Surviving Family Pictures

Family pictures make GREAT GIFTS. On top of that, you can do things with those photos, like make family calendars and stuff.

If you have trouble finding a gift for parents who have everything, I’m sure they would appreciate receiving a family picture, or the promise of scheduling an extended family photo. If this is a gift for mom, don’t miss the other photo-related gifts for her.

Every successfully coordinated family photo has someone in charge of the outfits, setting, and scheduling. These unsung heroes work behind the scenes to make the resulting family photo a memorable keepsake. If this is your talent, especially for large group photos, consider sharing it as a gift to your family.

To help you with the planning stage, this article contains ideas for what to wear in family outfits, ideas for poses for family pictures, and family photo tips to make the photoshoot day less stressful. With careful planning, that winning family photo will be yours!

Finding great family poses ideas and outfit tips

Let me introduce you to Google Images. I actually “stalked” other families before I had a friend take our outdoor family photo. It helps with coming up with great ideas for poses, as well as coordinating outfits for family pictures.

Go to any of the sources below and type in “family pictures” and from there, you can start tweaking your search to find exactly what you are looking for.

Example of family photo inspiration using image search platforms, social media, and/or stock photo sites.
Example of family photo inspiration using image search platforms, social media, and/or stock photo sites.


  • family beach photo outfits
  • family picture ideas outside
  • family picture ideas indoors
  • farm family picture ideas
  • family spring picture ideas
  • family picture outfit ideas summer
  • fall family outfit ideas
  • family christmas photo outfit
  • holiday photo ideas
  • large family photo ideas
  • outdoor family photo ideas
  • family wedding photo ideas
  • family photo ideas in studio
  • diy family photos


  • neutral family photo outfits
  • neutral color family photos
  • blue and white family photos
  • blue family pictures
  • blue and green family photos
  • navy blue family photo outfits
  • white family pictures
  • green family photo outfits
  • green family photos
  • olive green family pictures
  • sage green family photos
  • maroon family pictures
  • burgundy family pictures
  • burnt orange family pictures
  • earth tone family pictures
  • pink and blue familiy pictures
  • yellow family pictures
  • blue and yellow family photo outfits
  • jewel tone family photos
  • purple family photos

Got the idea? The Internet opens a wide and free door to find awesome, unique, and funny family picture ideas. Study the pictures, see what you are drawn to, and color themes that you like. The whole family can participate with the search!

Other sources for family photo ideas

Pro-mom tip, save back the family photo cards you get from friends and family. There is some fantastic family outfit coordinating going on!

Don’t overlook family photo ideas in advertising, especially from photo companies. Good ideas are free to steal! Visit family photographers’ websites, even if you don’t plan on using them. Their clients are their best advertisement, it’s one of the premiere sources for finding family photo pose ideas.

Tips for taking your own family photos

Professional photographers will come with their own good ideas for family poses. It doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute! If a professional photographer is not involved, you have some work to do. Here are some tips for capturing the best family photo:

  • make sure everyone’s faces are seen
  • take some test photos ahead in the outdoor location and regard the time of day to plan on the best lighting to prevent the sun from shining directly into people’s eyes
  • direct eye glass wearers to tilt head down to reduce reflection on lens
  • arrange people in varying heights and rows: tallest people in back standing, some people seated or kneeling in front – consider slopes of hills or venues with stairs to achieve different height positions
  • large groups: cluster individual families together
  • add props or snap photos with families engaged in an activity (like riding bikes together)
  • “interlock” the photo: hands placed on another family members shoulder, someone holding a child on a lap, embraces and group hugs
  • experiment with different shot angles and perspectives to add interest
  • add some props in, or be creative and interact with the picture setting (touching leaves, splashing water, holding a puppy in the picture, pulling a child in a wagon)
  • get a “spotter” – an extra person not in the photo that can be on the lookout for jewelry not hanging straight, flyaway hair, wrinkled clothing, hidden faces, and conflicting color arrangements – and don’t laugh – pants zippers can fly down!
Large family reunion photo.
Creativity is needed when posing large groups of people, especially for family reunions! Look how the photographer cleverly used the stairs and the building to strategically arrange everyone to make sure all happy faces were seen. Kona Gallager, Flickr.

