What to wear for family photos

I will be the first to admit that planning coordinating outfits for family photos is not for the faint of heart. But I do know that putting in a little extra effort to make sure you all look great will go a long way in how your final photos turn out, and ensure that you love your photos for many years to come! Here are some of my best tips!

1) Dress Mom First

Choose what Mom will wear first (or if two moms — choose your outfits together first). Moms are most critical of how they look and what they wear, so I recommend carefully selecting an outfit that you feel comfortable in and that you can coordinate everyone else’s outfits around. I assure you I do this with my own family’s photos! Mama knows what Mama likes! ;)


2) Coordinate but (please) don’t match!

The days of everyone in crisp white shirts/black tees and khakis/jeans are mostly gone (thankful to see that trend go bye-bye!). My best advice is to choose a 2-3 color scheme that will help everyone find something that they already own to work within the color scheme. I even coordinated my husband’s extended family (50+ people) in this exact way and it worked like a charm! Everyone was instructed to wear anything in a green/blue/grey color scheme, with whatever neutral bottoms they chose. Easy peasy!


3) Accessorize & layer.

This is especially good for fall photos because the cooler temps allow us to add things like jackets, scarves, sweater layers, cardigans, etc. and still look authentic. Everyone wearing too much navy? Add a pop of an accent color with your scarf. Daughter’s shirt is too plain? Add in a coordinating vest. Texture can add an extra layer of dimension too — sweaters, denim, fringe, lace, ruffles, leather, etc in small doses are great ways to add a bit of texture to a plain outfit. Jewelry and cute shoes can also add points of interest to your photos. It’s all in the details!

4) Don’t forget about the shoes!

I’m guilty of forgetting about the shoes on occasion, but luckily we can usually find something classy and netural enough to still look nice and work with the color scheme. The fall season also allows for boots and chunkier shoes, or canvas shoes like Toms or Converse can work too. Avoid athletic shoes and anything with non-coordinating neon colors that will stick out like a sore thumb.

5) Lay it all out.

I find it helpful to lay everything out (including the shoes!) on a bed while I’m planning out the outfits. That way I can see it all together and if it looks something is too matchy-matchy or missing, I can grab something to fix it before it’s time to do the session.

There you have it! Plan ahead and go through these steps, and I promise you will love your photos more than if you threw something together or didn’t go in with a game plan. As always, you can shoot me a message if you’re having trouble deciding on your outfits or aren’t sure if outfits go together. I’m here to help and want your session to be a success also!

How I keep my sanity during the busy fall season

I’ve been wanting to write this article/listicle for a couple of weeks, and I finally gathered my thoughts enough to do it. And yes, I took the time during the last week of October to write it, because it was important to me, and I made it a priority.

sanity during busy season

Photographers, fear not! The end is in sight! I still have quite a few sessions left for the year, but I do not feel as though I am behind, and I break my work up into manageable chunks so I stay focused and on track. Here’s how I do it!

1) I try not to overbook myself. I book things I want and decline or refer on things I don’t want or really just don’t have time to do. This includes not booking 3 consecutive evening appointments, so my family can have me home for at least 1-2 weeknight meals/games/tv time together.

photographer's busy season

2) I cull as quickly as possible following a session or wedding, usually within 24-48 hours. This helps me avoid procrastinating when it comes time to edit. This has also long been the key to me getting my #weddingwednesday blog posts up following every wedding. The biggest hurdle is culling a wedding down from a couple thousand images to around 100-150 for a blog post. When you look at it like that, it seems much more manageable and much less daunting. (Pro tip: this also helps me edit a wedding faster when it comes time to edit the full gallery.) I use PhotoMechanic to cull which helps me do each wedding and session lightning fast!!

fall family photography busy season

3) I use Honeybook to manage clients, book sessions, take payments, streamline communication, and accept questionnaires. It used to take me an hour to manage a wedding booking from start to finish, and now I can do one in less than 5 minutes. A session booking generally takes less than 2 minutes. You can see the time savings immediately.

honeybook home task screen for client management

4) When I import my images into Lightroom, I apply my own general preset upon import, so a huge chunk of the editing is already done to each image.

