The Best Colors for Family Pictures Outside: Picking the Right Outfit

You just booked a family session with a great photographer, and now you’re super excited. But wait! What colors should you all wear?

Here is our guide to the best colors for family pictures outside, so you can determine what colors your whole family should sport for your upcoming photoshoot.

Colors Have Meaning

Color in photography is so important. Whether you’re the photographer or the subject, colors carry with them an emotion, an energy, a mood, a vibe, and a meaning. Color is so vital, in fact, that there are people who spend years studying the science of color theory – how color communicates with our mind and impacts our perception. 

Thankfully, for family pictures, you don’t have to be a color theory expert or even dive too deep into the world of color. But you should still consider it in a very loose sense when deciding upon the best color scheme for your photoshoot! 

Some examples of color meaning include:

  • Red – energy and passion
  • Orange – social and quirky 
  • Yellow – cheerfulness 
  • Green – natural, down to earth, calm 
  • Blue – peaceful, honest
  • Purple – creativity, wonder, imagination 
  • Pink – nature and love 
  • Brown – comfort and security
  • Gray – transitional and neutral 
  • Gold – luxury and success 
  • White – purity and innocence 
  • Black – mystery

Combinations of the above colors can create even more emotions – either a mix of the colors’ individual meanings or something completely new.

Wait, Is a Color Scheme Even Necessary? 

Officially, technically, by definition – no, a color scheme for your family portrait session is not necessary. But having some color cohesion makes for a much more aesthetically pleasing and flattering photo session. 

That being said, you certainly don’t need to look like the Brady Bunch and be matchy-matchy! It’s actually far more interesting and dynamic to avoid matching outfits and instead choose a color scheme that each family member follows (but that still has some connectivity throughout).

Your chosen outfit colors can express the season, express your personal style, or express who you are as a family.

Combining Colors 

Before you run out and throw colors together, here are a few rules on combining colors to create a color scheme, because not all combinations play well together!

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Complementary Colors 

Complimentary colors are those that sit opposite one another on the color wheel. These always go together because they create a beautiful contrast! An example would be orange and blue or red and green. 

Analogous Colors 

These are colors that sit adjacent to each other on the wheel. This scheme is considered very harmonious while also being super colorful and is most often found in nature. An example would be a scheme of green, blue-green, and blue! 

Triadic Colors

Triadic is a more complicated scheme but can yield really fantastic results. This color combination relies on picking three colors that are exactly three spaces apart from each other on a color wheel. Red, blue, and yellow is a popular combination, as is purple, green, and orange.

The 60-30-10 Rule

If you have a combination of three colors, the 60-30-10 Rule applies. Although this rule is primarily used in interior design, it can also be used in clothing combinations.

The rule says that in a three-color scheme, the chosen main color should make up about 60% of the color’s use, the second color should make up 30%, and the third color should appear 10% of the time. 

For example, if your color scheme is white, gray, and teal, then white would make up the bulk of the outfits, gray would make up the jackets or undershirts, and teal would appear on accessories (like hats) or shoes. 60-30-10! 

The purpose of this rule is to help keep colors from battling against one another for attention. This is best done with analogous colors! 

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Colors and the Camera 

Now that we’ve established that color choice matters, it’s vital to note that not all colors photograph well, nor are all colors flattering. 

Neon colors or colors that are overly vibrant do very poorly – not only can they distract tremendously from the subjects at hand (yourselves), but they have the potential to cause a very unflattering color cast on the skin. No one wants their skin to match their neon-green sweatshirt! 

Color tone is important as well. Tone refers to how much gray a color has – that is, whether the color is muted. You may have heard the term “saturation,” which is another way this concept is discussed.

Colors that have the same tone/saturation are most flattering and will photograph best. Colors with clashing tones will not photograph well and can be a nightmare for the photographer to try and fix! 

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer what they think about your color choices! Photographers know what colors look best on camera and are eager to help. 

Some Flattering Color Ideas for Outdoor Family Pictures 

Although there is a slew of possible color combinations, here are some popular ideas you can consider! At the very least, this may bring you some inspiration when figuring out your best family colors.

Best Colors for Family Pictures Outside

Gray, pink, and gold:

Gray, pink, and teal:

Earth tones:

Cream and white:

Blue and white:

Coral and navy:

Tan and navy:

Aqua, gray, and yellow:

Burnt orange and tan:

Pink, burgundy, and cream (or gray):

Rose pink and white:

Burgundy, mustard, and gray:

Peach and blue:

Seasons Can Make a Difference 

The season you choose to shoot in can affect the colors you wear. That’s because seasons cause such drastic changes to the outdoor environment; spring, for instance, is lush and colorful, while winter is a bit colder! You can also use color to embrace the feeling of the season, which will make your family pictures even better.

Generally speaking, springtime calls for softer colors, like pastels and whites. Blues, greens, and yellows are also wonderful choices!

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Summer is vibrant, energetic, and sunny! Summer flatters colors such as warm pinks, oranges, and yellows. Or you can go opposite and play with some colder blues, mints, and teals. 

The fall or autumn is all about earthy tones and warm colors. Consider browns, rusty reds, golds, and cream colors for this season. 

Finally, winter works so beautifully with emeralds, burgundies, teals, grays, and blues! 

Get Perfect Family Pictures with the Right Color Palette

While there are theories you can apply and colors that will look better together, you should always use your own judgment to determine the best colors for your family photographs!

Using the above rules as a guide, your shoot will go great, and you’ll be sure to get photos you’ll treasure for a lifetime. Don’t forget, if you want some additional input, your photographer is a wealth of knowledge!

About the Author
Anabel author

Anabel DFlux is a published photographer in the sunny states of California & Nevada, known for a vast array of photographic work. You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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