One thing that is really important when organising a family portrait or photo shoot is planning what you are going to wear. Now some people are not keen on everyone looking the same, and that’s fine, I’m not talking about everyone being suited and booted and looking like twins. I’m talking about not just rocking up to a photo shoot (that you’re paying good money for) in a scruffy old t-shirt that you’ve just pulled out of the laundry pile. There’s a middle ground to be found, where people take pride in how they looks, choosing what to wear, to compliment and create a sense of one-ness with the rest of the family, whilst also looking and feeling great as an individual.

I photographed a family last year and they have kindly agreed to let me use a couple of their family photos by way of illustration. The reason I asked them is simply because I don’t think I’d ever seen such an un-coordinated family portrait in my life. The initial location was chosen out of pure convenience as they were having a family gathering on that particular day at the parents house, so it just made sense to them. Needless to say, I took a good lot of photos, but in the end and after much discussion, we agreed to re-schedule and try again with everyone making a bit more of an effort.

The first image we captured of the family all together is this one:

The image above is fine ‘technically’ (it’s in focus, everyone is looking at the camera and smilling) but there’s just a lot of jarring details/distractions and visual disonance. The family looks, to me, like a random collection of individuals who’ve been caught off guard and pulled together for a quick family snap. There’s checked shirts, stripy (verticla and horizontal) tops, patterned tops, plain black t-shirts, a white polo top, a dash of turquoise and a dash of dark blue; and then we’ve got black trousers, khaki trousers and blue jeans all thrown into a mixing pot with four dogs and the back of a house, with assorted tubs, a tree and a fence. It’s the sort of photo, I’m sad to say, that I’d rather not look at. It hurts me and if all you want is a quick shot like the one above, then please don’t call me.

Anyway, after much discussion and more planning, we re-arranged the shoot, talked in depth about clothing and met again a few month later. The second shot is below:

I’m pleased to say that we’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head (we’re still not 100% perfect) but by and large that is always going to be the case, there’s alway one/two and it’s usually either a parent/grandparent or teenager who really doesn’t want to play ball. But anyway.

The second photo is the exact same group, same dogs and a broadly similar grouping, although we have moved dad to the front and centre. Colour wise, I think everyone pretty much managed to stick to the pastilles colour pallet we chose and the coordination (by contrast with the first image) is just huge. They look like a family, they look like they belong together and have planned the image, there’s very little in the way of anything to distract you from the people in the photo, and that’s what makes it.

We did move the group and shoot in a couple of locations, just for some variety, and if I’m honest, I prefer this second shot, for the simple reason being that we’re a touch more staggered (there’s a bit more visual space for everyone) and I just prefer the background. The only negative here is that the sun was very bright, so the shadows are rather strong. But all in all, I hope this little blog post helps you to understand the importance of choosing a suitable venue as well as the importance of choosing what to wear for your family photo shoot.