How to look beautiful, comfortable and confident during a family photo session

In my opinion, there are as many ideas of how to dress for a family session, as many family photographers are out there.

I’m ok with using patterns while some photographers try to discourage from doing so. I’m ok with mismatching and not coordinating although I know, that many photographers have different opinion about it. And that’s ok!

I love scarfs, shawls, hats, and always encourage my clients to bring those accessories to the session, while other photographers would encourage you to have clean and simple style without any distractions from you as the main subject. That mostly happens with studio photography.

what to wear-3

The common question

We all have our own styles and we want our clients to dress the way we like our brand to be portrayed. Elegant, funky, colorful, vintage. If someones style is vintage and elegant they will guide you to dress accordingly to their brand’s style.

One of the most common asked questions before the session is: “What do you want us to wear?

– “Wear whatever you’d like” said no photographer ever. We always try to give a small hints and advice of not to wear, what colors to avoid, etc.

I do try to encourage families to pick clothes that would make them feel comfortable and confident. I also always say,

“wear something that’s YOU”

If you’re planning to do a glamour sessions, or to update your social media profile photos session, then that’s a different story, and I will want to talk about that, also by inviting local photographers who specialize in that kind of photography for short interviews. Will be posting the interviews here.

How to look confident and comfortable during family session, san jose family photographer

Sometimes feeling comfortable is not enough

On the picture above I’m wearing cloths that are comfortable and make me look/feel confident. That day I also let my kids to dress themselves. This is us and I adore the picture simply because our dog (who is old and very sick) was with us and the main reason for this picture (and few more) was to photograph the four of us together. I didn’t really care for festive clothes, because it wasn’t the look I was going for here, it was the memory.

You don’t want to look at your family portraits and wish you were wearing something different. That spoils the whole experience.

There isn’t a worse thing, then spent great amount of money on outfits for the whole family and then right before the session find out then the kids don’t want to wear it because it’s something new and probably not comfortable, or something that they don’t really like but it was picked because you wanted to match it to your dress or dad’s outfit. It also isn’t fun when during the session you don’t feel comfortable in what you’re wearing; When it doesn’t feel like it’s YOU.

In a perfect world you should feel 100% confident with 100% beautiful, and 100% comfortable. Is this really possible to achieve? Probably, but I think trying to reach a healthy balance among those 3 is the best indicator to start from. There are always things that won’t be 100% the way you want it. There is always not enough time for the perfect make-up because dressing the kids took way longer than you had expected. Let me know if I’m wrong but I think that most of today’s moms feel the most comfortable in yoga pants and t-shirts so asking them to wear something beautiful, festive, and at the same time comfortable feels like something very contradictory. right? 😉
But still I always say that anyway, knowing that many of my moms will come to the session wearing jeans. Am I upset about it? Not at all, as much as you shouldn’t be if you choose to dress that way. Just don’t forget to thrown some extra jewelry, and a colorful scarf and you’ll be looking good!

Here is a photo that hangs on my wall as a canvas:

nola's iris garden-4a

My kids wearing my scarfs (what they simply LOVE to do), one of them wearing her shoes on the wrong feet (at that time she wouldn’t let me help her with putting them, she wanted to do it “by myself”). Kissy and huggy in a new, unique place. THAT’S US!

It was us during one of our “adventures” while location scouting. The photo tells a story to me, and it’s way more US then the photograph with me in a black dress (last picture in this post)

The less you have to spend on your outfits the more you can invest into your post session products

Dressing nice to a session doesn’t have to mean spending extra $500 on outfits. There are ways to coordinate outfits for the entire family just using the clothes you have in your closet. You just need to know what to look for. If your friend has a dress that you really like, and it’s your size, and she doesn’t mind you using it, well, what’s the problem in borrowing it? There are many ways and resources, and I will try to help you to find out what would work the best for you in this matter.

As an example, here is a dress my mom used the wear when she was a young woman. I inherited it when 15 years ago she decided to clean her closet and this was one item she wanted to get rid of. This dress is unique, and I love unique! If you have a treasure like that in your closet, bring in with you! I WOULD LOVE TO PHOTOGRAPH YOU IN IT!!!

How to look beautiful, comfortable and confident during family session

How to look beautiful, comfortable and confident during family session

Color matters

If you want to make the session fun and colorful and if you’re a family who really cares about details then there are websites out there which can help you with picking the right color palettes for the entire family.  Here is a websites with ready color combo palettes and schemes. Just find your favorite and try to coordinate your family outfits accordingly to one of the pallets. It’s a really great website if you dig deeper into it. Here is another website where you can have more fun with experimenting with the colors. This website let you see what are the complementary colors in case if you’re one of the bravest and would want to dress your family in those colors.

For the picture below my kids wanted to wear tutus, and you know, when a kid wants something, the kid gets it just for the sake of a good picture in the process 😉 With all the color going on them, I simply tried to stay neutral.

How to look confident and comfortable during family session

Pastel colors work best for photographs. I always encourage people to avoid red, white, black, and bright yellow. Small accessories like shawls, jewelry, sweaters, jackets, hat, etc., make a big difference in the picture. If you normally don’t wear any make up, I would recommend to add some blush and mascara to your overall look for the purpose of the session.

With whatever you decide to go, don’t over do it. Don’t reach the point where you don’t feel like yourself anymore.



If you’d like to chat about your session with me, please email to ewasamples(at) 
Also, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and in return get on an exclusive list of mini-sessions, and model calls. 

Hope to hear from you soon, 
Ewa, your Family Photographer



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