Nailing Your Fall Family Photo Session Style

Fall is one of the best times to capture families outdoors. There is something about the turning of the seasons that seems to put a spark in the air! The San Francisco Bay Area landscape provides a beautiful backdrop of warm colors and in San Francisco, it’s finally warm enough to be outside without freezing! As you begin thinking and planning for your family’s autumn picture shoot, it can be overwhelming to try to imitate the magazine-perfect photos you find on Pinterest. You can prepare for priceless family memories without buying matching outfits! Below is a guide on what to wear for your fall family photos, and some bonus suggestions for outfit inspiration!

Location, Location, Location

Where are you wanting your family photographs to be taken? San Francisco Bay Area has so many options to choose from! If you are wanting a more relaxed coastal vibe, there are tons of places to go! With the beach, though, comes some planning ahead. There’s a good chance you (and/or your children) will get wet and sandy! You may want to bring towels, as well as a change of shoes and clothes, for when your session is over. Sessions on the beach also tend to photograph well with a softer color palette with an added pop of color. Think navy, greys, creams, and a splash of red. If you and your family are looking for a more urban setting with a busier background, you may need to be more strategic with your color choices! Do your research or ask Emily; if you are wanting an urban skyline view, often the buildings in the background take on a bluish-grey haze. You can decide if you’d like to coordinate with the scenery or stand out in brighter colors! If you are looking for a more natural backdrop, there are plenty of parks to find beautiful trees and foliage. Again, talk with Emily and decide if you’d rather coordinate your outfits with your surroundings or brighten up the backdrop! 

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There are so many directions to go for a fall photo shoot, but I love incorporating the beautiful colors that fall and fall festivals provide! Here, the family keeps the subtle blue/grey element and gives a fall vibe by adding a rust-colored sweater for Dad and a mustard cardigan for Mom. And darling Son’s outfit adds dimension with the plaid and jacket!

Consider Your Photo Display


This may seem trivial, but if you are wanting to have these photos on display in your home for many years to come it can be an important step! Do you tend to gravitate toward neutrals in your home decor? Or are the rooms in your home loud and bright? This may impact what clothing choices you go with! There is nothing wrong with having a bright photo in a neutral room and vice versa. However, if you are picky on your decorating this could be a bigger consideration for you!

If you’re not sure how you plan on displaying your photos, a simple black frame is always a timeless option!

Color Scheme

When deciding on your family’s outfits, you want to have a few options. Choose 2-3 main colors as the base of the ensembles, then accent with a bright pop of color and neutrals. Textures and patterns are great, but you’ll want to try to avoid too many patterns in the picture; keep the eye-catching pieces minimal and instead draw attention using colored accents. 

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As you can see, this family went with a very neutral palette (greys, blacks, whites) but Mom and Daughter brought the pop of color with their gold outfits while the guys balanced the photo out!

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Another example of how a pop of color can change the entire photo! Dad and Daughter are in very neutral colors while Mom’s burnt orange dress contrasts the coastal background and ties in with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

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Check out this adorable jumper! While Mom and Dad play it casual in their leather and jean jackets, they’ve got the spice added to the photo with baby Girl’s splash of red.

Coordinate (Don’t Match)


A few years ago, a big trend was to put everyone in white shirts and blue jeans. However, rarely do families live their day-to-day lives in identical clothing! To get the most natural looking photos, you won’t want everyone in the exact same outfit! Coordinate means to bring different elements together in a way that ensures harmony...don’t over-match! Not everyone needs to wear every color in your palette, and not every color needs to be equally represented.


I love this three-generation photo! The two colors in their palette were navy and cream; this was balanced out by having Grandma in a navy cardigan, Mom in a cream shirt + sweater, and sweet Daughter in her navy polk-a-dots. Another example of why you only need one patterned piece in a photo!

I love this three-generation photo! The two colors in their palette were navy and cream; this was balanced out by having Grandma in a navy cardigan, Mom in a cream shirt + sweater, and sweet Daughter in her navy polk-a-dots. Another example of why you only need one patterned piece in a photo!