5) I am punctual and almost always on time. I know this is a stretch for some people and you may wonder how it keeps me from getting behind in my work/editing, but being on time to my sessions overflows into other parts of my work and life. It also makes my clients trust me and find me dependable. Part of this is mapping out my day and my locations to make sure that I’ve allowed myself enough time to both transport my children to where they need to go and make it to my destination, allowing for traffic and drive time.

Champaign fall family mini sessions

6) I am realistic about my goals — both for the season and each individual day. My youngest child is home with me 3 afternoons a week, so I know that those days will be somewhat chaotic, and I will spend time with her and get sidetracked with housework in addition to needing to get some work done. So I usually give myself a handful of achievable goals, and stick to those, then if I am able to accomplish more, great!

lifestyle family photography images

7) I use a color coding system for my editing, and so I know what is backed up. One thing I make a priority EVERY day and week is backing up my images. Hard drives crash so making sure I have multiple backups on both external hard drives and on cloud storage is super important. The image below is example of how I organize my files and use my color system. I have a different color for each type of session — orange for weddings, purple for seniors, blue for engagements, green for all other types of portraits and commercial work. When I first download my images, they go straight into a folder named by date and then title. I immediately back it up onto external hard drives before any culling or editing is done. Then once the editing is done, I recopy the files to all my backups and make my cloud backup of jpegs. Then I apply the color code and know that all the steps are complete and those files are safe.

color coding for organization

8) Treat yo’ self! Today for instance, I am treating myself to a massage that I booked a few weeks ago in anticipation of the end of October. I get regular pedicures throughout the year, and enjoy a quiet breakfast or lunch by myself on occasion when I can. I like to use these as motivation and to reward myself for meeting my goals. Yesterday for example, I finished ALL of my culling AND designed a wedding album, so today’s treat was a motivator for me.

Treat Yo Self

9) I also keep a “winter list.” This is a longer-term list of things I want to accomplish over my slower winter season which is usually about Dec-Feb. This list is for both personal and business tasks — clearing out my junk drawer, organizing my office, entering receipts, fixing a paint chip in the wall, updating my wedding magazine, tweaking automated emails and processes, etc. You get the idea! This listmaking helps me feel like I’m not procrastinating but I’m just putting off less important tasks to when I have more time.

finding a work-life balance amidst busy season

10) Lastly, and this may sound counterintuitive, but I think it’s important to keep personal projects afloat. My friend Dannie Fountain says that you should have a passion project with a certain amount of time dedicated to it each week. This is key for keeping your creative spirit alive when you’re working yourself so hard. For example, she says that if you work 25 hours a week in your business each week, then divide that by 5 to get 5, and then divide that again by 5 and you get 1. So that means you should be allowing yourself 1 hour each week to devote to a personal project (which for me is my podcast - The Give Back Podcast). Do the math and see what your number is!

So there you have it! What other tips and tricks do you have for managing your work-life balance during busy times?

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Photography Workshop at Sunset with Jessica Weinstock

I don't photograph many families anymore (I reserve a few open dates in the fall for minis or returning clients), but I never turn away the chance to learn from a great photographer and teacher!  For our summer Central Illinois Professional Photographers' group meeting, we wanted to host a hands-on workshop for our members and guests that would get everyone excited for the upcoming busy fall season.  Jessica Weinstock is a family & newborn photographer from the north suburbs of Chicago and she brought a TON of great tips and inspiration for us all.  I am excited to use some of my tricks and tactics at sessions this fall!

HUGE THANKS to my co-leaders Kristin Darling & Emily Donohoe for helping me plan this great meeting and workshop.

Speaking of... my fall mini sessions will be announced soon, once I decide which weekend works best for the bulk of them.  I'm currently taking names and email addresses for those who want to be in the first to know and have first crack at booking when I announce. Fill out my contact form on my site here if interested, or email me and I'll get you on the list!