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Sarah Lim

How to style your family for a photo shoot

Family gatherings are a perfect opportunity for a photoshoot, whether its a birthday party or festive gathering. However, getting a great family photo sometimes requires a little more than just smiling at the camera. There’s some prep work involved and it’s called “styling”. You don’t have to be a professional fashion consultant to do this. In fact, it’s quite easy! Here are four ways to start having better looking photos with just a little bit of styling done right.


1. Consider your location and backdrop

If your photoshoot coincides with an event such as a birthday party or a dinner, think about how the location will look like: What colour will the wall or backdrop be where your group will be standing? Here’s a good rule of thumb you can follow: 

  • Plain background – You can wear either plain or bright colours, and outfits with more patterns. However not everyone should be wearing prints or else the patterns might clash, making overall photo look too messy. 
  • Busy background – It’s best to wear outfits with plain colours (no patterns) that complement the background. Eg. A green leafy background can go with full white outfits or white and khaki colours.


2. Agree on a style

What kind of photoshoot is this? A formal or casual one? Is there a theme? Usually your background also matters when thinking about this. For example, a hotel lobby would look more formal as a photoshoot location compared to a garden. Once you know what kind of photoshoot you’re going for, choose a style for your outfits which suits your location and communicate that to the whole family so that no one is left out.


  • Full formal

Ladies: Long gowns, knee-length dresses or pantsuits, heels or closed-toe shoes

Men: Suits and dress shoes

  • Semi-casual

Ladies: Knee-length cocktail dresses or pants and a nice blouse (jacket is optional)  

Men: Collared shirts, dark jeans or khakis pants, dress shoes

  • Casual

Ladies: Summer dresses, shorts and a simple blouse, sandals

Men: Presentable khaki or denim shorts, clean sneakers, a fresh tee

  • Thematic

Animal onesies, 1920s Gatsby (formal wear), pirates, cultural outfits, the list goes on! 


3. Coordinate your colours

While it is not necessary to colour coordinate all your outfits, grandma might stand out if she is wearing a bright red flowery top and everyone else is wearing white. We coordinate colours for our outfits so that the overall photo looks pleasant. Sometimes saying “everyone wear something colourful” might result in three out of ten people wearing orange, and the other 7 people wearing brown and hot pink! It just does not go well together.

Here are some tips: 

  • Wear complementing colours instead of “matching” colours. This helps your photo look more natural and dynamic. It also gives everyone a chance to wear something that reflects their unique personality while being part of the colour theme! Pick 1 + 3 colours. This means pick one colour, and find three more complementing colours. Eg. White + light blue, light brown, navy blue. The best guide for complementing colours can be found in nature and all around us. This colour palette generator is a useful tool. It extracts colours from a photograph so you’ll know what colours go well together.
  • Wear matching colours if necessary. This can be your next resort if it’s easier. Meaning, everyone wears the same coloured top (eg. white) and the same coloured bottom (eg. blue denim). If you plan to have everyone be fully dressed in just one colour, that usually only works for the colour white. Anything else might be an overkill.
  • Bring two different sets of outfits for variety. Bright, pastel, or dark (bright red is discouraged). Avoid outfits that have large, distracting text on it. Solid colours work best, instead of too many contrasting prints. While coordinating outfits, keep in mind that over-coordinating is bad too – for example, everyone wearing stripes!
  • Swaddles for newborn babies. Most outfits are really large for these tiny humans, so work with a few swaddles of different colours and textures instead of outfits. For babies below one year, cute underwear looks great in semi-naked photos. 

4. Look presentable: light make up, neat hair, and accessories!

You’re putting some effort into what you wear, so you’d want to do the same for how you look. Make sure everyone gets a good night’s rest the night before so you will all look fresh. For ladies, light makeup helps to define your natural beauty. Lipstick, eyebrow pencil, a bit of blush and mascara does the trick. For the men, bring some tissues to wipe away perspiration during the shoot. You don’t have to get your hair styled for the shoot but combing it down, tying it in a way that you’re comfortable with, or using a bit of hairspray and hair gel to keep stray hairs in place can make a huge difference.

Don’t forget the accessories! For ladies, if you’re wearing a plain-coloured outfit, all you need is a bold statement necklace or earrings to complete the look. For men, choose sock colours that complement your outfit and not steal the show. Wearing a watch that matches the style of your outfit makes a big difference too (eg. wearing a classic leather-strap watch with a formal outfit instead of your sports watch).

 

What happens after marriage?

Ever felt like life before the wedding is just PACKED with relationship advice and then it gets real quiet after? Think about it. Before the wedding you get all kinds of advice from your peers and other married couples, family members who generously share their thoughts on your partner or dating life, and of course – whatever social media directly or indirectly says about what a wedding and a “perfect marriage” should look like. Then the both of you say your vows, post up honeymoon photos, and come home to your new shared home. Before you know it, everyone has gone back to their routines and you both start to wonder where the support is when you need it most.

Talking to someone else about your marriage can be tricky. You always want to protect your partner’s feelings and reputation. People also tend to assume that whatever happens between a husband and wife “is to be managed privately” because “we are adults and can manage on our own.”

But nobody immediately turns into a mature adult on their 18th or 21st birthday, and nobody turns into a marriage expert or “perfect spouse” on the wedding day (or ever).

Yes, marriage is a journey between two committed persons, but as long as you’re Person, you will always need a good support circle no matter what season of life you’re in. Never be ashamed or afraid to reach out to someone whom you can trust, together. Whether it’s a peer, another senior married couple, your parents, a trusted mentor, or even a professional counsellor. In fact, don’t even wait for a tough day before you both share your lives with others. Include your community even on smooth-sailing days and they will know you’ve trusted them to keep the conversation going. It doesn’t have to stop at the wedding.

// Sarah has been married for over two years and both she and her husband enjoy spending time outdoors together.//

Follow our marriage and parenting site, Comma – Rethink Life for nuggets of wisdom on how to navigate these 2 areas of life.