client tips, families

What to wear for outdoor summer family photos

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I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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Deciding what to wear for your outdoor summer family photos can be one of the most stressful parts about planning your session – but it doesn’t have to!

Wardrobe depends a lot on what works best in individual seasons, so check out these suggestions for accommodating the summer months for outdoor photos to make sure everybody is comfortable and looking awesome.

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

Wardrobe tips for outdoor 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, moms should consider a sleeveless shirt or airy maxi dress, while dads should dirtch the khakis and dress shirts for 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 not the best choice for family photos because they make it really difficult to pose when your shirts are blending together.

summer family photos, Charlottesville VA

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. Dads – 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.

summer family photos in charlottesville, va

7. Head to toe

Barefoot is best! A relief right? Because squeezing shoes on kids (especially in the summer) is rarely fun. Not to mention, splashing in water is basically the best thing ever for the end of family photos in the 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 for summer family photos

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.)
  • For the guys–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 photos this summer?

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

You might also like :

How to feel confident in your family photos

Why it’s okay if your kids misbehave during our session

Adding activity to your outdoor family session

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Client tips

A morning person, nostalgia- obsessed, book-loving dreamer + doer

Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer and educator.

I am endlessly curious. I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself and love a good kitchen dance party. My kids inspire and delight me daily. My superpower is seeing magic in the mundane and thinking way too deeply about it. I’ll talk your ear off about business, purpose, and the ways art can fuel both. I believe the best way to care for people is to really see them. Every man in my life taught me that strength starts with black coffee and every woman showed me that you can be both sweet and spicy. 

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