Santa Barbara & San Francisco Lifestyle & Documentary Photographer | Pleasing Color Palettes for Family Portraits | Alison Photography Santa Barbara & SF Bay Area

Pleasing Color Palettes for Family Portraits | Alison Photography Santa Barbara & SF Bay Area

September 10, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Freelensed photo of fuchsia and yellow flowers in Alick Keck Park in Santa Barbara photographed by Alison Photography.

Hi, I hope you all had a nice short week! I did :) In preparing for family portrait mini sessions (message me for details about upcoming dates in the Bay Area and Santa Barbara!), I've been thinking about how best to help clients (and others) address that nagging question "What do we wear?!". Although the traditional matchy-matchy look works, and is pretty easy to execute, it doesn't suit all personalities and families. 

In the past I've played around with different color picking apps, mostly in the context of fantasizing about interior decorating - today I had the idea of playing around with them in the context of picking color palettes for family portraits, and I want to share this idea with you! There are amazing color palettes in nature and also in art, so collect a few of your favorite snapshots of nature or art (on your smartphone or tablet) for use with a color picking app. I've played with a few different color picking apps - find one you like, or try the one I used today, ColorSnap. Follow the app's instructions to load photos into the app, pick colors from them, and save the results to your phone or tablet. Here are a few examples I created today.

I just love the colors that came from this first one (feel free to use any of mine if you don't want to create your own, too!)

Example of an Instagram photo with colors matched for a pleasing palette for family portrait outfits created by Alison Photography of Santa Barbara and San Francisco. This second one reminds me of the beach or waterfront

Example of an Instagram photo with colors matched for a pleasing palette for family portrait outfits created by Alison Photography of Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

And this last one I can imagine would make a beautiful palette for a family portrait

Example of an Instagram photo with colors matched for a pleasing palette for family portrait outfits created by Alison Photography of Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

Keep in mind that not every family member has to (or should!) wear every color in the palette, not every color in the palette you create has to be used, and neutrals (e.g., beiges, dark blues, browns, dark greens, etc.) may often be used less sparingly than colors. There are a few other things to consider when selecting outfits based on color palettes you've created (or appropriated) in this way. Often, the relative amounts of each color are important in creating pleasing palettes. So, for example, in the above artistic photo (which includes both nature and manmade objects), Poetry Plum occupies only about 1/8 or 12.5% of the photo, and may be used more sparingly in the palette (e.g., in a scarf, blouse, small girl's dress, etc.), while the Olympus White may be used in greater quantities as it occupies more of the photo and is also a neutral (though the Poetry Plum is actually a pretty neutral color, too). Play around with the quantities to see what looks right. Another element to consider is the backdrop for your family photo (e.g., woods, beach, city, etc.), so, for example, the latter two palettes may look better in photos taken at the beach, while the former may work better with photos taken in wooded areas or fields. Lastly, consider where the photos are likely to be hung in your home, and make sure you like your chosen palette with the colors you already have in those rooms. 

Bonus for those who have booked mini sessions with me: feel free to text me photos (up to three) and I will create color palettes and text them back to you so you don't have to do it yourself! If you're a little unclear about how to translate color palettes into outfits, Simplicity Photography has outstanding examples of a well-coordinated family here and here - do check them out! Also, if you like, lay out outfits for the entire family, snap photos and text them to me for feedback.

And, for those wondering about a palette for the opening photo of this post, here it is:

Example of an Instagram photo with colors matched for a pleasing palette for family portrait outfits created by Alison Photography of Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

Happy color picking, and check back for more helpful information about preparing for portrait sessions!


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