It’s getting to be that time of year when photogs’ calendars get booked up with hopeful families willing to push fistfuls of sugar into their children’s whining mouths so that they can get maybe a shot or two of their progeny propped up in a park somewhere on a picnic blanket in their Sunday best. We’re an endlessly optimistic bunch, us pro photo moms. Year after year, we lay out the outfits, pack the lollipops, and choke back all the desire to scream “JUST SIT STILL AND SMILE!”
Last year’s photo shoot involved all the Christmas, so we wanted to change things up this year with a fall backdrop. I booked an outdoor session with our fave photographer, Suzanne Marie, with glee, as she worked some Christmas magic on my children last year and turned them into posing, smiling cherubs for one solid hour.
As I started sifting through our wardrobes and checking last year’s photos to make sure we didn’t have any outfit repeats, I realized that I definitely have a pattern when it comes to selecting the family ensemble. So here are my personal guidelines that inform any Christmas card you’ll ever get from us.
Guideline 1: Someone will be in a print.
Print is going to provide visual interest in the overall composition of the photo. It also leads the direction of the color palette for the family. I actually prefer two people in print, and usually I balance a larger print, like Aiden’s plaid, with a small print, like Dave’s floral shirt.
Guideline 2: We will be clad in a minimum of 3 thematic colors. Or 4.
If everyone is in all black or even black and grey or black and red, you kind of can’t tell where one person ends and another begins. The whole family ends up looking like one amorphous blob. With multiple color options, you can see the contours of everyone’s bodies [ie mom and dad bods actually look leaner].
Guideline 3: All the neutrals. Except black.
Don’t get me wrong: in life, black is and will always be my favorite neutral. But in photos, especially those with gorgeous natural light, black can be too harsh. Plus, look how white we are. You put black on us, and you’d be looking at the fall photo shoot of the Adams Family rejects. I love to play up softer neutrals, like navy, beige, grey, and denim because they give a quality of warmth and color to our translucent skin.
Guideline 4: We aim to coordinate as opposed to match.
We’re all about complementary colors around here, as Erinn wrote about awhile back here. For me, choosing the family photo palette is about combining colors that echo those in the main pattern. In choosing this year’s combo, I let Aiden’s shirt be our guide [because he literally owns one nice fall shirt that fits…mom fail]. The red is such a deep, specific red, it made it impossible to have anyone else in any shade of red, so I let him really stand out. My gold sweater choice was inspired by the narrow gold stripe in Aiden’s plaid, and since it’s kind of a bold color, it balances out the strength of the plaid. Navy proved to be the best neutral option, as it also plays a major role in the plaid motif. But I didn’t want Dave and Baby Lottie to fade into the background, so I broke up their solid navy by adding her beige vest and his floral shirt. This way everyone stands out in their own way, but we’re not overpowering each other.