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Family Portrait Guidelines

The information on this page contains some things to think about before you have your portrait made. However, please realize that there are no hard and fast "Rules", that you must follow. As long as your main theme of the portrait (from very formal to very casual) is maintained, then it will be successful.

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Beautiful portraits, that will be treasured for generations in your family, are our specialty, however, they do not just magically happen, it takes planning.  The goal of James Ringland Photography is to combine our creative vision and photographic craftsmanship in concert with your careful planning to create a family heirloom that makes a statement about your family at this point in your lives.

It is important that each member of your family in the portrait is properly coordinated with both the colour and style of clothing. You can imagine what it would look like if everyone just came in his or her “favourite” outfit, without considering the portrait as a whole (for example: Dad in a tuxedo, Mom dressed for the beach and the two year old baby only in a diaper and he/she just finished eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).  Discordant outfits can become a major distraction and ruin a beautiful portrait; a beautiful image of you and your loved ones. You don't want the clothing to stand out more than your faces.

Information Links

The following link will take you to various web pages that will explain information about the different stages of child growth as well as many others ideas and tips about your session. There is also data about what clothing to wear and even how to use your portraits to decorate your home.

For a timeless portrait, you can be dressy or casual, as long as everyone in the portrait is dressy or casual. Stay away from the trendy fashions such as: tight short (mini) skirts, sleeveless shirts (especially on women because it will make your arms look extra heavy), tank tops or unusual (ie: phsyco-delic) shoes.  All of these eventually will go “out of style” and later in life, these are the type of portraits that we have all looked back and laughed at, wondering how in the world did we go out in public looking like that, rather than admiring it and treasuring the memories of that special time. So, as you can see, it really doesn't really matter what you wear, just as long as everyone is dressed in the same fashion, the resulting portrait will look great.

We will spend as much time as it takes to help you plan you session ahead of time. We will show you samples and discuss your desires in detail. If you wish, we will go over where in your home you are wanting to display your portrait. In addition, we will discuss what are you wanting that portrait to say about you and/or your family at this stage in your lives.  What are the colours in the room where this portrait will be displayed?  Do you prefer a more contemporary black and white portrait or a more traditional style?  Do you want it to show the special relationships in your family or maybe show what your family loves to do together? Do you want to matte and frame your image or frame it without a matte? As you can see, there is a lot of planning to create that perfect piece of art that will be treasured for generations to come. We will be available to walk you through each step in the process.  Our goal is to see you with a tear of joy in your eye when you view your images and then we know we have captured your heart!

For your convenience we have put together some general suggestions. Keep in mind that we are always available to discuss any specific concerns, questions or ideas you may have.

Clothing Considerations

Unless there is a specific reason for certain clothing, such as Team Jerseys or Uniforms for example, it is usually best to kep clothing simple. V-necks and collarless outfits are best.  Coordinating the colour of your tops may be done with all matching exactly or being sure that the tops are in the same colour tone, either all light, all jewel (colour) tones, all denim etc.  The bottoms should all be the same, all khaki, all light or dark jeans, all dark black or blue etc.  Try to avoid sleeveless tops because they make your arms look larger and heavier than they really are. The reason for this is usually an optical illusion, and also because skin itself is very reflective and often the arms are usually very light in tone relative to the rest of the clothing and they can overpower the colours of the garmets. Thus the arms will look lighter in tone and the eye is drawn to the brightest thing in a photograph and that be the first things people will notice in your portrait. This is true regardless of the ethnic origins of the person. The long sleeve solid tops usually look the best. (Of course, if you are wanting to show your arms, such as a body builder who has worked hard to build up your physique, then you would want to wear short sleeves. This is why all of these suggestions are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules).

Formal Portraits

Formal portraits are usually best displayed as a large wall portrait in a formal setting, such as a living room, for example. The choice of clothing is usually a dark business suit or even a tuxedo for the man and an elegant evening gown or a full length dress or formal business attire for the ladies. Children should also be "dressed-up" for the occasion as well. Well trimmed hair and complete make-up are usually necessary to keep the portrait in the proper theme.

Casual Portraits

Khaki, denim, black or white, plain blouses, shirts or sweaters go well with long skirts or pants. Preferably, no large writing on any of the shirts or sweaters. Horizontal stripes and patterns are very distracting and can make you appear larger that what you are. Colours are fine, just be sure they are solid and coordinated with all in the group. Please remember some of these portraits will be full length, so be sure that your shoes and socks coordinate with your outfit.

Traditional Portraits

For the more traditional or semi-formal portrait, a suit or sport coat with tie is good.  Medium to dark colored sweaters also photograph well.  Dress from head to toe, your pants or shoes may show in the finished photographs, especially when photographing large groups. When selecting clothing, be sure that all are in the same colour/tone scheme.  For instance, when one looks at a photograph or painting, the eye is drawn immediately to the brightest thing in the artwork. As you can well imagine, if all are in dark to medium tones and one person is wearing a white shirt or blouse, you can see how that will stand out and be very distracting. Avoid, if at all possible, bold patterns or writing on the clothing or again, the eye will be drawn away from the most important thing in the portrait, your family's beautiful faces.


Soft, natural make up is best but apply it a little darker like you were going out for a special evening.  Even in the outdoor portraits, if your makeup is too light, your face may tend to look a little washed-out.  Add a little more mascara and a nice soft colour on your lips.


Unless you normally wear a beard or mustache, you must be clean-shaven, or the growth of the beard just in one day will be very evident to the camera. (For example, if you have shaved at 7:00AM and we are shooting at 7:00PM). A 5 o’clock shadow is very difficult and costly to remove.  Please try to shave after you arrive home from work.


Dealing with eyeglasses is one of a photographer’s biggest problems due to the reflection of lights.  To light you so that you look your best, it’s not always best for the glare it creates in your glasses hiding your beautiful eyes. If you wear glasses all the time, you will want to wear them in your portraits.  Since glass glare and face distortion (around the temples), on some shaped lenses is nearly impossible to avoid, please bring along an empty pair of frames similar to your own for your session. Many opticians will loan/rent you a pair of frames for a couple of hours or they can remove your lenses temporarily for your session. This will avoid any extra charges to remove any glare on the glasses.