There is nothing to say that you can’t take a fabulous family picture on your own, but professional family photographers have the skill and experience (and the magic of photo touch-ups) to deliver near-perfect family photos. Sometimes the extra cost is worth it for the keepsake that lasts a lifetime!

Family photo shoot tips from unusal angles: a perspective of a wooden fence, top-down photo of family members' heads in a circle, low angle looking up at family.
Family photo shoot tips from unusal angles: a perspective of a wooden fence, top-down photo of family members’ heads in a circle, low angle looking up at family.

Spring family photo ideas

Easter? Engagement picture? Whatever your spring photo picture needs are, there is a pastel palette for you! Think very light neutral colors, and soft floral, gingham, or plaid prints. Photographer Samantha Shannon does a lovely job offering ideas for a spring pastel palette.

Flowers please! Think fresh spring trees, flowers budding, life springing up. Did I say pastels? The pop of red sweater in the field of daffodil flowers below make the girl herself pop out – a good design trick!

It’ natural to align a spring family picture with the religious Easter event. Many people have their suits and brand new Easter dresses on, so the outfit planning has been somewhat made easier. In my climate, Easter is often not a beautiful outdoor opportunity, but a cold, rainy mess.

Be ready to switch picture day to the indoors, if this is the case for you. Springtime is about new life. Pictures with baby ducks, chicks, and puppies can be a nice interactive addition to the picture.

Spring family photo ideas - a child sitting among daffodil flowers, a family picture inside if the weather is inclement.
Spring family photo ideas – a child sitting among daffodil flowers, a family picture inside if the weather is inclement.

Summer family photo shoot ideas

I LOVE summer photos! There are so many opportunities with summer activities and warm weather props. Doesn’t everyone look happy in the photos below! They’re having fun! It won’t be so hard to convince family members to participate and pose in these type of photos.

Even better, have the kids come up with ideas. How about hanging out in a hammock? Sipping on some lemonade (or running a lemonade stand?). Splashing in water on a beach, at the lake, or at a pool is summery perfection in all it’s glory.

Examples of ideas for family photo shoot; family walking with bicycle, dog, dad carrying guitar.
A summer family photo shoot is perfect to capture the family happily engaging in a fun summer activity.

Lights and brights both work well for summer photos. Cool summer colors like tangerine, watermelon, lime green add freshess to summer photos. Whites and cotton prints are perfect. Navy, as always, is a go-to color that magically unifies a picture, especially with many people.

A trick across large groups is to vary the shades of blue to add more depth to family photos.

Fall family photos

Fall family photos are “one with nature.” This is the time to blend in with the beautiful autumn foilage of changing leaves: oranges, burnt reds, and yellows. Pair casual and cozy clothing with denim and neutral jackets, perfect for outdoor settings.

A few plaids add a casual touch. Navy, dark blues, blacks, and other dark colors can help anchor the family in front of a busy autumn background.

Examples of outfits for fall family pictures.
Examples of outfits for fall family pictures.

Stocking hats, jackets, and flannel shirts send the message, “The weather is cool and delightful!” By capturing the sunshine of the day, the viewer will wish they were there, too!

Family hiking in woods for their family picture.
Hiking in the woods and playing in the fall leaves are action shots for fall family pictures.

Winter family photo outfit ideas

Winter family outfits should say “cozy.” The use of layering, sweaters, long-sleeves, and warm dress scarves can achieve this. Of course, if this is an outside picture, the family will wear coats, which would be a bigger expense to coordinate! Do the best you can, or give extra consideration to buying mittens and scarves that can pull the picture together.

The colors and textures in the outfits below blend together beautifully. Bravo, well done!

Family picture indoors in front of fireplace.
Choices of cozy sweaters in different hues of gray and blue harmoniously pull different outfits together for this indoor winter family photo.

