Coordinating Family Photos :: Get Beautiful Pictures Without Losing Your Mind


Taking family photos can be stressful! We all love the beautiful, seemingly effortless Christmas cards that come in the mail, but there is a surprising amount of work that goes into them. Just ask any mom out there! I am not a photographer, but I do have some experience with coordinating styled wedding shoots, large sibling groups (my own nine younger siblings as a gift to my parents), and more recently, my little family of three. I love the creativity and planning that goes in to making beautiful images, and no matter the style or size of your family photos, I’ve compiled a few (hopefully) helpful ways to simplify the process, enjoy the time with your family, and love the finished product.

Family photos - capture special moments
A family photo from 2014 of my younger siblings and me. We had a bohemian theme with a cream and blush pink color scheme. (Photo by Kathryn Grace Photography.)

Find a Great Photographer

Birmingham has so many talented photographers, and quite a few are even mothers themselves and are comfortable with groups and small children. Instagram and friends’ recommendations are both great places to find local photographers. Keep your own family in mind and know what they would prefer — dressed up or dressed down, indoor or outdoor — and choose a photographer whose style is similar.

Family photos - find a great photographer
Maternity photos taken in front of the church we were married in just six weeks before our baby was born. (Photo by Kathryn Grace Photography.)

What to Wear

My best bit of advice is to start with what you, the mom, will be wearing. It’s easy to think that all attention will be on the children, but if you’re feeling confident in your outfit, the photos will shine. Your outfit sets the tone; try a favorite floral print dress, or even a great fitting pair of jeans and a simple blouse, just as long as you love it and it’s flattering on you.

Try on your entire outfit a few days before the shoot, including shoes and accessories. That way you can be sure that you have everything that you need and you won’t be running to every store in town the night before looking for something to wear (we’ve all been there before!) If you’re like me and your hair and makeup skills are lacking, you can treat yourself to an appointment at one of the many Birmingham salons that will blow dry and style your hair or stop by Sephora for a special occasion makeover. 

With Mom feeling her best, I like to use her look to start building a color palette. For larger groups of people (e.g. extended family or lots of siblings) I will give several colors to chose from. Instead of saying “everyone wear royal blue,” I’ll suggest anything from dark navy to light powder blue and remind them to use patterns like stripes, florals and polka dots. This adds interest and dimension to the photo and keeps it from looking flat, and it also gives each person a chance to let their own personalities come through.

Family photos - coordinate the look
(Photo by Kathryn Grace Photography.)

Children don’t have to match each other, although I think the brother/sister clothing sets are adorable, but each person’s outfit should have one thing that ties the whole group together. If Brother is wearing a red belt, Sister could have red sandals. Or if the baby is wearing cream, the older sisters could wear cream hair bows. For teens and tweens, I’d let them know what colors to wear and let them pick out their own accessories. You may be pleasantly surprised at what they choose!

Family photos - have fun!
One of our early family photos, taken on our baby’s first trip to Orange Beach, Alabama.

Dads tend to be forgotten when family photo time comes around. My husband has a classic/preppy style, so there isn’t a ton of variety in his wardrobe; but you can’t go wrong with chino pants in blue, green or tan, dark denim jeans, or even shorts if it’s summer. A button-down shirt in white or a colorful gingham will go with just about everything and can be dressed up by tucking it in or made casual by rolling the sleeves. Men’s accessories can be a lot of fun too — belts, ties and bow ties, and patterned socks add a tasteful bit of color. 

Have Fun!

Introducing a theme can be a great way to make your photos personal. You can use them to announce a new baby or family pet, and you can include balloons or other fun props — but ONLY if it will be fun for your family. A relaxed and happy family is a photogenic family! If you love being at the beach, how about finding a photographer near your vacation destination and meeting up for an afternoon? Be sure to ask your photographers if they have favorite locations for photos; most will have great suggestions. And it’s always a good idea to end up at a park or near an ice cream shop to celebrate with treats when you finish.

Say cheese, y’all!