each person in the family. With these two general boards, people can see how items work together instead of just seeing random individual outfits for each person. It’s easier to visually understand this way.
4 – Help
I’ll help out if needed. I always tell a client they can put together outfits and send me photos of how everything looks together. I’ll give feedback or maybe I have some things they could wear. I also offer suggestions and remember to make sure my feedback is constructive. Things like “I like that shape of dress– do you have something similar in a softer colour or know someone you can borrow it from?” or “How about asking the kids what they would want to wear then pick things in similar shapes and styles that match your colour palette.” There’s always a way to encouraging them through their process.
5 – Style + Select
This new resource is amazing. I joined Style + Select which is basically all the tips I’ve given you in one. You give your client a code that unlocks the survey on the Style + Select website. Once they finish the survey, Style + Select shows them clothing options that can be purchased from affordable places with H&M and Old Navy to a bit of a larger budget like Aritzia. You can line up all the outfits you’re selecting to see how it all comes together and even upload your own images in. The women that started Style + Select are photographers and went through what we all go through trying to dress our clients so they made a solution. This isn’t even an ad– I just genuinely love what they do.
Dressing your client doesn’t have to be as hard as it may have been in the past. Pinterest boards and Style + Select have made my life so much easier. My clients know the looks of the clothing that will work well and they stick with it. Having a portfolio that also showcases your work with the best clothing options also helps a client understand what you are going for when you ask them to pick outfits. Stay consistent and your client will understand how to pick outfits that will work best for their session while showcasing their unique vibe as a family.