"I honestly don't even know where to start."
"This is kind of intimidating."
"I have some ideas, but I'm not sure if it will all look good together."
Is this YOU?
Let me style your family's outfits!
Our case study. Meet the Acuno family. Lauren was totally open to having her family's outfits styled for their photoshoot.
Suggested outfits for the family.
How it went!
As you can see the burnt umber and teal really pop, and play nicely with some warm neutrals and mixed patterns.
If you would like help styling your shoot, let me know and I'll create an outfit "recipe" for you all to look fabulous!
It's hard pulling together outfits for your family's pictures. I get it!
But as someone who has done professional pictures for her family nearly every year for the past decade, let me tell you what not to do!
2011: Outfit ideas- Beginner's luck
Do I look tired? I was. This kid was running me ragged. But I still love these pictures.
Why they worked: everybody is wearing different colored tops, but they are all in the light blue/white space.
What I didn't like is that all 3 of us are wearing jeans. So the full body pictures look a bit more uniform. But no big deal.
2013: Outfit ideas that didn't work!
First off: 2012 is the only year skipped here. See that extra person in the picture below? He was all over 2012. But back to the photos..
I do not have a digital file of this picture. I love it because the kids look super cute but here's the disaster.
I thought, "We'll all wear blue. The theme will be blue and white." That worked last time, right?!
I'm wearing a bold navy/white stripe. Kid 1 is wearing light blue. Dad is wearing a shirt that is "technically" a navy/white check pattern. Kid 2 is in a navy polo.
Why this doesn't work:
1. Very small patterns read in front of the camera as an approximation of themselves. Dad's shirt looks like a pastel blue from far away.
2. Me and Kid 2 go together and Dad and Kid 1 go together, but as a group we all clash.
I thought putting this into black and white would solve the problem.
2014: Outfit ideas that were ok.
This is me out ahead of the neutrals trend that will hit hard in another 7 years. Who knew?
If I could go back in time I would change my sweater to a cool neutral.
But it's fine.
With a bunch of guys, the light blue shirt thing was honestly just easy to pull off.
I'm also not super loving the adults in jeans, kids in khakis thing. I wish we had mixed that up a bit.
2015: Outfit ideas that worked, and some that didn't
We did professional family pictures twice that fall. I don't remember why. But the shoots were completely different.
First shoot: again with the neutrals
Husband and Kid 1 are wearing the same sweaters as last year. Whoops!
Without the blue collars, all these colors go together better.
This is one of the rare situations where we were all in jeans and it doesn't bother me. Possible reasons:
1. I'm wearing tall boots so that adds visual interest.
2. Kid 2 is wearing a lighter wash of jeans so again, some variety here.
Second Shoot: Christmas!!
My thought process: grey & navy with a "pop" of red. (Pops of color were a big thing in 2015. So were statement necklaces.)
I was so committed to this concept that even though people like me-- with an olive skin tone-- look terrible in fire engine red, I said, "We're DOING THIS."
Did I learn my lesson from 2013 that small check patterns average out to pastels?
Not one bit!
Husband's shirt here is a very small red check pattern on a white background.
That's why it looks like pink.
Also- don't ever have one person in the family wearing red. The goal is to create balance. Not the eye-suck that is this flannel shirt.
2016: Outfit ideas that worked, and why
Full disclosure; this was the first year where I finally got the balance I wanted. I own a 24x36" canvas of the portrait of us sitting. It hangs in our living room and I love it.
Things to note:
THREE people are wearing different patterned shirts in these portraits! But it works. Why? If you squint, the colors in all the shirts even out to cool pastels in the blue color space.
Both boys are wearing khaki shorts - but we separated them visually so it wasn't obvious.
Kid 2 is wearing the same shirt Kid 1 wore in our first photoshoot. It's a cowboy style from Janie & Jack, fyi.
2017: Family outfits fail
Same problem as 2013: color factions with Team Burgundy and Team Dark Tops.
This was thrown together at the last minute and involved no shopping whatsoever.
In retrospect, this could have worked if Kid2 was wearing burgundy shorts and Dad had a grey top with jeans.
2018: Family outfits- unusual choices but it worked
This experience was The Hot Mess Express.
We were supposed to shoot on top of a mountain, but when we got there the wind was blowing 40+ mph. By the time we all made it to a park at the base of the mountain there were 15 minutes of sun remaining.
But I had gotten my makeup done and was wearing $300 worth of hair extensions. So we were going to MAKE IT WORK.
That 15 minutes involved liquid gold sunshine and I have three giant metal art pieces in my dining room that I adore.
Why these outfits work:
Yes, the kids are both in khaki shorts. Again. But at least they are different shades of khaki!
