What to wear for outdoor summer family photos

One of the most common questions I get for family photos is “how do I dress my family?” Deciding what to wear for a shoot can be one of the most stressful OR the most FUN parts of the experience! Wardrobe tips depend a lot on what works best in individual seasons, so check out these suggestions for what works specifically in the summer months to make sure everybody is comfortable and looking awesome.

(SIDE NOTE: Scroll to the bottom for some of my favorite stores and direct links to wardrobe pieces I’m loving for your summer family photos!)

1. Mom picks first

Mom is usually doing the planning and tends to have the most variety and preferences when it comes to fit, style, etc. So MOMS GO FIRST. Choose something you adore, then work everybody else’s outfit around that!

2. Be honest, it’s hot.

It’s hot here in VA summers, so please consider the heat and choose fabrics and colors accordingly to what you and you people feel good in! If you tend to sweat a lot, consider wearing a sleeveless shirt or airy maxi dress! If your husband gets really hot easily, forget the khakis and polo and recommend a light tee and shorts! You’ll be more comfortable and that shows (in this case, literally and figuratively).

3. Mix solids and patterns

Mixing patterns is a great way to add interest and personality to your images. Stay away from bold logos and thick stripes, but small pattern combos work great! I suggest no more than 2 people in patterns, though, and then fill in the rest with solids and texture! Accessories like a vest, suspenders, or even a bright or patterned headband can be a fun way to add some fun and flair.

4. Stick to a color family

Think about your personal style – do you tend to gravitate toward cool colors (blues, greens, purples) or warm colors (oranges, reds, yellows)? Maybe neutral is your thing – whites, tans, greys. Whatever it is, stick to a color family and it will be easy to coordinate without being all matchy-matchy. The only real ‘no’ here is neon – it tends to clash with most locations and reflect strongly onto the skin.


In the summer, rural landscapes are lush and green, so I recommend staying away from solid green pieces if you choose this type of location so you still pop from the background! 


A lot of people think that matching sibling outfits are super cute (I mean, they ARE) but they’re actually NOT a great choice for family photos because they make it really difficult to pose when your shirts are blending together. And honestly, they’re kinda cheesy for someone who wants authentic family photos.

5. Do the movement test

In my sessions, we run, lay, stand, sit, and spin! I shoot from above and from all sides. Whatever you choose (for everyone in the family!) make sure it passes the movement test – aka, you don’t feel constrained or self-conscious at different angles or positions. This is especially important when considering dresses – I recommend staying away from short dresses (for girls and moms!) as it’s all too easy when moving around to get a great shot with expression but show a little too much below!

Clothes that are flowy and loose are great options for summer because they photograph so well with movement! Get your play on and have some fun with those outfits!

6. Dad’s – don’t be stuffy.

A classic henley or solid tee with some shorts is my favorite suggestion for dads. It’s simple and comfortable for hot days and basically matches everything! No need to feel restricted to a polo or button-up shirt and dress shoes.

7. Head to toe

It’s my humbe opion that barefoot kids are simply the cutest. Not to mention, splashing in water is basically the best thing ever for the end of a summer session! If we’re not playing in the water and we’re not hanging at home, though, remember to wear shoes that are comfortable (see a theme here??) for walking short distances and playing in! Feet will definitely be photographed so keep the full length in mind. Simple sandals and flats are always a win!

8. Ask me!

If you’re stuck between a few ideas and need a second opinion, I literally LOVE helping clients decide on what to wear. It doesn’t bother me one bit and in fact, it helps me get even more inspired before your shoot to know what you’ll be wearing!

I always encourage my clients to lay those outfits out on the bed, take a picture and text or email it to me for advice!

Shop my faves

If you’d like some specific ideas for clothing pieces that will most definitely photograph well and be fun additions to your summer wardrobe post-session, too, check out these links below!

I’m loving this long dress and this patterned midi dress for moms, plus these fun tops here, here, or even a simple tank like this with your favorite denim.

Jumpsuits like this one or this one are super cute at any age (for boys and girls!). Rompers like this solid yellow one and are equally fun, different, and adorable for summer, or you could opt for a simple top and shorts like these for girls!

Are little boys clothes just the sweetest or what!? Go with a simple tee like this one or solid polo, or a little outfit like this one (not gonna lie, just bought it in blue for my little man and I’m not one bit sorry.)

Men are easy – keep it simple and neutral for a guaranteed win. I love these solid tees (so does my husband!) or a linen polo like this with favorite shorts is also always a great combo, too.

Ready for your own fun family photo session in Charlottesville?

Reach out to get on the calendar and celebrate your crew with me!

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What to wear for outdoor summer family photos