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Be a wardrobe wiz (part 1)! | Toronto family photography

Young girl walking among wildflowers with her mother
Sweet and simple: muted raspberry dress from Zara

The number one question I get about preparing for a photo shoot is about wardrobe. Actually it's more like number one, two and three. And the questions are all important because wardrobe has a big impact on your final photos. A properly coordinated wardrobe is one of the things that separates professional family photos from everyday snapshots. It plays a role in creating the overall mood of your shoot and whether you look cohesive (like a family) or separate (more like a group of individuals).

Not all photographers have the same approach when it comes to what makes a great family photo wardrobe. Some prefer a specific colour palette, such as neutrals. Others prefer matching colours for tops or bottoms. My approach starts with three principles: find the sweet spot between super casual and too-business-by-half; dress with your backdrop in mind; and coordinate with the rest of your family, balancing colour with neutrals, and solids with patterns and textures. I also have a "no-no" list (things to avoid when dressing for your session) that I'll get to at the end.

Photo of married couple walking in woods by Willow and Wild Photography
Another Zara piece -- this deep, muted red is perfect for fall.

The first of the three principles may seem common sense, but I've heard many moms tell me that they have their athletic/lounge clothes, their business clothes and very little in between. I get it! We buy what we need and in our busy lives that means our work wardrobe and our go-to-soccer practice-and-run-errands wardrobe. The casual, non-lycra wardrobe is the one that gets the least attention. But doing family photos is an occasion and you deserve to look back at those photos and see something beautiful. The good news is that beautiful can be unfussy and pulling together a few pieces that say "casual family time" is fairly easy. A simple sweater in the spring or fall or a maxi dress in the summer may be all you need. You can always borrow a piece here or there if you want to avoid shopping -- I have a few items in my client closet for just that reason!

Photo of mom with her small son, by Willow and Wild Photography

On the other end from the lycra and leggings part of the spectrum is the "all work no play" part of the spectrum. Unless you want your photos to say "family business" and not "family," I encourage you to leave the suits and tailored dresswear at home. Pencil skirts are sexy, but nobody can chase their kid in one without ripping an extra long slit into it (I may say that from experience). I also typically suggest that parents leave their watches at home for a session. Watches remind us of deadlines, schedules and meetings, which can detract from an easy family vibe. Similarly, business-like shoes or chunky jewelry say "power" before "play" so I recommend a more casual (but not athletic) shoe and delicate jewelry to complement your outfit.

If you're fine with picking up an item or two, you can find loads of sources on my Pinterest boards, with pins split up by season and a separate board for at-home sessions. We all have our favourite go-to places for clothing, but I thought I'd share some of my faves from a photographer's perspective.

  • Free People, Anthrolopologie and Sézane: I put these three together because they all have unique pieces that embrace texture, colour and pattern. French-based Sézane is newer to the Canadian market, but does free returns so you can shop online without worry. I particularly love them for their beautifully textured line of knitwear.

  • Vici Collection and Joyfolie: Both Vici and Joyfolie are great resources for both the chunky sweater and the maxi dress -- with lots of casual boho in the mix. Bonus: Joyfolie is a great stop if you're searching for something for a teen or tween girl. Both ship from the U.S. so be sure to plan ahead if you're looking at these retailers.

  • Banana Republic: BR delivers consistently when it comes to classic sweaters and blouses that dress up or down. I love them for easy shopping, quick shipping and simple returns if something doesn't work. They're great for menswear as well.

  • Zara: Another retailer with good local availability and a huge online store, I particularly like Zara for menswear and kids. Chic without ever being stuffy, Zara shows respect for your wallet and has some of the best knitwear options around for kids (and fall photo shoots).

  • Baltic Born: This one's for the lovers of flowy dresses and the mamas to be! Baltic Born prides itself on having clothing for all stages of our lives -- and that means a lot of bump-friendly dresses for expectant moms, with loads of colour options that make coordinating with the family a breeze.

Whew! That was just point number one! We'll carry on our wardrobe chat in the next blog installment, and I promise to share some ideas for dressing your really wee ones as well. And if you have any amazing spots for wardrobe selections, I'd love to know. I'm always giving ideas to clients and I'd love some new ones so drop me your faves in the comments below!


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