How to Style Family Portraits
It’s finally fall and if you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about your family portraits. I’m not uber traditional when it comes to the holidays, but after years of being professional photographers and working with hundreds of families, one thing there was never a question about was doing our own family photo for Christmas Cards. What to wear is always the question, but this year I spotted the “It” dress early and I’m happy to say we already have the Christmas Cards in hand to send out and it’s not even October (patting myself on the back)! Here are a few tips for planning your style for this year’s portrait. 

Sisters pose for family photos on the beach

Where Will You Display?

The first thing you need to think about is where you plan on displaying your images. If it’s just for your card then you have a lot more choices for wardrobe. If you plan on putting these up on your walls then you need to think a little more strategically about the colors you are going to use. This year I knew we were going to put these images on canvas and hang on the wall. We don’t have any pictures of London on the walls yet and I wanted to incorporate her into our gallery. 

Couple embracing on the dunes at the beach
Choosing a Color Scheme
We live at the beach and our little cottage has a of neutrals. I wanted soft colors that reflected the coastal lifestyle but would also blend in with our decor. I ultimately decided to go with soft pastels in teal and pink. The exact shades didn’t have to match perfectly. As you can see, we are in the same color spectrum without having the exact shame shades. Also, and this is very important, you need to choose colors you know look good on you.
Couple shares an intimate embrace on the beach

Deciding Where to Shoot

In our neck of the woods it’s a little cliche to shoot at the beach. It really never gets old, but we try to mix it up from year to year. This year we came back to the beach because I wanted the location on display in our beach home. I envisioned a dramatic scene to add romance to the images, so we chose a more remote beach location to create an epic scene. When deciding on location consider the time of day and lighting. Assuming you are working with a professional photographer, they will likely know the best local spots to shoot and the best times of day. A common issue is that popular locations may be busy with tourists and locals. It’s a good idea to choose a weekday if possible to cut out some of the background traffic. This is another good reason to shoot earlier in the season because it starts getting dark earlier in October and November. By the end of the season and closer to the holidays you have to shoot outdoors around 3pm in order to get anything good. 

sisters pose together for family picture

A Few Tips 
  • Avoid patterns and stick to solid colors. Patterns will draw away from your faces.
  • Make sure to feed kids (and Dad) before the shoot. This can dramatically effect attitude during the shoot. 
  • Consider kids bed times and try not too shoot so close to nap or bed time if possible. 
  • Nature will be nature. Consider having a rain date in mind in case of weather. Also, for beach locations, you may have to deal with a considerable amount of wind. We had a lot of wind for our shoot, and I hated it. It can ruin everything. So know the risk and plan accordingly. This is a good time to wear your hair up. 
  • Less is more. When choosing your accessories, don’t over style. Too many accessories make an image heavy and distracting. It may look good on a fashion post but not hanging on your walls.
  • Don’t be afraid to get moving. We loved shooting families chasing their little ones and having fun together. For this shoot my husband wanted to dip me. How fun are these shots? 
  • Don’t be afraid to go on pinterest and pull your favorite poses and pictures. Your photographer will appreciate knowing what you are going for and what you like as far as style, lighting, and formatting. 
  • To save money shop Groupon for canvases, Christmas Cards, and photo books. I have found Canvas on Demand, Shutterfly, and Picaboo on Groupon and they are some of my preferred vendors. 
Amy West and husband on the beach
Amy and David West being playful on the beach

Let’s Go Shopping
So where did we get our outfits? Well, you might be surprised to learn that my dress and boots were the only new pieces. My husband’s shirt was from Brooks Brothers a few years back and my daughters dresses were hand me downs that just happened to be perfect. I really gained inspiration for the entire shoot around my dress. I spied it online at Anthropologie about a month ago and thought it was the perfect family portrait dress. The tulle is soft (and not puffy), and I knew it would move well in the ocean breeze. Really this dress would go with just about any location since it is so neutral and a classic silhouette. I chose the boots from Nordstrom to add a more distinct look.

What are your favorite photo tips? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

Until then…

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West 

Special thanks to:
Tara Clemons for helping us with the awesome photos
Rio Hair Studio for my trendy new cut and color
Guana Beach for the gorgeous background

Laugh at Yourself

We may make it look easy, but know that family pictures are just as challenging for us as it is for everyone else. Fortunately you really only need 2 to 4 good images which  we thankfully scored even though our kids weren’t feeling it, the wind was crazy, and it was still a little early to shoot. Here are a few of our outtakes. I know you are laughing with us not at us right? 

outtakes of family photos on the beach
Those eyes though…

outtakes of family photos on the beach
Almost had it. What are you doing Londy? 

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