1. Options. Bring choices! Especially here in Montana, it's just about impossible to know exactly what to expect: the weather and light changes by the minute and this affects the overall "vibe" not only of the location (yes, the light actually affects the way colors appear!), but also the general feeling of the session. Overcast light lends itself to a moodier, more intimate feeling, while clear skies create a more playful, free-spirited sense. By having a couple options, we can make sure your outfit choices add to the vibe we are creating, rather than detract from it.

As a general rule, bring 2-3 tops and a couple different bottoms (or a dress or two if that's your thing!). Also, don't be afraid to bring a couple casual, everyday-type outfits and a couple dressier ones! Don't forget to bring a couple pairs of shoes to switch it up!


2.  Color + color theory. Neutral bases are always easy to work with: neutrals generally work with everything, so there's little chance that your choice will clash with the location. Neutrals don't have to be boring though: of course, the classics are good (white, cream, khaki, grey, black), but plenty of color shades can work as neutrals as well. Think olive green, burnt sienna, dark mustard yellow, navy blue...all of these colors can blend nicely with lots of natural elements.

There are two ways to approach using color in a way that is cohesive with your location: by matching certain natural elements and by contrasting them. You can match pieces of your outfit to environmental features (i.e., matching his tan hat to the dry grass and an rust-orange dress for you to the red-orange in the rocks). Alternatively, you can choose to use color to contrast your environment. For example, if your location is full of beautiful blue water and sky, you can go with a yellow top or dress to contrast that blue. What you decide to do will depend on the vibe you want to create: sticking with matching tones will create a more cohesive, "quiet" feeling, while contrasting colors will give you a feeling of energy and boldness.


3. Patterns. Patterns can be a great thing when used appropriately! Or they can be a big distraction. It comes down to the size of the pattern and how "busy" your location is. Regarding the size of the pattern, reasonable minds can differ, but I believe medium-sized patterns are best: if they are too small, they won't really show up in your photos (and side note: really small checkered patterns will appear SUPER distorted in photos - stay away!). Giant patterns can compete with the emotion in pictures: giant flowers will be a distraction from whatever is going on with your faces, hands,

whatever! So try to stick with medium-sized prints: big enough to show up, but not so big that it becomes a distraction. It can be helpful to leave the patters to the kids, then build mom's and dad's outfits around those patterns: pull colors from the kids' outfits and incorporate those colors into your shirts and/or accessories.

4.  Coordinate - don't match! Resist the urge to match your outfits (i.e., there is no need for both of you to wear jeans and white shirts). Instead, focus on coordinating: as in tip number 3, pick a color in the kids' outfit to build mom's and dad's from. If you're not doing patterns, pick darker or lighter shades of what mom is wearing for dad and the kids (or you can always go back to neutrals because guess what: they go with EVERYTHING!).


5. Level of Formality. Once you've made your choices, make sure to test them out against each other's outfits. They should be of generally the same level of formality, i.e., if you've chosen a formal dress, unless you're going for a very specific and quirky vibe, maybe make sure the rest of the family isn't in tattered shorts and a band tee ;)

Similarly, consider whether your outfit choices make sense for the location you've chosen. But guess what? This doesn't mean you have to stick with jeans and a flannel if you're going to be in the woods! You can totally pull off a dress or something a little nicer than your real hiking clothes: just think about the fabric choices (linen is great, satin may look out of place) and how you are able to move in your choice. It may not make much sense to choose sequined dresses for a woodsy session, but a flow, easy-to-move-in cotton or linen wrap dress can be great! Along the same lines, think about your shoe choice. Strappy stilettos may not work, but cute booties definitely will. And of course, there is NOTHING wrong with sticking with jeans and t-shirts or comfy sweaters if that's your preference!

The same principles apply for indoor locations: if you're sticking to an in-home session, you'll be much more comfortable if you're dressed more like you would be if you were spending a Saturday around the house, rather than outfitted in haute couture. Conversely, if you've opted to do a studio session, it's easy (and so much fun!) to kick things up a notch and work that high fashion vibe!

There are all kinds of ways to make various levels of formality work for any given location - the best thing to do is bring several choices so we can figure out what works best! 

Have questions? Let's chat! I'm happy to talk about how best to make this session accurately reflect your family! Email me at and we'll get it figured out together :)