Yes, a lot of white shirts. But the texture on Kid 2's sweater, and the buttons on Kid 1's shirt give some variety.
Yes, I'm the only one wearing a true pattern. Does that bother you? Because the pattern is a large gauge, it still reads as a "white" (err, off-white) dress.
2019: Family outfits based on PINK!
"This is the one and ONLY time we're doing pink," said all the guys.
We tried this spot again and it was gorgeous. I knew that the background would be warm/golden so I went with pinks & khakis. A giant canvas of this oak tree shot hangs in my living room.
The pink thing was an excuse for me to wear this Free People dress. No regrets.
Lesson learned: husband is wearing the same red/white checked shirt as in the 2015 Christmas shoot. But this time around I knew it would read as pink in the pictures.
Also: pink is a fairly forgiving color- many different shades of it can play together nicely.
Aside: If you notice how I look way darker than the rest of my family - I was swimming 5-6 days/week at this point in my life.
I spent a lot of time photoshopping out tan lines on these.
2020: Family outfits based on blue & teal
I've got no real beef with the outfits here. They are totally ok. As you can guess, this fairly masculine color scheme is a direct backlash from 2019.
The only thing was that it was FREAKISHLY COLD during this shoot.
We were doing jumping jacks to stay warm.
And later, husband asked why I was wearing a little sundress when everyone else was in pants and dark colors.
That's a valid point. With a do-over I would swap out my outfit for something that matches the formality of the rest of the group better.
2021: Family outfits for a beach shoot
Over the pandemic I had become absolutely obsessed with this photographer in San Diego. And as soon as we were able to travel again, I booked her immediately because she did this one particular shot that I wanted.
This! The reflection and open sky? This exists as a massive metal piece of artwork that hangs over my couch in the family room. LOVE. IT.
Now about the 'fits:
EVERYONE is wearing different patterns here! Why does this work?
All the clothes are light colors.
The patterns all "read" as pale blues and teals.
The guys are all wearing different colored shorts for once!
I chalk this up as a major win.
Behind the scenes craziness:
We drove an hour from our AirBnB to get to the Del and the shoot got rained out. So we came back the next day and did this shoot for real. Even still, it was drizzling on us here. This, in July!
The wind was blowing so much that the photographer loaned me her sunglasses to wear on my head to keep my hair out of my face.
But it was so worth it.
This was the last photoshoot where I was still taller than Kid 1. How does this go by so fast??
2022: Family outfits for a formal shoot
Upon entering middle school, Kid 2 decided he was going to take things more seriously and wear a tie to school every day. We got him a 12-pack of bow ties off Amazon, and it got me thinking. We've never done a formal shoot.
Normally when I see everyone in the same shirt I think "soccer league" or "customer service team" photos.
The only reason I'm ok with all the guys wearing white shirts is because of this location.
It looks like we are going to an event.
The event is family photos. Ha!
My husband after this shoot: "Can we stop doing walking shots?"
A formal shoot at this point in our lives also made sense because both boys are playing instruments and doing performances. (Read: we already had black pants and white dress shirts that fit everybody. Ha!)
There were actually a ton of people here. I have no idea how we got this shot.
Lessons Learned over a Decade of My Own Family's Pictures
1. Skip family portraits AT YOUR OWN PERIL. You will never get these years back.
2. Physical artwork from your photoshoot is a MUST. Pictures on a hard drive are a waste. Hang canvases. Hang metals. Get big framed prints onto your walls. They will bring you joy.
3. Try considering the colors at the location when picking colors to wear.
4. Does everyone look like they are going to the same party? Pay attention to formality.
5. Squint Check: throw all the outfits on a bed, stand back and squint. Regardless of patterns, do all the clothes look like the same general color saturation? (All deep, rich tones, or all light/pastel tones?)
6. Is one person wearing RED? Get rid of that.
Now it's YOUR turn
I did not take any of the pictures in this blog. I hired other talented professionals so that I could be in these shots with my family.
I do, however, love to create portraits for other families. And help them navigate outfits and locations and create beautiful artwork for their homes.
If you live in or are visiting the Tri-Valley Area of California (Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon, Danville, Walnut Creek etc.) get in touch today to discuss pricing, artwork, and availability!
Parents: it's easy to take lackluster formal pictures of your child who is headed off to prom or ball.
Here are some tips & tricks to help up your game!
Sure you can take the shot straight on.
But have you tried squatting down low and shooting up? This angle A) makes everybody look taller, and B) can highlight some fun shoe choices.
Don't be afraid to take pictures in full direct sun. This gives your shots a bit of pop that you won't get in the shade.
It's ok to look away
People don't always have to be smiling and looking at the camera!
