What to Wear for Bluebonnet Photos

Spring is here! And beside most of San Antonio’s highways, parkways, and pathways, bluebonnets have appeared. The state flower of Texas since 1901, the bluebonnet is so named for the distinct shape of its petals, which resemble the bonnet worn by pioneer women to protect them from the sun. There are seven species of the purple- or blue-flowering lupinus in Texas – including one unique to the Big Bend state park – that, since a change in the legislature in 1971, can all collectively be known as “bluebonnets.”

We can thank Lady Bird Johnson for the huge number of bluebonnets that grow beside the roads in and around the Alamo City and across the state. After leaving the White House, through the Highway Beautification Act (1965) she encouraged the planting of native flowers along highways. They now serve as a sign of springtime, and a popular backdrop for photos at this time of year.

While I may not be from Texas, seeing these beautiful wildflowers appear each spring is one of my favorite parts of living on the far northwestern side of San Antonio. Similarly, I didn’t grow up having my photo taken among bluebonnets, but you can bet your buddy bucks my son will be photographed in them for as long as he will allow it.

When I asked the ACM team about bluebonnet portraits, the resounding response was that they were a rite of passage and much-loved annual tradition. Whether your baby was born in spring or not, every Texas boy or girl deserves to kick up their tiny heels and lay among the wildflowers. And it doesn’t stop there! A patch of bluebonnets is the perfect backdrop for an annual portrait – just look how much they’ve grown! – a fun family photo session, senior photo, or graduation announcement.

What to Wear

Dressing for a photo session – whether it’s the whole family, just the kids, or a single portrait – can be really daunting. But bluebonnets have a timeless feel about them, so I thought I’d offer some do’s and don’ts you might consider when you’re planning what to wear.

Before I make some more detailed suggestions, I think the color palette for bluebonnet photos is better when kept relatively limited. You want the flowers to really pop, so it’s best to avoid large or loud patterns, contrasting colors, or particularly heavy fabrics.

  • white, cream, ivory, stone – pale colors are great options and can tone together if you’ve got several kids or a family group in one photo
  • A paler, mid-blue tone is my personal preference as it echoes the flowers, without taking the eye’s focus away from them
  • if you do want color, opt for something that tones with the backdrop – think, muted purples, pinks, darker (navy) blue, or even sage green – all of which pair well with neutral colors, denim, or soft chinos
  • avoid really formal fabrics – a crisp shirt is one thing, but wildflowers lend themselves better to natural, soft fabrics like linen and cotton
  • family groups look better if there is a common thread linking all of the outfits together, rather than exactly matching. Sticking to colors that complement one another (or tones of the same color), limiting accessories, and allowing just one person (go for it, mom!) to wear something with a smaller pattern makes for beautiful, more cohesive photos.

Wild Ones: Babies and Toddlers

There’s nothing sweeter than a baby in the wildflowers – and people have been photographing their littlest loves with bluebonnets for decades. It’s easiest to achieve that timeless quality with a portrait of a young child, so I’d suggest sticking to classic styles and silhouettes.

For very young babies, opt for a soft, knitted blanket (preferably one color, or with minimal pattern) that they can lay on. A classic white cotton daygown, a Pima cotton sleep suit/romper, or a little dress, bubble or overalls with smocked detailing will make for a picture with a timeless quality. Keep those tiny toes shoe free, you’ll never see their feet so small again!

When they are on the run, bluebonnet photos can be more of a challenge! For walking toddlers, these versatile styles always look great:

  • anything with a Peter Pan collar looks smart, sweet and soft (for girls and boys!)
  • button on overalls in cotton, linen or seersucker
  • bubble or jon jon
  • smocked or bishop neck dresses
  • matching shorts and top
  • soft sole shoes or sandals.

Picks for Texas Boys

If, like me, you’re in the (never ending?) phase when your son only wants to wear t-shirts with their latest, most favorite character emblazoned on the front, dressing for photos can be a distinct challenge. Much as I don’t want to crush that independent spirit for choosing his clothes and forming his style, I would also like to be able to frame and gift some lovely photos of him without a neon orange Tow Mater t-shirt.

