This guide to the best colors for family pictures outside will help you find schemes that make everyone look good without clashing with the backdrop.
We’ve experimented with family photography for a while and realized that you could pull off almost any color, from pink to mustard yellow, as long as you’re mindful of the overall balance.
To help you plan the outfits for the family photo session, we’ll take a look at a list of the top pairings.
You’ll also find some handy tips for choosing the right scheme based on mood, location, season, skin undertones, and even the popular color theory harmony guidelines.
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Top 7 Cohesive Color Schemes for Outdoor Family Pictures
Picking one color and asking everyone to wear it to the photoshoot sure sounds easy, but it’s often better to select a scheme with more than one color for the entire photo.
This method hits two birds with one stone since it makes matching the location’s colors easier and gives everyone more stylistic freedom.
After all, each family member can choose to use the full scheme in their outfit or pick one part of it.
Either way, the photo will still look cohesive, provided that your color combinations were on-point in the first place.
Here are some solid ideas to consider for your family photo color scheme:
1. Navy Combos
Let’s kick things off with a versatile color that could work for nearly all outdoor settings: navy.
To play it safe, you could pair navy with creams and tans. This scheme works for everything from parks to urban backdrops.
However, if you want to add a pop of color, we’d recommend aqua—it’s perfect for beach-side photoshoots.
Don’t worry about the aqua and navy making the picture too harsh. Just add some grays to balance the bright colors.
Similarly, you can pair navy with coral and light gray.
What about a fall-themed outdoor family picture?
Well, burnt orange, warm tans, and navy would make a fantastic color scheme.
2. Neutral or Complementary Pink Color Pairings
Some people choose tan or cream to ground pink and make it a better fit for a family portrait.
The neutral cream/tan can blend in nicely with a natural backdrop, while the pink adds just enough charm.
That’s one possible scheme, but there’s also the classic pink and blue combo.
The reason this combo works is that its parts contrast well and maintain a balance between warm and cool undertones.
Plus, it should be easy enough to find something either pink or blue in everyone’s wardrobe.
Even if light blue doesn’t work, you could still make the scheme work with the ever-reliable navy.
3. Peach and Denim
Some families aren’t too keen on blush pinks. If that’s the case, try peach instead.
Keep in mind that peach doesn’t need to look like light pink. You can go for a joyous shade that’s more of a soft orange or a yellow tone.
This shade can be a perfect fit for a spring family picture.
To keep the playful vibe going, choose denim pieces rather than blue pants/dresses with soft fabrics.
Just make sure to match all the denim shades beforehand. Mid-toned jeans with cool undertones can pair nicely with the kind of peach you’re looking for.
Pro tip: Ask everyone to keep their accessories gold to complement the color scheme.
4. White-Based Schemes
Going for all-white outfits for the entire family can be risky. The color can easily look too bright and ruin the photo’s balance.
Instead, you’ll want to opt for off-white and break the brightness with an accent.
Tons of colors work well with white, but our favorite color schemes are:
- White and tan: A pairing that keeps things neutral and is super easy to coordinate.
- White and royal blue: This one’s excellent for beach-side family photo sessions.
- Black and white: It’s also easy to coordinate but often needs some color pops to add character.
5. Red and Black
If you want the family members to pop in front of a muted backdrop (like a blurred forest), go for patterned clothes with bold colors.
A classic red-and-black plaid scheme fits the bill, especially if you’re aiming for a winter-themed photo shoot.
From hats and scarves to button-down shirts, you’ll have plenty of options to keep the layered outfits interesting and cohesive.
However, it might be better to pick pieces with slightly different grids. Otherwise, you’ll lose some of that visual interest.
6. Deep Red, Mustard Yellow, and Gray
Both fall and winter portraits look good in rich colors like deep reds and mustard.
In large families, a few people can even pick up patterned sweaters.
However, you’ll most likely need some grays with warm tones so the picture isn’t overloaded with eye-catching colors and patterns.
7. Beige Color Schemes
Whether your backdrop is a beach or an urban setting, neutrals are a safe option.
You could go for a beige color scheme and pair it with other earthy tones if your location is a bit vibrant.
Yet, something like beige and green would work well for a serene backdrop. Think lakes and parks.
How to Pick a Color Scheme for an Outdoor Family Picture
The color palette options might seem overwhelming at first glance.
So, let’s take a look at five simple tips that can help you narrow down the selection and find the perfect scheme for the family shoot.
1. Keep Both Locations in Mind
The first thing to consider is where the outdoor photoshoot is going to be.
Think about the colors in the backdrop and whether you want the family to blend in or stand out before you choose.
For instance, in open fields and wooded areas, you could go for rich fall colors balanced with some neutrals here and there.
Meanwhile, bright colors and reds can bring out the color pops in an urban setting.
Of course, the seasons will also matter a lot if you’re shooting in nature, and we’ll go over the ideal picks for each season in a moment.
So far, the idea of complementing the backdrop’s color sounds simple enough, but here’s one more photo location to consider: where the family photo will end up.