Personality is everything
Yes, the outfits are important for spring formals. But emotion and personality are what will make you LOVE your pictures.
Finally, get this one.
Your daughter doesn't need a date. Just borrow any random person's hand who happens to be in a suit and lean over in front of them to take the shot.
This will end up being one of her favorite pictures from the night. I swear.
Want more help?
Samantha Grant Photography would love to help you memorialize your high school student's spring formal with beautiful professional pictures!
Get in touch ASAP because I can typically only accept one to two groups on any given date due to timing restraints.
Hit this button to inquire about pricing and availability.
1. Let the Sun Shine In
By shooting directly into the sun, you get this solar flare effect.
It naturally creates a golden glow to your senior pictures.
And the best part? You don't need a special location -- you can literally do this anywhere you have full, direct sunlight.
2. Play with Angles
Get way down low and shoot upward.
Get shots from above and below to mix things up.
3. Don't be afraid to get wet!
If you love water, incorporate it into your senior pictures.
4. Hair flips
If you have long hair, make sure to get a hair flip shot during your senior pictures!
5. Twirl It Out
If you have wear a long, flowy dress to your senior pictures-- twirl around! It's fun to get that fabric flowing.
Whatever is closest to the camera appears largest. Play around with that!
7. Bonus: Coffee Shop Vibes
Do you have a favorite coffee shop? Go shoot your senior pictures there!
Level Up Your Pumpkin Patch Pictures
4 Tips to do better with this timeless classic
Heading over to the pumpkin patch to take some pictures? Here are some tips to help you get the best shots possible with your phone.
1. Plan your Pumpkin Patch Shoot Outfits
Even if it’s 85 degrees out, you can still make it look like fall by wearing the right colors. Think about deep, rich tones and if you wear white, go with a creamy off-white.
2. Pick a fall nail color
You will probably want some shots holding pumpkins or gourds. So now’s the time to get yourself a cute fall manicure! Burgundy and nude are great choices that will carry you into November.
3. Shoot with your back to the sun.
Shooting with your back to the sun will mean that you can get the bluest of blue skies and super bright orange pumpkins.
Yes, it does also mean that the people in the pictures will be looking directly into the sun. To help with that, do a “three, two, one” countdown with their eyes closed and have everyone open their eyes on “one.” One other thing to be aware of: is your own shadow. If the sun is to your back, be careful that you aren’t casting a shadow onto the people in the shot. The easiest way to avoid this is to get down low (either squat or sit down) when you are shooting.
4. It's a pumpkin patch: have fun!
Some of the best pumpkin patch shots are ones you won’t think of until you arrive and see what there is to play with.
Don’t be afraid to get silly. Juggle some baby pumpkins, jump in the air, or skip down a lane of hay bales. Look for motion and emotion to get the best pictures. You got this!
Senior pictures for guys don't have to be boring. It just takes a bit of planning to create something fantastic.
1. Guy Senior Pictures with Smoke Bombs
You can get smoke bombs on Amazon, and you'll want to buy a bunch: they typically only last around 30 seconds.
Pro tip: find a shooting location that has very little wind (even a slight breeze blows the smoke away.) and keep a bucket of water ready to go in case you need to extinguish one of these.
2. Guy Senior Pictures with Dramatic Lighting
The key here is to find a spotlight effect created by the sun. Main character energy because of that cinematic quality shot.
3. Guy Senior Pictures featuring Talents
Highlight your passion during your senior pictures.
Pro Tip: find a location that really highlights what you want to showcase. This is a parking garage, but it was perfect for mixed martial arts senior pictures.
4. Guy Senior Pictures with Suits & Sports
If you've played your sport forever, you probably have a ton of team photos in your uniform. Let's put a classy spin on this.
5. Guy Senior Pictures with Significant Others
Have a significant other? Why not bring them along for some shots together?
I have TERRIBLE pictures from my own high school graduation. I’m squinting. There’s a chain link fence in the background. Random people photobombing every picture. I really regret not having any nice pictures to commemorate the day!
Let’s do better for you at your cap & gown mini shoot!
You’ll have beautiful pictures for your graduation announcements, and to display at your grad party.
Here are some shot ideas that I want to make sure we get for you!
Let's start with some fundamentals.
1. Close Up with your cap, gown, tassel & year charm
2. Fully body shot- front & back
Next, a full body. I like this best with the gown unzipped, because otherwise they tend to look bulky.
3. More fun graduation pictures: the jump shot!
Why not? This is a time to celebrate.
4. Glitter Blow
If you decide to try this on your own, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF THE ENVIRONMENT put down an old sheet or something to catch all the glitter.
