By Aimee Serafin


The holiday season is a great time of year to get the family together for a photoshoot. Thoughtful planning and flexibility make for a good family photo. Whether in pumpkin patches, pine tree farms, cotton fields, churches or your familiar and comfy living room, choosing a suitable location is the first task. In addition to location, the decision of what to wear comes next. There are some basic rules for location and style decisions that can help land a quality photo. Below are things to keep in mind:

The Location

  1. Choose a location that is a natural fit. Maybe your family enjoys canoeing or fishing or movies. Think about going to a familiar location so your family can get candid shots that feel comfortable and relaxed.
  2. Once you choose the location, drive by it a few times to know when the lighting looks best. Lighting is such an important factor when it comes to good photography. Although photographers these days can manipulate everything from skin brightness to sky colors, it’s best to avoid relying heavily on post-processing. Natural light works wonders and leaves less room for corrective manipulation.
  3. Pay attention to Let’s say there is a cotton field with a barn in the distance that will work for your family shoot. Look at the spot from different angles to notice what colors can be seen. If the barn is a washed-out red and your family is wearing pink or orange it may affect the color balance of the photo. Likewise, different hues of natural light have dramatic effects on color. I remember a living room I once painted light blue after testing the color one morning on a wall. With the late afternoon light, the blue became a dusty purple.
  4. Decide on what theme you want to convey through the location. Do you want playful and spontaneous, warm and homey, casual and loose, sporty, chic, urban or neutral, etc? Knowing what kind of theme you want will help decide what styling is best.

Style of Clothes

  1. Choose colors that compliment, but don’t necessarily match. As a general rule, prints and patterns can be hard to pull off with several people. But if used in moderation they can bring dimension to the setting. If the location already has good character then use discretion in patterned clothing: do so sparingly or as a way to highlight one of the subjects.
  2. Go lightly on bright! Bright colors distract attention from the face and tend to be reflective. So if your favorite color is hot pink, just tone it down a little with the use of the color as an accessory, like a scarf or hair wrap.
  3. Dark colors are good for slenderizing.
  4. Pick clothes that are not too baggy or too tight.
  5. Use off-white or ivory instead of bright white.
  6. One fun way to coordinate colors for a family photo is to visit Home Depot or Lowe’s and grab some multi-color palettes or chips from the paint section. There are hundreds of color combinations for nearly every color and they are sectioned by themes: bold jewels, soft whites, antique hues, rich darks, etc. You can find a perfect variety of matching colors for your clothing for the day of the shoot.




Aimee Serafin, editor of the Augusta Family Magazine.