Advice for color scheme/best colors for family pictures

I’ve covered spring, summer, fall and winter photos. Let’s dig a little deeper and look more at coordinating outfits.

Real quick about skin tones and outfit colors, pay attention to these, too. I know you have enough on your plate just getting the outfits not to clash. Give 10 seconds of thought to skin/outfit combos. What looks stunning on one person, looks horrible on the next person.

Feeling like you are looking like your best on picture day translates to a glowing picture!

Coordinated family outfits for pictures

A coordinated family photo starts with good planning. In the case of my family Easter photo, it was pure luck. I was mildly shocked when I reviewed the quick iPhone photo – my seven members in the family accidentally coordinated! We did not plan this photo!

Most people won’t be as lucky as I am. Let’s go over some basic tips on what to wear for family photos:

  • rely on neutral colors with an agreed upon accent color
  • pops of colors are ok if they are spread throughout the photo
  • consider muted stripes, designs, and florals to fill in gaps
  • don’t over-coordinate, this is not a picture of all the employees at the bank
  • if one person’s outfit sticks you, consider moving them to the center of the photo and arranging people around them for balance
Family group photo with well-coordinated family outfits.
Family group photo with well-coordinated family outfits.

I love this photo, it rocks! Seriously folks, let’s give credit where it is due – the well-coordinated family outfits in this picture are due to the hard work of one dedicated family member…hmm, could it be the mom who deserves applause?

Let’s break apart the elements of this successful coordinated family photo:

  • subtle hues that blend together
  • varied family outfits
  • limited to TWO main color choices with a neutral (white) pulling it together
  • use of plaids, stripes, and checked prints that slide in, without distracting

If you’re thinking you don’t have the skills to coordinate a photo, you’d be surprised. After studying some photos online, you can quickly pick up the strong points to copy. A fashionista friend can always be solicited to offer feedback and guidance.

All white family photo shoot

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what is going on in that car photo below. It was the best photo example I could find of all-white outfits for a family photo. White tops are often a go-to, seemingly easy choice. I think it works in the car photo above because of the focus on the pose. It helps unify the picture.

Examples of family pictures wearing all white.
Deciding on all white tops is easy, but not often successful. Baby pictures are perfect for all-white clothing schemes!

Baby pictures, and pictures with few people are perfect for all-white clothing schemes for family photos. Billowy white cotton tops on a warm summer day, matched with khaki’s and bare feet on a beach are classic. Those are the times where all white photos shoots shine.

I had a friend who dressed her little girls in vintage cotton dress slips – so precious! The Christmas card was sent in black in white. Save white for life’s very tender and special moments, like a new baby.

Using all-white tops (with jeans) seems to lose its effectiveness in large group photos. I would advise to try a little harder to add more depth and contrast to the family photo.

Bright summer outfits

Bright colors shout “HAPPY!” Honestly, I’ve always shied away from bold colors in family pictures – look at what I’ve been missing! I can’t wait to add more exciting colors to my next family photo.

African American family dressed in bright, solid colors for family photo.
Don’t shy away from bright colors! Bold and bright solid colors are a great choice for summer family photos.

Jeans in family pictures

To jean or not to jean? Frankly, blue jeans are a bit over done. But… it’s something everyone has in their wardrobe and as a mom, you have to pick your battles.

Interest can be acheived by varying and coordinating tops, as in the picture below. Notice the dark solid colors coordinating with the dark stripes of the plaid shirt. Many people see a white top and jeans as a go-to, but the photo below is very successful with only ONE person having the denim/white shirt outfit.

I’ve seen some people push the denim theme with denim blazers, denim hair pieces, little denim dresses for the tots, etc. but do be careful not to go overboard. Ripped jeans? Don’t do it – ripped jeans is a trend and it will date the picture. If you’re having trouble convincing your kid, pull out something very trendy from your high school days to elicit an “Eewwwwh!” – that should stop the argument.

