Kristen Swain Photography



new england families, COUPLEs, and landscapes

Boston mom and daughter

Spring Photography Sessions: What to wear?


March 22, 2023


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Whether you’re joining me for an in-home or studio photography session in Boston this spring, or planning to get outside with your family and enjoy spring’s bounty of flowers and sunshine, I’ve got tips for you!  In my last post I shared my favorite locations for outdoor spring sessions in Boston, as well as timing considerations for this time of year.  Today I’m sharing some ideas about what to wear for your spring family or motherhood photographs. 

Before I jump in, just a quick reminder about my studio motherhood photography event in South Boston on Friday, April 14th. There are just 2 spots left as of the time of publication, so now is a great time to act if you want to snag one!  If you’re available that day, I promise you will NOT want to miss this one!  I won’t be offering this event again until next year.  You can reserve your spot by visiting my Events page.

What to expect at my April 14th Spring Motherhood Photography Event in Boston

  1. 30-minute petite sessions for moms and kids of all ages, with 15 minutes between each session (so nobody feels rushed). My goal will be to capture mostly photos of you and your kids together, plus a few of the kids alone and one or two of just you.
  2. The beautiful studio space I’ve rented has tall ceilings and is filled with light and several gorgeous spaces for us to work in.  We’ll have the opportunity for backlit photos in front of sheer curtains, cozy photos of you and the kids cuddling on the couch, and fun photos using a gorgeous oversized mirror for reflections and playing around with the kids.  There’s even enough space for me to capture you and your children dancing or spinning. It doesn’t get much better.  These sweet photos of Mary and Birdie were taken at this very studio about a month ago.
  3. You’ll have the option to add on hair and makeup before your session if you’d like. 
  4. You AND the kids will be leaving with a parting gift.  Yes, I’m bribing your kids into LOVING photography sessions. You’re welcome. 🙂

Hope to see you there!  Now on to the spring fashion stuff… 

What to wear for your Boston family, newborn, or motherhood photography session in April or May 2023

It’s the age-old question we grapple with day in and day out when it comes to important events: what should I wear??  I know this is no easy decision, especially when we’re talking about photographs that will, hopefully, be framed and on display in your home for years to come.

Here are a few of my favorite style tips for spring photos.  These suggestions apply equally to outdoor and indoor sessions.  For the most part, even if you’re holding a session indoors, you’ll still want your style to reflect the season of the year during which your photographs were taken.  This is especially true for a newborn session held close in time to your baby’s birth, because years down the road, those photographs will represent the time in your life when your baby was born (even if the weeks between baby’s arrival and your newborn session feels like an eternity to you!).  But even for a studio session not connected to Mother’s Day or anyone’s birthday, if it’s spring outside, it’s nice to make it feel like spring inside. And truthfully it probably will anyway; the light has a different character from season to season, and unless you’re photographing in a dark space or with artificial light, you’ll be able to see the difference, even during indoor sessions.

Decision one: Go casual or dress it up?

I think the easiest first step in deciding what to wear if you’re drawing a blank is to simply decide if you want your spring photos to have a casual vibe or lean dressier.   A good rule of thumb for family photos is to ensure everyone in the family is dressed as if they’re going to the same party, whether that’s a backyard barbecue or a holiday dinner party.  In this context, when I distinguish between casual and dressed up, I (usually) don’t mean formal dressy.  I’m really just talking about the difference between jeans and dresses, for example. 

If you and your family don’t have your photos taken very often (say, every other year, or even less frequently than that), my recommendation would be to dress up a bit.  Your photo session is a special occasion and you should treat it like one!  For families who get photos more regularly, a casually styled session now and then might be a fun way to mix up your collection of professional images.  Also, for many of us, our style choices have an impact on our mood, and you might find that a more casual approach helps everyone relax and have more fun, so mixing up your attire choice might be an interesting experiment that could lead to photos that feel even more authentic to you and your family.  Now, to be clear, casual doesn’t mean sloppy.  In fact, if you’re going with a more casual look you might even want to put in a little bit more effort to make sure your family’s look is cohesive and pulled-together, and that your clothes fit well. 

Most importantly, though, you’ll want to be comfortable and feel confident in whatever you’re wearing.  If you feel good, you will look good.  I get a confidence boost when I’m wearing a dress, but sometimes I feel self-conscious about baring my arms.  So I keep that in mind when dressing for photos – I’ll usually opt for a sweater, a light coat, or a long-sleeved dress when I have my photo taken.  Dresses are almost always flattering on women, and they are SO easy to throw on when you’re in a rush, so I recommend a dress that hits below the knee (or longer) as a fallback for women having a hard time making a decision.  That is, of course, unless dresses are just not. your. thing.  And you know if that’s you.  If so, opt for something that feels more comfortable, and then coordinate your family members’ outfits to match your level of formality.

Decision two: Color scheme

Spring is the time for light, muted colors and subtle patterns.  Well, truth be told, I always recommend muted colors, regardless of season, but in the spring you can embrace lighter, even cooler, tones than you might in the fall.  Sticking with neutrals is a good way to ensure your photographs from your session could go in almost any room of your home if (when!) you decide to frame and hang them. If you have a particular room in your home where you might frame your spring family photos, think about whether the outfits you’re choosing are in colors that would look good in that room.  If not, maybe you want to change out one or two clothing items for a better color fit.  I usually recommend veering away from bright and bold colors for a family session.  Ultimately, we want the focus to be on your people, not your clothes, and we don’t want any one family member’s outfit to stand out too much or be an outlier from a color perspective.  In general, muted tones and neutrals can help us avoid this concern.

One great way to decide on a color scheme is to choose one item that has a pattern, and pull the entire family’s colors and tones from that piece.  For example, if your dress is the patterned item, if the color of your son’s shirt appears in your dress – and it’s a muted or neutral tone! – then you two will probably look great standing next to each other. This is a generalization, but a lot of times, mom knows exactly what she wants to wear but struggles with the rest of the family’s outfits.  So feel free to start there by using this simple tip! 

Speaking of patterns, while I love a subtle pattern in a dress or top, you’ll want to limit your family to no more than two patterns if possible.  Otherwise the look might feel too busy and when looking at your photos your eyes won’t know where to go.  So mostly solids plus one or two patterns is usually a good bet.  All solids works well too. One pattern I recommend avoiding is stripes, which can also be confusing for the eye.  We all know florals are reminiscent of spring.  I say embrace the season and go for a subtle floral print, like Hadley, Maddy, and Julianna did for their photos (see below!).

Decision three: The specifics

Here’s the nice thing. For most members of the family, a formula works pretty well, with subtle changes based on the level of formality you’re going for.  Here’s what I mean by that:

  • For Dad: I always recommend a button up or a sweater on top for Dad.  If it’s chilly, maybe both.  Personally, I love the look of a quarter zip, but go with what suits him best and will ensure he’s comfortable.  For a casual look, Dad can wear jeans. If you’re dressing the family up a little bit, opt for slacks – greys, blues, and khakis always look great in my opinion. Olive greens can be nice too!  (What to avoid: I’d recommend avoiding short-sleeved T-shirts and light-colored jeans for Dad, both of which can be a little bit too casual for photos, in my personal opinion.)
  • For toddler boys: Cotton knits, like the pieces you can find from Oat Children, are super versatile and will work for your littlest ones whether the rest of you are dressing up or down!  They’re neutral too, so these pieces will go with almost anything.  One extra tip on knits: try to keep them as fitted as possible.  This is true for adults and children; we don’t want anyone drowning in fabric!
  • For toddler girls: Cotton knits are great for girls too. But there are so many cute dress options for girls as well, and like knits, dresses can often go either way – dressed up or dressed down. Just keep in mind that the same principles mentioned above also apply for kids. Best to avoid super bright colors and loud patterns, and make sure the kiddos’ clothes fit the color scheme the rest of the family is adopting.
  • Kids over three: For bigger kids, it can be nice for the kids to mirror the parents’ clothes. Not necessarily matchy matchy (although this can work if not overdone!), but if mom is wearing a dress and daughter likes dresses too, great. Same for dad and son, assuming everyone is comfortable dressing similarly. Boys look great and nicely put-together in sweaters, as long as they’re comfortable wearing them and not too hot.

Now for Mom.  This might be the most difficult choice, in part because there are so many great options!  For that reason, you might want to decide what mom is wearing first, and plan the rest of the family from there.  I HIGHLY recommend trying your outfit on a few weeks ahead of your session, including accessories and shoes!  You don’t want to be surprised the day of your session if your favorite jeans aren’t fitting the way they used to, or you forgot to think about shoes when you bought a beautiful new dress for your spring photos.  Planning ahead will save you time and stress!

Here are some specific outfit ideas for Mom that I think consistently look great:

  • Casual looks for Mom:
    • White jeans and a light sweater or blouse;Light-wash denim and a white button-down;
    • A slipdress and sandals (add a sweater for some variety in your look throughout the session, or in case it’s cool). (You may or may not know that I’m kind of obsessed with everything Jenni Kayne makes, so several of my inspiration images will come from her line.)
  • Dressier looks for Mom:
    •  A midi or maxi dress and sandals or wedges (if we’re outside we’ll likely be in the grass, so if you’re thinking of wearing heels, you might want to bring them with you and throw the on at the last minute rather than wear them to your session)

One final note when planning your outfits: Usually temperatures are mild in Boston in the spring, but it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case it’s an unusually warm (or cool) day. That might look like switching from a sweater to a button-up for a warm day, or adding a sleek coat on top of a dress on a cooler day (you can wear it over your shoulders rather than all the way on, if you just need a little extra warmth).

For more inspiration, check out this recent post by Style Your Occasion, which has some great ideas for spring family photo fashion.

I hope you found some of these styling tips useful for preparing for your spring photography session in Boston. If you’d like to see more on the blog, click here. If you’d like to book a spring family session, head over to my booking page!

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