What to wear for large group family photos

19 November 2018

Do y’all still take yearly photos with your extended family? We do, and we joke that the real purpose of our annual Maine vacation is so that my Mom can get her Christmas card photo with everyone present and accounted for – ha! Joking aside, we all love looking back at how our family composition has changed over the years, and acquiesce to the yearly photo session with minimal grumbling.

As my family’s resident “creative person,” I always get tasked with deciding on the year’s outfit color scheme. Outfitting a ten-plus person grouping, with kids, babies, adults, and grandparents in the mix (all with varying preferences and styles) and is not for the faint of heart. Since we’re in the thick of preparing for our family photo right now, I thought I’d share a few of the tips I’ve gathered over the years — both for outfitting, and for the photo session itself!

colorful family photos

1. Think ahead. Depending on how often your family gathers together, you might have to take a photo months ahead of Christmas if the goal is to have a photo ready for a holiday card. My family is scattered, but one of the most reliable times we’re all together is in the summer, so that’s usually when we take our photo. (This year is an exception!)

2. Make an outfit plan. For our family, the goal is to look casually — not cheese-ily — coordinated. We don’t want to look like we’re trying too hard :) With a big group, it’s important to have a wide-enough palette that you’re not all stuck in one of two colors. A mix of textures and patterns can also go a long way toward a look with depth, as well as different shades within your palette. The goal isn’t to match perfectly, but just to look like you belong together! (That goes for the level of formality and the seasonality, too!)

large group family photos

I usually pull two color palette options (using inspiration photos like these) and then ask my mom and sisters which they’d prefer. Once we’ve chosen our palette, everyone is responsible for selecting their family’s outfits. Sometimes I start a Google Doc to track what everyone is wearing; other times we just bring several options and make final decisions the day of.

jewel tone family photos

3. Choose a location. My MOST IMPORTANT location criteria isn’t aesthetic at all: it’s to choose one that’s inconspicuous! The last thing you want while wrangling multiple generations is to feel rushed or awkward, so pick a spot where there will be few passersby and you can take as much time as you need (or pause to regroup as necessary). To let your faces shine, a simple backdrop is best – a colored wall, porch steps, a fence, stone wall, evergreen hedge, etc. Avoid distracting colors, signage, and clutter as much as possible.

If at all possible, take your photo outdoors – it will be WAY easier to get a well-lit, professional-looking result, even if you’re just using an iPhone.

4. Pose. If you have an especially large group, it can be helpful to incorporate levels, like a chair, bench, rock, or fence for some people to sit on. From there, have fun! Look at each other and then back at the camera, throw in some fake laughter (because it always results in real laughter!), and squeeze in close enough to each other that it feels awkward :)

5. Take the picture. Some folks use a tripod and remote clicker set up, which sounds awesome but isn’t something I have experience with. We usually use the newest iPhone in the group (ha!), either with the timer function or in the capable hands of a cousin or friend (remember, we’re usually taking our photos on vacation in Maine). Enlisting a photographer is especially helpful when you have young kiddos in the group, as the likelihood of smiles goes up!

Of course, working with a professional photographer is the ultimate, and well worth the splurge if you can swing it! Many of my favorite photographers hold “mini sessions” in the early fall, which are shorter sessions at a lower price point and PERFECT for capturing a large group.

And now, a few of our family’s photos from years past…

And a favorite outtake :)

Any tips you’d add? Do y’all still take yearly photos with your siblings and parents?

Photo credits: Bethany Wilson, Photography by Jess, unknown, Jubilee Family Photography, Jubilee Family Photography, Heather Telford Photography, Ravenberg Photography

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November 19, 2018 9:53 am

We take a group picture at our yearly beach trip with my dad’s side of the family- it’s grown over the years to now 20 people! With a ton of little cousins, someone is always not going to be looking (or possibly crying) and someone is inevitably not going to have followed the palette and, honestly, we just roll with it. It’s about the memories for us, and those we have plenty of thanks to the tradition!

Something we did this year (and this falls on the cheesy level, but it was a lot of fun), was all 10 of the cousins wore t-shirts numbered with our birth order on them. Each set of siblings had shirts of the same color. It turned out to be a really cute picture, especially when you have a group that ranges in age from 23 to 5!

December 9, 2018 9:06 pm

hahahahaha I didn’t realize I photobombed that picture of Mom and Dad :)