In the case of parents with a baby or a single young child, having the parents wear neutral or similar tones works well. Having the infant then in a complimentary color brings the focus to the child, making the baby the center of the photo and drawing our eyes to her. It adds that ‘pop’ of color that will make the photo all the more vivid. For larger families with children, dressing everyone in a color family (think Autumn colors) or with two set colors (navy and yellow) for dresses and tops works well. Pants, shoes, belts and accessories can then be set as neutral to break up the monotony of the color pallet - think white, black, brown and gray, also jeans and khakis for pants, shorts, shoes, etc.
And of course we need to talk about prints. Plaids work well as long as they fall within the color palette you choose. In our example of navy and yellow above, a subtle navy plaid shirt for a gentleman would be fine. However, a loud yellow and blue Hawaiian print shirt would draw all of the viewer's attention. A good rule of thumb is to stick to solids or subtle patterns and textures (plaids, lace). The ultimate goal of the picture is to see your family and your smiles, and the clothing shouldn’t distract from that.
The Engagement Shoot
While similar to a family shoot in terms of rules, Engagement shoots also elicit a lot of emotion - love, excitement, intimacy, comfort - and wardrobe choices should reflect that. While many of the pictures will be a close up of your faces and upper body, there will be also be many full body pictures showcasing your relationship. You want to choose clothing that you are comfortable in, from head to toe. You also want your clothing and your partners clothing to compliment each other - meaning the colors should remain in the same color family (cool colors or warm colors, with neutrals mixed in where needed) and your clothing should also be similar in style (formal, casual, romantic). Solids again are going to be where you want to live in this case, adding in a pop of an accent color through jewelry, a tie or scarf.