Divide and Conquer (the color balance)


Instead of keeping the same colors in the same place in the photos, try splitting up the colors between top and bottom. Have some family members in brighter bottoms (skirts, pants, shorts, shoes) while the others have more color up top (tops, vests, scarves, hats, headbands). Another key to splitting colors is to think about the pairs that often occur in photos. Mom and Dad shouldn’t be in too similar of an outfit as they naturally tend to stand by each other. Same thing with Mom and baby. Brothers and sisters are often placed next to each other, so color separation there is also appropriate.

Comfort is Key

Those little brown dress shoes may look really cute on your toddler, but if they aren’t comfortable no one will be happy 20 minutes into the shoot! Keep your family’s comfort in mind. If you’re planning an early fall shoot, chances are you and your family will overheat in heavy sweaters and vests. If you were hoping for a late fall shoot, the cute little boutique skirt you bought for your daughter may leave her cold and cranky. Find outfits that your family will be comfortable in to avoid any major meltdowns on the day of your session!

Timeless vs. Trendy

This tip definitely depends on your family style! If you are up on the newest trends and embrace the changing fashions whole-heartedly, then by all means display your style in the trendiest way possible! If you would rather people look back on your photos and not know exactly what year your pictures were taken, you may want to go a more timeless route (think 80s-90s windbreaker photos and feathered hair...yikes!). Depending on your and your family’s personal style and preference, this can help you decide what to wear for your session.

I love not only incorporating the four-legged family member, but also keeping the style here timeless! With their color palette and outfit choices, this is an image that won’t go out of style.

I love not only incorporating the four-legged family member, but also keeping the style here timeless! With their color palette and outfit choices, this is an image that won’t go out of style.

Flattering and Fitted

Try to avoid all-over baggy clothing. Although many styles lean toward a loser silhouette, you may want to avoid these types of outfits for your photos. Often they can lead to the subjects looking bigger, which is usually something we all want to avoid! Flowy dresses and skirts photograph amazingly, so pair them with a fitted top or a belt to accentuate your figure and avoid the extra ten pounds. Just keep in mind your shape and what compliments your or your family member’s figure. Try to find a fit that is both flattering and comfortable!

Check out this beautiful mauve maxi skirt, and pair it this form-fitting grey top.

Layers and Accessories

If you’ve felt like my advice has been pretty “neutral” thus far, here’s what you’ve been waiting to hear! Adding in layers and accessories should be the last step, as it really pulls a coordinated look together. This is where you can be a bit more generous with your color, patterns, and any accents you’d like to add to your pictures. Layer and accessorize with lightweight jackets, cardigans, vests, scarves, belts, and even footwear! Like with most things, however, you don’t want to over-do it. Not every single person in the shot needs an accessory. You and your family are the focal points of the photograph; don’t let your husband’s neon orange belt overtake the shot!

Looking for some simple, easy ways to add fun accents to your family’s session? For the mamas, try a cute fedora with matching booties for a chic fall vibe. Dads can’t go wrong with a simple scarf accent to match the color scheme! For the boys, layer up with a trendy vest. And of course, for the girls, nothing adds a pop of color quite like a beautiful flower crown!

Nothing shouts fall fashion like pea coats, vests, and riding boots! This family absolutely nailed it with their layering, color scheme, and accessories. Adding in the athletic equipment (soccer ball and lacrosse stick) also help preserve the boys’ interests at this age and give another accent to the photo!

Nothing shouts fall fashion like pea coats, vests, and riding boots! This family absolutely nailed it with their layering, color scheme, and accessories. Adding in the athletic equipment (soccer ball and lacrosse stick) also help preserve the boys’ interests at this age and give another accent to the photo!

Do you have a family photo session coming up this fall? Have you started planning?

If you are still looking for a photographer in the San Francisco area, reach out to Emily! She is behind the amazing shots featured here and would love to capture your family moments. Reach out to her via email at hello@emilyjenksphotography.com or visit her site for more details on booking a session.

Erin KlockeComment