How To Dress & Prep Your Family For Family Portraits | Baltimore Maryland Photographer

Updated: Jul 31



What Every Client Needs to Know 

I am so excited for your portrait session! Whether I’m capturing your sweet family, or celebrating a special moment in your life, like a graduation, birthday, anniversary or new baby, I’m so honored to help you create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. I’ve created this special guide to help you get the most out of your photos, and by the time you’ve read through this post, you'll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever. I can’t wait to get you in front of my camera!

Style Tips: For Her 

Because you always want to remember this. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Dress It Up 

Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, I’ve known clients to use Rent the Runway for their session because it’s such an affordable way to feel like a million bucks. Other clients love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into their closet!

Quick Tip: There’s no such thing as too dressed up.

How To Shop For Your Session If you are considering purchasing a new outfit or two for your session, I have some go-to places and for all budgets. Loft has amazing texture in their pieces and I love texture and movement in clothing. Especially the ones in front of my camera. Loft is also extremely comfortable. If you like something a little more eclectic, I highly recommend Anthropologie. If you prefer a more tailored look, I definitely suggest checking out J.Crew or Banana Republic. If you want to dress up but don't want to drop $$$ on a new dress, why not rent one from Rent The Runway! They have high end designers and the most AMAZING dresses at a reasonable price. As I type this I wish you could see the heart eye emojis on my face. Also, be sure to not rule out major department stores like Nordstrom or Macy's. And of course there are budget friendly options such as Old Navy, Target and Amazon has some great outfits as well (I've seen some dresses of theirs and LOVE them! Also, jumpsuits are a PERFECT outfit choice and they are beautifully polished and taken to a new level when you pair them with a cute (and comfortable) heel! If you are wracking your brain about how to pair pieces together, be sure to pay close attention to how mannequins are dressed if you are able to go to a store. Most of the time they are put together by a stylist to help give you an idea on how an outfit should look. If you are unable to go to a store due to lack of time or you can't get a sitter to watch the kiddos, online shopping is another option. When browsing your favorite online retailer, they often give you ideas on how to put together an outfit based on what you are browsing so DEFINITELY be sure to keep that in mind also. You may be surprised by some of the pairing options. Don't rule anything out and keep an open mind.


Say Yes to the Dress 

Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! We recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two instead.

Long, full-length, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature, like simple settings like fields or beach. Consider softer fabrics like chiffon or tulle which allow for beautiful movement in the images. 

When considering the length of your dresses or skirts, it’s also a good idea to factor in whether or not there will be little ones in your photos. If you have smaller children, I’ll likely have you sitting or crouching on the ground to interact up-close with them. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a floor-length dress or skirt, or perhaps a cute midi-skirt, will make moving around with your kids much easier, and look perfect on camera, too. 


One or Two? It’s Up to You! 

You can select one outfit set or two! Some of my clients who choose two outfits will bring one “wow” dress, and then another slightly more casual dress that has a “date night” feel. But if you want to bring two “wow” dresses and forgo the more casual dress altogether, give yourself permission to do it! The camera loves runway-esque apparel and so do I! 

Remember, though, you don’t have to bring two looks if it’s too stressful to coordinate or if you’d rather just stick to one fabulous look. One outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love and another you’re not very excited about. And if you stick with one outfit set, you won’t have to spend any of your time changing half way through, so we’ll be able to sneak in a few more photos!

Choosing Colors 

When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting softer, lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you and your family feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like shades of gray, creams, browns and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments, and especially compliments any setting.

Flattering Your Features 

In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos. Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.

Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed-toes heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference! 

Quick Tip: Bring a pair of easy-to-kick-off flats to wear when moving from place to place in between photos. Your feet will thank you later! 

Make a Statement 

Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images, and be a nice tie-in when you’re coordinating with a group. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not be as noticeable on camera. 

Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. 

Go Pro: Hair & Makeup 

Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of my clients’ checklists because it looks amazing on camera and removes the stress of getting ready on your own.  This is the time to treat yourself! Whether it is lash extensions or a professional blow-out, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream. If you’re working with a makeup artist, have him/her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Plus, that’s the type of light we’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. Most of my clients feel like their professional makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a normal day, or that they're false lashes look too big, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it all just right for the camera — and my clients always love the final result. If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, I work with the best in the business and have a go-to team! They’re sweet as pie, talented as heck, unbelievable professionals and wonderful people. You’ll LOVE them! Just let us know and I’ll send you their information. I know they’ll take good care of you!

Quick Tip: Confidence. It’s always the best accessory.