Family photo of 4, dressed nicely and casually.
Jeans have their place in a family photo. This family pulls off a great, casual photo with jeans and simple tops.

Matching outfits for kids

OK, matching is allowed (to a certain extent). Maybe think of this as more as a “theme.” For example, the mom and the daughters all of sundresses on. Or the kids having matching outfits that sort of look like they go together.

My own childhood family photo features all the girls wearing identical navy blue polka dot dresses with a tulip on the front apron, with the boys in complimentary colors with vests. Mom wore an attractive navy blue dress, and dad wore his suitcoat.

Does it look outdated? Not really. A well-coordinated family outfit picture will be appreciated across decades. However, to stand the test of time, you really need to gravitate toward conservative, non-trendy clothes.

What not to wear in family pictures

These are not necessarily “awkward” family photos. The color choice could have been much better. I’m guilty, too, of digging through everyone’s closet to decide what the color palette for the family photo will be. Then it’s a trip online or to a clothing store to fill in the gaps.

If you want to know the difference between a ho-hum family picture, or prize-winning family pictures, it’s clothing outfit selection + location.

Family and grandparents in family photo, all dressed in white shirts.
Everyone all wearing white shirts? Nooooo, don’t do it!

All-white tops/shirts/blouses tends to have the effect of everyone employed at a restaurant. All jokes aside, there simply is no interest and no focal point. The pose in the family photo above is good, the happy facial expressions light up the photo.

Family photo, everyone dressed in all black.
Black outfits can be an anchoring color in a family picture, but when the entire family dresses in black, it becomes somber and funeral-like.

(Above) These family outifts have a nice mixture of necklines for interest. However, the all-black clothing choice falls flat and ends up looking depressing, especially with the dark, tired-looking background. Be careful with too much black, you may end up looking like the Addams Family!


Mono-color choices may be more successful with fewer people in the picture. The use of white and black clothing can be a great choice for artistic effect, especially when paired with the right background. The striking white background in the photo below, along with very simple outfit choice, is refreshing.

Family photo with dog. Family outfits are a mix of black and white clothing.
A mix of black and white solid color outfits is successful in this well coordinated family photo.

A word about matching outfits for adults

Matchy-matchy. It’s OK for kids, but not the whole family. The only exemption to the rule? Those matching Christmas pajamas – that, and ugly Christmas sweaters seems to break all the rules.

Simply speaking, don’t over-coordinate, this is not a picture of all the employees at the bank! I understand that some family reunions splurge for group t-shirt, and that’s OK. If this is truly your core family, you probably don’t want all matching polos. It really takes the family picture up a notch when the photo is subtly coordinated, with displays of individuality.

Everyone can agree, that is one, beautiful family in the photo above! Let me help a family out with this rule of thumb: if the outfits resemble the infamous curtain/drapery outfits made in “The Sound of Music” movie, abandon the idea immediately!


Even bridesmaid’s dresses have gone away from “matchy-matchy.” Anyone with their own personality will be cringe at having to put on an outfit that matches everyone else. Outfits that display individual personalities have always been the IN THING.

Examples of outfits that should not be worn in family photos: graphic prints, advertising, concert tshirts, ripped jeans.
Examples of outfits that should not be worn in family photos: graphic prints, advertising, concert tshirts, ripped jeans. The butterfly theme? It actually works! Photo credits: Parker Family Reunion, Paul, Flickr. MUSIC tshirt, Concierto-4, Raúl López

I feel that this shouldn’t even have to be said, but for formal family photos, graphics on tshirts should be avoided. I know, I know, there are some battles for teenagers that you have to leave alone – position them strategically to hide the tshirt!

It’s not all nays. The center woman in the photo is wearing a family reunion tshirt. These are very popular for large group reunion photos. In the upper-right photo, the two women and child all sport a single butterfly on their shirts. This could be in memory of someone, or a special meaning for the family. It’s done well.

Don’t get me started on the ripped jeans.

