Style Tips for Family Portraits

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By Amanda Furbeck

What makes a great family portrait? In decades gone by, family portraits were a serious and pricey matter. The family donned their Sunday finery, and sat primly and properly before the photographer. Everyone was posed 'just-so' and no one smiled. The antique, sepia colored photographs portray an air of mystery, reminiscent of times gone by. But oh, how the times have changed! Now there are photo shoots to fit any family, tailored to the needs, wants, and activities of each individual and to the entire clan. Whether you prefer a more formal photo shoot or fun, casual setting, here are some ideas to match your wardrobe with your family's photo shoot.

Timeless. If you are looking to create a timeless family portrait that will live on above your fireplace for years to come, you may want to avoid wearing anything too trendy or fleeting. Imagine looking back on yourself in ten or twenty years - will your outfit be cringe-worthy or will it fade into the happy memories? Choose classic, somewhat dressy outfits, such as simple A-line dresses, a basic white shirt and tie, and other classic outfits in jewel tones, black and white, or soft colors. Avoid iconic patterns, obvious branding, or uber-trendy outfits. Remember, you want the people to be the focus of the photo, not the wardrobe.

Formal. Formal portraits make beautiful family memories. Try dressing the men in matching black suits and the women in beautiful dresses. Make sure the women are not wearing competing patterns - solid color dresses or coordinating patterns work best. Jewel tones give the look an even more formal feel; red and greens give an air of holiday cheer, while pastels evoke feelings of spring time.

Casual. Some families just don't wear dress up clothes, so consider a casual shoot in a comfortable environment. Dress each family member in their favorite outfits and pose in a fun, family oriented setting such as a park or playground. Choose relaxed, happy faces over dead-pan smiles, and don't worry if you're outfits aren't exactly coordinated. A casual setting brings out each family member's individuality and unique personality. This just might be the picture that you'll chat about for years to come.

Matching. Some very effective, timeless photo shoots happen when the entire family is dressed in dark wash jeans with white t-shirts, or tan trousers and black tops. These outfits look great barefoot and on the beach. They often make terrific black and white shots. Another take on this style is to dress everyone in the same color but in different styles of clothing. You may have one family member in a blue dress, another in blue leggings and a tunic top; maybe another is sporting a blue turtleneck. This gives an air of solidarity without having to find items that look alike.

Fun. Does your family have a favorite activity that you participate in together? Do you enjoy rooting for a particular sports team or participate in an event? Consider a portrait in matching football jerseys (helmets optional). Or suit up in your rollerblading gear, don your parkas and skis, or pose in tuxes alongside your musical instruments. Have children pose in their favorite uniforms from their school activities, such as marching band, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, or even ballet or Irish stepdance. This will help everyone look back and remember the fun events that each sibling enjoyed best.

Costume. For a truly memorable portrait, have everyone dress up in costumes to create a family scene. Have everyone dress as cowboys, with ten gallon hats and cowboy boots, or go for a "Men in Black" look with dark suits and sunglasses for all. Be as creative and fun as you like - creating your family style for the portrait will be as much of a memory as the portrait itself.

Coordinated. Some families choose to be casual and coordinated without being silly or matchy-matchy. In this case, choose coordinating color families to show off your family. Have everyone dress in similar hues - such as all pastels or jewel tones, without being dressed exactly alike. If everyone wants to do their own thing, just try to avoid competing patterns, clashing colors, or anything too off the wall.

Holiday. Holidays are classic times to get a family portrait taken, but if you're going to use it for yearly Christmas cards, don't wait until the last minute. Plan ahead so you can choose the perfect outing and the perfect scene. If you want to avoid the Christmas sweater routine, you can still shoot for a holiday feel with warm fuzzy sweaters, or add a scarf to everyone's outfit. For a fun spin on the traditional holiday portrait, take along a few Santa hats and Christmas decorations to your summer vacay. Take a few minutes to don your Christmas gear and pose on the beach, with a palm tree, or even in front of the Disney Castle.

For a great photo shoot, you'll need a few pre-planned outfits, a few optional props, a great photographer, and a good sense of humor. Keep jewelry and accessories to a minimum, and avoid over-the-top trends. And most importantly, wear a genuine, happy smile for a family photo that you will cherish for years to come.

For more information, contact:

Lehigh Valley Family
4847 Hamilton Blvd.
Allentown, PA 18106
855-233-7034, ext. 702

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