The most important thing when dressing boys of any age for photos is comfort. They should be able to sit, jump, and run around with ease, and not feel self-conscious or awkward. These classic styles will always look polished, whether it’s a single portrait or family group:

  • Polo shirts! Perfect on everyone from toddlers to teens. The collar makes it look polished, while still staying light and comfortable. Opt for a crisp white polo with colored bottoms, or a tonal hue with white linen, cotton, or seersucker
  • On the bottom, choose chino shorts or pants, jeans, or shorts made from seersucker, linen, or cotton twill
  • Can you beat a boy in the bluebonnets wearing cowboy boots? No! Failing that, go for loafers (I love these from floafers, they look smart but are made of anti-microbial, waterproof and scuff proof foam), sandals, or canvas shoes – nothing too brightly colored, and no light-ups (ha!).

Dressing Flower Girls

As a boy mom, I find myself getting a disproportionate amount of joy when I get to buy a dress, cardigan, or accessory for my best friend’s little girl, who is a month older than my son. The options for girls seem endless and more tasteful! For the most part, they also seem to more happily embrace having their photo taken.

Dresses are always a great option, but are more likely to feature a bright or large pattern which isn’t the best thing for letting bluebonnets shine. Instead, go for a dress with a smaller pattern, embroidered detailing, or light stripe, and lots of movement. Twirl dresses are always a hit, and I love a sweet cross back moment on anyone from preschoolers to tweens.

Beyond dresses:

  • Lighter shorts in cotton or linen, with a coordinating top or cami
  • Navy leggings or denim jeans and a white blouse or shirt
  • White jeans or jean shorts with a blue chambray or denim shirt
  • Sandals, ballet flats, slip on sneakers, and western boots are all good footwear options.
Reminder: your pooch also deserves their bluebonnet photo!

Getting Perfect Photos

Picking bluebonnets is not illegal, despite this long-held myth, but if you’re out and about taking photos among the wildflowers, always try your best to do as little harm as possible. These flowers are delicate, so if you’re aiming to sit down in a patch be sure to avoid trampling a large area.

The best way to get a great bluebonnet portrait is to work with a professional photographer. They know all the best spots and can schedule a time when the light is best! However, life gets in the way and that isn’t always possible or in the budget. So, if you’re out this spring and snapping pictures of your kids, here are a few good tips:

  • Avoid direct sunlight as it creates shadows, cloudy days can actually be better if you’re taking photos in the late morning or early afternoon
  • Golden hour, sunset, or even early morning is often preferred by photographers because the light is gentler, less direct, and the flowers are at their best
  • Get in, get the photo, and get out! Even kids who love having their photo taken get bored and grumpy
  • Do your research! Check out our post about 5 spots to find bluebonnets near San Antonio. Failing that, ask your friends if they’ve found a good patch
  • Take snacks, hand wipes, and sanitizer – snacks help avoid hangry meltdowns, and candy is a good bribe for a smile (we’ve all done it!)
  • If you’re paying for photos, get in them! As moms, we spend a great deal of time getting our kids ready and seldom appear in the photos. The photos I have of my son and I in the bluebonnets are still some of my favorites, a few years later
  • Opt for patches in parks, near trails, and quiet areas rather than at the roadside – getting a photo isn’t worth getting into an accident, ever.

Bluebonnets may have a fleeting season, but enjoy them while they last! And whether they are wearing their best clothes or their pajamas, take some photos of your little ones in the wild flowers – because they won’t be this little the next time you see these flowers pop up!

Natalie
Natalie is a proud Brit, but moved to Texas at the end of 2017 to be with her husband, a native San Antonian. Their son was born in late October 2020, so her entire experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum has been under the cloud of Covid-19. She spent the frivolous years of her early 20s pursuing a PhD in Renaissance history, living in Venice, Italy, and teaching students. She pivoted into editing when she moved to the US, but currently has her academic pursuits on hold while she focuses on her son. Despite being in San Antonio for a few years now, she still considers herself a newbie. She loves to find out more about the history and culture of the city, explore new places, and find local businesses to support. A fastidious researcher and lover of lists, she’s always excited to share her finds and experiences with others. Favorite Restaurant: Dough Favorite Landmark: World’s Largest Cowboy Boots Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Riverwalk Christmas Lights