How to prepare for a family photoshoot

Is your secret desire the best family photo, ever? To make that dream a reality, you won’t be planning the night before. Planning takes the stress out of the photo event. This doesn’t have to be tedious, just start early!

3-9 months in advance

Plan at least 3-9 months in advance to reserve a professional photographer, decide on location, and clear schedules. Saturdays or weekends in the summer may already be booked up by weddings, so book even earlier than that. Fall tends to be a very popular time for family photos, as the weather is pleasant and it’s a bit easier to book a photographer. Unfortunately, it’s also a peak time to take high school graduation pictures.

You can’t have a family photo without the photographer. This means clearing everyone’s schedules. Weddings are advantageous for family photos because everyone is dressed up and at the event anyway. Take avantage of it!

Planning for a family photoshoot: getting haircuts, shopping for outfits, trying clothes on, coordinating family outfits, setting a date.
Planning for a family photoshoot: getting haircuts, shopping for outfits, trying clothes on, coordinating family outfits, setting a date.

For venue, you may have to reserve a spot. If you want an outdoor family photo, make sure the photographer is willing to travel to the location. Also consider the time of day. Is the photographer willing to do a twilight photoshoot? If during the day, where will the position of the sun be, in your eyes? Scope out some possible shots and angles, and time of day if possible.

If you have a special spot in mind, you might have to start making phone calls. There will always be the favorite public spots, but maybe you are looking for something more unique? Farms, wineries, etc. will often allow people to take family pictures on their property.

If this were the TV show “Family Feud” Steve Harvey would ask, “What does the audience say for top 5 answers to get ready for a family photo shoot? I would say 1. loose weight and 2. whiten teeth. Any mom out there with me?


1-2 months in advance

Plan at least a month or two ahead to coordinate outfits and plan out details for the day. You don’t want to fall into the trap of highwater pants and embarrasingly tight outfits that kids have outgrown. Here is a checklist of family photoshoot details you need to think about:

  • get haircuts or try out hairstyles; purchase hair accessories ahead of time
  • coordinate outfits, which means shopping to fill gaps – don’t forget shoes!
  • check dietary restrictions so you can plan for appropriate snacks, or a nice lunch afterwards for everyone

Other things you can do are let everyone know the schedule of events. Have you ever been to a family wedding and hear someone say, “I don’t know what’s going on!” Be generous and share your timeline, it makes people feel less tense when they know what to expect.

This could mean sending out an email, even typing out an agenda and then tacking it to a wall. You could even schedule “FUN FOOD!” as the last item of the day.

Preparing the night before the family photoshoot

Lay clothes out ahead of time (the night before). By now, the outfits should have been chosen, looked over for any needed repairs, and in clean condition. Take showers the night before, especially if lots of people need to use the bathroom in the morning.

Make sure the vehicles are filled with gas. Minimize any extra running around you have to do. Actually, clear the entire schedule. There should be no other events competing with family picture taking.

How long does a photoshoot take?

A family photoshoot can take hours. Ugh. Simple math, the more people, the longer a professional photoshoot will take. Have babies, toddlers, or pets? It could take longer. Experienced photographers have all the tricks in the book to make your photoshoot go fast. They know that adults and kids alike have limited patience.

Things you can do to make the photoshoot go faster:

  • collect family photo pose ideas ahead of time, run it by the rest of the family
  • hire an experienced photographer, amatuers will take longer to figure things out
  • trust that the photographer knows what they are doing and be open to their ideas!
  • have picture taken at a studio in a controlled environment
  • make sure everyone is well fed and well hydrated, cranky people will screw up the photo by making it unpleasant for everyone, yielding unpleasant results
  • take a deep breath and let go of perfection!

Family photo location and best time to take photos

An indoor photoshoot in a controlled environment is going to be easier on everyone. With that said, outdoor shots are very popular, weather pending. For large-group photo shoots, have an indoor or covered backup plan in case of inclement weather. gives excellent advice for best time of day and season to take pictures. Without getting too technical, the best time to take outdoor photos is the “Golden Hour” – 30 minutes before the sun sets. Natural light is your friend here, and the golden tones make for a beautiful picture with no harsh light glaring overhead or into people’s eyes.

