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How to Color Coordinate Outfits for Family Pictures

Before a portrait session a lot of my clients ask me how to color coordinate outfits for family pictures. Most people get overwhelmed with the endless amount of options. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be super complicated or stressful to put together a color coordinated family portrait.

The easiest way I’ve found to color coordinate an ensemble is inspired by this video from Parker York Smith. In this video he makes this simple by breaking colors into three categories: Earth tones, Neutrals, and Black. I highly recommend you check out this post about how to color coordinate outfits for photos if you like the sample portraits featured throughout this post.

Neutrals are whites, pastels, greys and even dark charcoals.
Black is it's own category by itself
Earth tones are all the colors you’d find in nature. This includes bright, vibrant colors, and more muddy earthy colors with significant saturation

To recap the basic idea, every color can be define as one of these 3 options. You’ll want to choose clothes that are one category or a mix of two but never all three. Factor the background colors into this equation also. For example outdoor photo shoots have lots of earth tones while urban environments can be more neutral with the greys of concrete and buildings.

The following are some family photo outfit color ideas to help you better understand the concept. I’ve also included links to similar outfits so you can easily recreate these looks for your upcoming photo shoot! 

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Color Coordinate Outfits for Family Pictures With Neutrals with Earth Tone Pops

Neutral and earth tone color coordination for family photos

The reason the colors of all the outfits work so well togeather is because no one is wearing any black. These outfits are primarily neutral colors. Dad’s shirt and pants, and kids outfits all fit into the neutral category. Mom’s dress is an earth tone. This helps make mom in this particular photo the focal point. 

The other reason the outfits of this family work so well together is because dad and kids are separated from the earth tones of the environment. This adds a nice break and keeps everything from becoming too  monochromatic.


Color Coordinate Outfits for Family Pictures With Neutral Tones & Black Pop

The outfits of everyone in this photo go really well together because no one is  wearing earth tones. The Focus color of the family is black and they accented it with pops of white, or neutral tones.

You should also note that the photographer desaturated the sky and grass in this photo to take the natural earth tones out of the background. In most cases this color scheme would probably be better for an urban environment with lots of greys and other neutral colors.



Color Coordinate Outfits for Family Pictures With Earth Tones & Neutral Pop

Color Coordinate Outfits for Family Pictures

The reason this young family’s outfits work so well together is because no one is wearing black. You’ll notice that both dad and baby are wearing neutral colors while mom’s dress and baby’s bow are both earth tones that pop in the image.

Another reason the colors of these outfits coordinate so well together is because they are in a rural location surrounded by earth tones.

Although you might think at first that it’s mom’s dress that pops in the photo, arguably dad and baby’s outfits pop off the background more because they are neutral pops within the earth tone setting. 

Regardless of how you want to look at it, the bottom line is these outfits work really well because they have neutral pops with no black. 


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I hope this post helps you better understand how to color coordinate outfits for family pictures. It’s really not that hard once you understand how to put different colors into the three categories mentioned in this post. Stick to the theme and just do little sprinkles of pop, if you decide to do them at all! 

What do you think about this method? Let me know if you have a better way of thinking about how to color coordinate outfits for family pictures in the comments! Otherwise, share this post with your family to make better family photos!

Jason Guy

I am a portrait photographer based out of Sonoma, California. I create portraits for people of all ages with the goal of making images that are timeless. Portraits you will look back on decades from now, and still love them just as much then as you do today. While flattering lighting and pose are important, capturing how others see you is what I ultimately strive for.

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