5. College Swag
Bring a pennant and a college tee or sweatshirt – these are great shots to put on your graduation announcement to show where you are headed next year.
6. Tassel Explosion!
Full disclosure: this is a tough shot to get. We probably won’t nail it on the first take. But I have some tricks for getting it just right.
Try flicking your finger tips up & out: away from your face.
7. The Details
Everybody forgets to do these, but they are so cute!
Make sure to get that decorated cap!
I love the super close up with your tassel & year charm. Pro tip: since graduation colors tend to be bold, consider wearing a lip color that pops!
Bonus: Looking Back
The turning around and looking back shot is a must-have. Symbolic of heading off to your future!
Don't Miss Out!
I typically offer my cap & gown mini shoots in late April/early May.
These sessions are extremely limited and made available first to everyone on my newsletter.
To inquire about pricing & availability just click the button below. I can’t wait to celebrate your graduation with you at your photoshoot!
I can't tell you the number of clients who have told me, "the last time we did family pictures was when the kids were in pre-school!"
OK! Well this is going to be different from last time. And better. Let's dive in.
1. Less Stress
So let me tell you the good news: this is going to be a walk in the park compared to the wrangling you had to deal with last time!
Nobody's nap will get interrupted (hopefully)!
No one needs a bribe to be there.
Everyone can get themselves dressed, and into the car.
You can go out for a nice dinner together afterwards without forcing everyone to change out of their "nice" shirt.
These are all big wins and mean that you have time to make yourself look nice beforehand. Wonderful.
You can finally get a nice headshot!
2. Posing to Look Your Best
We won't be throwing anyone up in the air. Or playing peekaboo. Instead, the focus is on posing so that every single person looks their best.
3. Highlighting Personality
The goal is to capture who you really are at this moment in your lives.
4. Now it's Your Turn
Has it been forever since you did family pictures? Let's fix this! Get in touch today so we can plan the perfect photoshoot for your family.
The Best Locations for Pictures in Pleasanton, Livermore, San Ramon, Danville, and Dublin, ca
When I'm scouting for photoshoot locations in the east bay I'm looking for a number of factors.
But before you pick a location, first look at the decor in your home:
What are the colors in the room where you'd like to display artwork?
Is your room decorated with warm neutrals like cream & taupe? Cool neutrals like grey/silver? Pops of color?
The number one way to decide on a location is to look at the decor in the room. Is it rustic? Formal? The goal is to create artwork that looks perfect in your space.
If you have a more formal dining room and you'd love to hang a family portrait above the buffet, wear dressier outfits to your shoot, and we'll pick a more formal location.
If you have a cozy family room and you'd love a gallery wall above your sofa, wear more casual outfits, and we will pick a more rustic spot.
Next, consider the season
Some locations look *extra beautiful* at specific times of year. If this is important to you, make sure to book a photoshoot several months in advance to secure a date.
Fall photoshoot locations
This spot in Livermore is very pretty in the spring and summer, but is spectacular in fall. Artwork from this type of a shoot looks wonderful in a room decorated with natural woods, taupes, and creams.
I recommend booking a fall foliage photoshoot by September at the latest to make sure to get your perfect November date.
Winter photoshoot locations
This photoshoot location, near Blackhawk, is pretty in the summer and fall, but is otherworldly during the last 2 weeks of February.
Artwork from this type of shoot looks wonderful in a room that has light decor- white or off white paint, lighter woods.
If you want cherry blossom pictures I highly recommend making plans for this during December. White and pink outfits look especially lovely here.
The Best Location for casual pictures, year-round
If you'd like a rustic look for your casual photoshoot, the Barn is a terrific spot.
There is greenery here year-round. So even in the peak of summer you can have lush foliage in your pictures.
This spot also gets really nice golden hour lighting, just before sunset.
There's also a cute cafe area and this walkway, which looks terrific with backlighting.
The Best Location for formal pictures, year-round
The Piazza is an elegant spot, which features hardscape throughout. This is nice for anyone wearing heels. Artwork from a shoot here is terrific for more formal spaces in your home and in family rooms decorated with a rich color palette.
The landscaping here is evergreen, which means it looks great even in December, January, and February.
A cute side note: this family's picture was featured in my lab's holiday card marketing.
Ahh, the fields of golden grasses in Livermore. If your home is decorated with warm or cream tones, this is an excellent spot for your photoshoot.
Additional Locations for pictures
These are my most requested spots for photoshoots, but I have plenty of additional beautiful venues ranging from Livermore to Walnut Creek.
If you didn't see exactly what you are looking for in this post, get in touch and let me help you find the perfect spot for your pictures!
Samantha Grant Photography is based in Pleasanton, Ca and specializes in high school senior and family portraits.