PLEASE (!!!!!!) Skip the Spray Tan 

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, I recommend that you do not get a faux tan of any kind before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. And NOBODY wants that! Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully and naturally. If you absolutely CANNOT live without your spray tan, please get it about 3 days before your session that way it has some time to lighten a little.



Fashion Tips: For Him 

Because dapper and debonair never go out of style. 

The Best Fit

Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on his handsome face. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the jean or cargo shorts and sandals at home, too, as well as any pants that are loose or baggy. Fitted/tailored dress pants or fitted colored pants work best on camera. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong compliment to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. I also recommend staying away from large graphics and logos.  Small logos placed on the left or right area of the chest is acceptable since they are not as distracting.

Layered Looks 

Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew or Banana Republic, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust us when we say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers! Some of my favorite looks for guys come from J.Crew and Banana Republic, like I mentioned above. They know how to dress a man! They know how to add layers that just give your man a polished look without looking like he's in private school. You can also gather similar looks from Old Navy and Target or Kohl's(in that case, please stay away from their sport jackets as they are typically a little boxy and not properly fitted). From these retailers, I am a fan of their dress shirts and sweaters for cooler weather sessions. For the warmer months, long sleeved dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up with a fitted dress OR colored shorts looks best with loafers.

Mix It Up 

Many of my guys love to mix a suit coat, blazer or sport coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest, and break up the color tones. I am a big fan of this fresh take on a timeless classic.

It’s All in the Details 

Brown leather dress shoes compliment almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp compliments to any outfit for men and boys alike. If you bring two outfits to the session, you can start with a traditional necktie and belt, then switch to suspenders and a bow tie for your second look. If two looks are too stressful, no problem! One will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to compliment both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, it's a win. 

How to Prep Your Man 

Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for two hours, because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your guy. Tell him why you chose me and my style of photography. Show him your three favorite sessions that I’ve done, explain why you love them and express to him how much it means to you. Trust me, once he knows it’s important, he’ll light up the camera for you! The most common thing I hear from guys before photo sessions is this: don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time we’re done with the session, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had! 

Prepping Your Family Because they won’t be little forever. 

Coordinating the Crew 

Everything will be cohesive on camera when the color palette and wardrobe pieces coordinate, but don’t actually “match.” In fact, I recommend that you avoid thinking about “matching,” and instead think about what “fits” together. This will create more visual interest, and allow each personality to shine through.

How to Mix Colors

The goal for coordinating a family is to visually break up the colors and shades so that you’re not all wearing the same color on top and bottom. The more you can mix that up, the better. I encourage you to think about planning each outfit with “dominant colors” and “accent colors” in mind. A dominant color is the color that you see the most in an outfit, while an accent has a smaller piece of visual real estate. When you’re planning each family member’s outfit, if you can aim for each person to have a different dominant color, and then tie in and vary the accent colors, it’s going to look great all together. 

For example, if you’re dressing up and wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then he could wear a navy coat with a white button-down and gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square (making navy his dominant color). Your daughter could wear a soft blue top with a white tulle skirt (making a soft blue her dominant color) while your son wears light beige pants with navy suspenders and a white button down (making white his dominant color). Now each person has their own dominant color while still incorporating a few touches of the others that will pull all the looks together. This will break up the color visually and highlight each personality. Most of our moms choose their outfit first, and then build the rest of the family’s outfits based around that.

Remember, I recommend selecting those softer, lighter tones and avoiding those ultra-bright, bold colors. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. Feel free to vary the shades of the colors, too. That softer color palette fits beautifully into a natural environment, and can easily be paired in so many different ways.


Prepping Your Little Ones

Before your session, pack a bag with snacks, water and any small objects (like toys or lollipops) that might help me get their attention when it’s time for them to look at the camera. If they are old enough to understand you, it’s a good idea to prepare them for what’s to come before the session starts. Explain how much the photos mean to you so they know to be on their best behavior. A lot of families discuss and pick something fun in advance as a treat after the session if they’re good listeners, like an ice cream cone, for example. It also helps if they’re bellies are full and they’ve has some good rest beforehand. Once you’ve prepared them physically and mentally, then feel free to give them (and you!) grace! They’re little, and we know that some days don’t always go as planned. I’ve seen it all and will make sure to get you great photos, regardless of their moods. My goal is to make this as fun and stress-free as it possibly can be for you and your family!

Final Note

I know I just gave you a lot to think about. I created this email guide to help make your portrait session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Your future memories are the most important thing to me, and I want your session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!

cd

CASI DENTON PHOTOGRAPHY

weddings + families 

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BALTIMORE, MARYLAND WEDDING & FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER