What Are the Best Colors to Wear for Family Pictures?

Professional photographer taking photo of family on sofa in studio

If you’re preparing to gather your crew to take this year’s family photo, aesthetics are probably on your mind. You want everyone to look crisp, in focus and adorably cheerful!

When taking group photos, you can use colors to your advantage to create a very crisp, clear lineup that pops. Selecting a color theme is a great way to create a look of unity in a group photo. It ensures that everyone will look like they are “on the same team” even if they are showing up from different households.

Let’s explore the best colors to wear in family photos.

Starting Point: What Not to Wear in Family Photos

Before digging into the right colors, it’s important to know about the ones to skip. The big thing to remember is that what looks good in person may not translate to a photograph. Here are some colors you may want to skip for family photo sessions.

Neon Colors

While they may create a high-energy vibe in real life, neon hues are simply too distracting in a photo. Bright neons can also be unflattering. For instance, a person who blushes in photos may appear “too red” when wearing neon pink or orange.


Family portrait of mother, father and two little children in black clothes poses in studio on dark background

Black is another color that doesn’t always work in photos. Yes, it’s true that you may see a sophisticated reflection when you look in the mirror while wearing an all-black ensemble. However, black has a way of blending into the background in group photos. As a result, your family may look like a group of “floating” heads. What’s more, you may not realize that a group photo in black can actually look much gloomier than you expected until you see the final product.


White can be difficult for indoor photo shoots. When set against a light background, white can make a group appear washed out. When set against a black or dark background, the contrast can be too severe. White does often work nicely in outdoor settings like beaches or parks because the earthy tones and natural light are kinder to white.

The Colors That Do Work in Family Photos

Which colors are going to pop beautifully without taking the emphasis off of the happy smiles of your family members? The good news is that you probably have many items in your closet that will do the job just fine. Let’s cover the specific “core” colors to use in family photos.


Portrait of smiling family in gray, striped and red colored clothes

A great alternative to black, gray photographs beautifully. This is the color to pick if you’re looking to create a sophisticated group photo that won’t give your family members floating heads. Gray works beautifully against a dark or black backdrop.


Tan is another color that photographs beautifully. It’s a great neutral tone that keeps the emphasis on the subjects being photographed instead of drawing focus to their clothes. Like gray, tan looks great against dark or black backdrops.


If you had your heart set on white, there’s no reason to despair just because pure white doesn’t always translate crisply to photographs. Cream is a wonderful alternative. Unlike pure white, cream will actually stand out from a light background. It also works better with a black or dark background because it cuts down that “sharp” contrast of black on white.

These are all great basic colors to either use as your base or sprinkle in as accents. However, these basic neutrals don’t represent the whole list of great colors for family photos at all. There are some specific “vibrant” colors that work exceptionally well in family photos because they make a statement without being overpowering.

Photo of adult couple walking with parents on the beach

Here’s a look at some superstar colors that can be used alone or together:

  • Navy
  • Plum
  • Burgundy
  • Purple
  • Aqua
  • Coral
  • Pale yellow
  • Tan
  • Burnt orange
  • Rose/pink
  • Wine hues
  • Gold
  • Peach
  • Denim
  • Mustard

This list represents colors that are peppy without being overwhelming. This is why they can be mixed and matched using patterns and accents to create a very posh, polished look in a family photo. You can indulge your creative side by finding fun ways to put these colors together. For instance, an all-blue theme can be pulled off quite nicely by using aqua with denim. A “pink” theme will look better if you combine light pink with tan and gray.

Debunking the Pattern Myth: Can You Wear Patterns in Family Photos?

Girl in striped clothes sitting with family on outdoor sofa

Many people incorrectly assume that patterns are too dizzying and distracting for family photos. The truth is that you can pull off patterns beautifully as long as you follow some simple tricks. Generally, plaid and striped shirts are fine. However, most professional photographers will tell you that it’s smart to opt for smaller plaid and thinner stripes to avoid creating confusing blocks of color in your scene.

Floral patterns are also fine. However, you don’t necessarily want everyone in the same pattern. To make a statement, strategically place just the younger children in the photo in floral, plaid or striped outfits to create a contrast against the “solids” worn by the adults.

“Busy” patterns can have a place in family photos. However, you run the risk of looking like you’re part of a Magic Eye scene if you overdo it with patterns. For busy patterns and paisleys, only use accent pieces. That can mean bow ties, scarves or belts.

Say Cheese Without Being Cheesy: Final Thoughts on the Best Colors for Family Pictures

Portrait of happy family sitting on sofa, even the dog is in the picture

Ultimately, there’s no rule that says you have to choose specific colors for a family photo. You should be in good shape as long as you’re not opting for colors that will obscure your family when placed against the backdrop you’ve chosen. Typically, this means all-black or all-white ensembles.

You’ll find that you’re able to create a richer, more dynamic look when you opt for “shades” of colors instead of primary colors because this strategy cuts down on heavy contrasts that can make a photo seem too harsh.