After all, you don’t want the outfits in the picture to clash with the room’s aesthetic or wall color.
2. Use the Color Theory to Your Advantage
We know color theory can be too complex, and you might not want to bother learning all the details just for a family shoot.
Still, it can make all the difference in how balanced your picture is going to be.
So, we’ll sum up some tips that can help you understand the relationships between colors and customize your schemes.
First, take a look at the color wheel (find one on Adobe Color)and pick one primary color that catches your eye, complements the location, and is abundant in everyone’s wardrobe.
Then, to find fail-proof pairings, try one of the following options:
- Go complementary: Pick the color on the opposite side of the wheel.
- Sketch a triangle: Find the two colors that complete a triad.
- Take things up a notch with a tetradic harmony: If you want a larger palette, look for the three color points that create a square (or rectangle) with your main pick.
- Keep it analogous: For a subtle scheme, select two colors right next to your main pick.
If you’re not sure how to do all that just by looking at the color wheel, you can use interactive tools to help you out.
Alternatively, you could go for a monochrome look and just scale a couple of shades up and down.
Pro Tip: The 60–30–10 rule could help keep your photo balanced.
All you need to do is set aside 60% of the colors in the picture for the main color, 30% for the secondary pick, and 10% for the accents.
3. Do a Vibe Check
Just because the color palette works on a theoretical level doesn’t mean it’ll be a good fit for the family photo.
Ask yourself what vibe you want the picture to exude. Do you want something casual, or are you looking for a festive atmosphere?
Neutrals can be great for the former, while bold color choices and gold accents are better for the latter.
4. Don’t Forget to Match Colors to Skin Tones
Now that you have a basic palette that reflects the right mode, you’ll need to check if it needs any undertone tweaking.
Some experts believe that bright colors, earthy tones, and rich greens flatter warm skin tones.
On the other hand, skin with cool undertones often looks great in pastels, pinks, blues, and emeralds. Oranges and yellows can be risky, though.
That said, you might not need these guidelines at all.
Just ask each family member what tones and shades work best for them and try to find common ground.
Plus, many neutral colors (like black, gray, navy, camel, and ivory) can be a go-to regardless of the skin undertones.
5. Find Inspiration
If you’re still lost at this point, we’d recommend taking a look at some family photography shots taken outside for inspiration.
You could even search a color hex code to check out how people fit it in palettes.
However, once you see an example you like, you’ll need to go back to the first step to make sure it fits your backdrop.
Best Colors for an Outdoor Family Picture by Season
We’ve talked about why the location matters while choosing a color scheme for the photo session.
What we need to cover next is how the different seasons come into play.
Best colors for family pictures outside in Summer
Summer family photos are fairly easy to coordinate.
White is a staple, but joyous and refreshing colors like yellow, red, aqua, and orange can take the scheme to the next level.
Don’t be afraid to go for bold-colored accents!
Recommended colors for outside family pictures in Fall
For fall outdoor pictures, consider using tan, burnt orange, mustard yellow, or neutrals.
If you want dark colors, browns, greens, and maybe even purple can all be valid picks—just not in the same palette!
Colors for family pictures outside in Winter
Navy, red, black, and mustard are great for winter photoshoots.
The catch is that everyone will probably wear layers for the outdoor photo session.
So, it’s important not to go overboard with the colors and patterns in each layer, or the photo will end up being too busy.
Best colors for family photos outside in Spring
In a spring family photo shoot, you need a scheme that highlights the colors that are already there in nature.
That’s why pink, lavender, pale peach, light blue, soft yellows, and minty green are all highly recommended.
If you want to break the bubbly colors a bit, use light shades of gray.
FAQs about Choosing Colors for an Outdoor Family Photoshoot
- What color scheme works well for large family photos?
White-based and neutral color schemes can be a good pick for large group or family pictures.
For one, they’re easy to coordinate, which can make the preparation process less of a hassle.
Plus, the vibe can be shifted from casual to quirky just by changing the accents from muted tones to vibrant colors.
- Are there colors to avoid for an outdoor family photoshoot?
Outfits with neon colors are hard to capture well in photoshoots, in general, not just outdoor family sessions.
If you want to add pops of color, pastels can get the job done without being too harsh.
- Is it okay to wear black for a family photo?
It’s okay to use black in your color scheme. However, you’re better off avoiding all-black outfits since they can make the picture a bit dull.
It’s also worth noting that anyone who wears all-black might get lost in the background if the shot is taken at night.
Finding the best scheme takes a while, and you’ll have to consider a bunch of factors, from the season to the relationships between the colors.
However, it’ll pay off well with a balanced photo that everyone in the family will love!
We hope this guide has helped you find the perfect color for your upcoming photoshoot.
Don’t forget to check out some technical tips in our family photography guide to work on posing, light exposure, and more.
As the Content Manager of Shotkit, India Mantle brings with her a lifelong love for photography that she developed during her childhood, watching her father document their family moments with his Nikon EM. In her free time, you find her enjoying the awe-inspiring natural beauty of her home, Northern Rivers, Australia.