I’m not a photographer, so I encourage you to refer to the Master Class article for other great tips for summer, winter, spring, and fall best times to take family pictures.

Other best times for taking family photos:

  • weddings, family is already present and spruced up, and the venue may even be ideal
  • high school graduation pictures, you already have a photographer scheduled
  • family reunions, when most people are already present
  • milestone events, like 50th wedding anniversaries where most of the family should be present

Keeping everyone happy through a photoshoot

I’ve got one word: food (or at least the promise of food!). I can’t count the number of family pictureshoots that I have been through that my stomach wasn’t growling. The busyness of running around getting ready for the photoshoot usually means that I forgot to eat! Multiply that by every family member, you’ve got a grumpy mess on your hands.

Prepare for family photo session by getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and having dry snacks for family members.
Prepare for family photo session by getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and having dry snacks for family members.

Sorry, but I have to play the mom card here, TRICK YOUR FAMILY, CONVINCE THEM THIS IS FUN. You heard me, trick them, go for the win, whatever you want to call it. Setout a breakfast or snack bar as if they were on a movie set and pleasantly surprised smiles will erupt. This works best if this happens before everyone gets dressed up.

Large family striking funny poses during a photo shoot.
Blow some steam off and get everyone relaxed by having a goofy and fun family photo.

At the event itself, messy, goopy, and colored beverages must be avoided at all costs (due to potential for accidents). Minimal dry snack food could be provided that won’t grease up a good shirt or dress.

Maybe pizza is the promise for a great family photo. Most people can pull it together if they know food is coming.

Tips for taking toddler pictures

We all know it’s the toddlers that will make taking family photos difficult. Here is a list of ideas to make taking family pictures with a toddler easier:

  • schedule the photo around the peak awake time for the child
  • both parent and child should be well-fed
  • have dry food snacks ready to bribe; avoid messy food snacks that will mess up outfits
  • have an extra helper for the photo that can slide the toddler in at the last second (after everyone is posed)
  • provide a prop to distract child, such as a small toy that you won’t mind having in the picture
  • squeaky toys are good distractions to catch a small child’s attention
  • make sure the outfit is comfortable for the child and have an extra outfit on hand in case of accidents
  • if desperate, have someone bring up a favorite online video and position as needed to draw the child’s face to the camera
Professional family photographer taking pictures of young family with toddler and baby.
Be prepared when taking family pictures with babies and toddlers. Extra patience (and a few tricks!) are needed!

To this day, my six-year-old self remember the tricks the photographer used on my toddler baby brother. The pro hid a “squeaker” behind his back, and would poke at my brother’s bowtie – he had little brother convinced it was him that was squeaking!

In conclusion

Here are some parting tips for family photos

If you don’t feel confident in your outfit coordinating skills, elicit the help of a friend or family member for guidance. Gather ideas from other family members on backdrops or venues and make sure everyone’s opinion is heard and valued.

Usually, a few strong personalities will take the lead and decide on a color theme for the oufits. Sorry, but someone has to do it. I recently heard a woman describing herself as “having the gift of bossiness.” Let these unique individuals use their gift for good!

Tell yourself the day before, “this picture is going to turn out better than I ever hoped for!” We put so much pressure on ourselves when it comes to the perfect family picture. I know I was a nervous wreck when I hauled my three kids to the local photo studio. I didn’t have a second adult, oh how I wish that I had!

You can always skip the studio pictures and snap as many casual and impromptu photos as possible. My brother-in-law (a camera buff) is good about setting up his tripod and camera with timer. Bless his heart, he has been gently pulling us all together at family events, making sure the photo gets taken. Because of him, we have some priceless photos of family that are no longer with us.

Good luck, and just imagine how great that framed family photo will look on the mantle or shelf this year!

Group family photo.
This family actually enjoyed their family picture day!
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!