How to Prepare for a Family Photo Session: Top 16 Tips for a Fun Session
If you’re anything like me, you love capturing as many milestones for your family as possible. Sometimes those are major milestones, like welcoming a newborn into your lives. Maybe it’s celebrating your high school graduate through a senior portrait session.
Sometimes, though, those milestones might be small in comparison. But you and I both know they’re no less significant!
That’s why I love family photo sessions so much. They commemorate your beautiful lives together, no matter what season you’re in.
But I understand that getting in front of the camera can feel intimidating. Or maybe some of your family members, like your husband or your kids, aren’t looking forward to it. Not to mention, you’re a busy wife and mom. So making the time to plan for a family photo session can feel like a major challenge.
Don’t worry! You’re not the only one. And that’s exactly why I’ve created this guide on how to prepare for a family photo session.
So keep reading to discover my top 16 tips for a fun (and easy!) family portrait session.
4 Tips for Preparing Your Family Members for Your Photo Session:
1. Keep It Simple
When you first book your family portrait session, one of the best things you can do in the weeks leading up to it is to keep everything simple.
By that, I mean just put the date on your calendar and make your to-do list. That might include booking appointments (more on that in a minute), planning a day or two to choose your outfits, and then keeping the day of your photo session as open as possible so you don’t feel like you’re rushing.
And that’s it! Let everything else fall naturally into place — and I’ll help make sure everything goes smoothly, too.
2. But Do Set Expectations Ahead of Time
That being said, you probably do want to set a few expectations ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should tell everyone to be on their “best behavior.” Actually, don’t say that at all because that might remind them that they won’t like the session.
Instead, tell them the basics:
- How long will the session take
- Where will it be
- What you’re going to do
3. Make Any Necessary Appointments Beforehand
For Jonathan and my engagement session, we had a photographer fly into Oklahoma all the way from Virginia. I was so excited for these photos to mark a milestone in our lives together.
The one thing I forgot about? Was telling Jonathan to make an appointment for a haircut. While our photos were stunning, I saw that little detail and was kicking myself!
So, take it from me. Reserve the week before your session for any appointments for you, your husband, or your kids. If anyone needs a haircut, a week beforehand gives plenty of time for their hair to grow into the cut and look more natural.
If you’re wanting your nails done, be sure to do that the week leading up to the session.
If your budget allows for it, you might decide to have your hair and makeup professionally done. It’ll take all of the stress and pressure off of having to get ready yourself! Plus, hair and makeup for photography is a little bit more specialized than your typical everyday look. A professional will know exactly what to do to highlight your favorite features!
4. Keep It Lighthearted
Part of why I love photographing families is because I get to capture the essence of how you interact and love one another. And the best way for those genuine emotions to shine through is by keeping everything lighthearted and fun!
Frame your upcoming family photography session as an exciting adventure for your kids. They’ll get to run, play, and have so much fun during our time together.
As for dad, just tell him all he has to worry about is loving on his wife and kiddos as he normally does! I’ll give plenty of guidance and direction throughout so it’s one less thing you have to worry about.
4 Tips for Family Photo Outfits That Will Make You Feel Confident
1. Don’t Feel Like You Have to Match
There was a time not too long ago where the “trend” was to have everyone in family photos matching to a T. It often looked like dark-wash blue jeans and a white polo shirt. Sometimes, families opted for bare feet…
But one of my biggest tips for family photo outfits? Focus less on matching and more on complimenting one another.
Find outfits that all fit into a complementary color palette. My favorite way to do this is to use two primary colors and one or two neutrals.
If we’re taking photos at your home, you can consider the color palette you’ve used in your decor and design. Choose colors for your photos that may compliment your interior design when the photos are displayed or framed.
And if you’re stuck on colors (I get it – there are so many options!), then all neutrals or sticking with earthy tones is always a safe bet.
If you’ve booked your family photography session with me, and you’re still not sure of the best option, don’t worry. The style guide I’ve put together for you will walk you through exactly how to choose the best outfits to feel your utmost confident.
2. Make Sure Everyone is Comfortable
The key to making sure everyone is happy-go-lucky during the family photo session is making sure everyone is comfortable in their outfits.
So, a major tip for family photo outfits is selecting clothes that are comfortable for the weather and season. I definitely don’t recommend wearing a sweater in the middle of the Oklahoma summer, no matter how cute it is.
3. Don’t Forget Accessories!
A great way to make your photos pop is to add in accessories! They add a ton of visual interest because of the difference in texture, movement, or color.
Accessories like jewelry, headbands, scarves, and hats are great for girls and women. Longer skirts and maxi dresses also add movement that makes for such a beautiful photo.
Closed toed shoes are more flattering for everyone, but especially boys and men. Think loafers, dress shoes, or nicer and newer sneakers.
Don’t forget to lay out your outfit ideas with the accessories and shoes. Sometimes, those small details can make an entire outfit feel different. So it’s a good idea to get a look at all of it together.
4. Leave Bulky Items in the Car
Finally, the last thing you want to see in your beautiful family portraits is the outline of a phone in someone’s pocket. So before you leave the car, stow away any bulky items.
That could be your phone, car keys, sunglasses, Apple or fitness watches, and wallets.
3 Tips on What to Bring to Your Family Photography Session
1. Touch Up Items for Last Minute Sprucing
It’s always a good idea to come prepared with things you might need for some last minute sprucing. A hairbrush and hairspray are perfect for just about everyone. Lipstick, mascara, and blotting pads are also a good idea.
2. A Spare Outfit for Everyone (Just In Case!)
If you have small kids, you may want to dress them in a spare outfit as you travel to our session! That way, there’s less risk of spilling a snack or drink on it before the photos.
It’s also not a bad idea for you or your husband to do the same. Arrive in a casual outfit, plan to get to the session a few minutes early, and do a quick change in the car. You won’t have to worry about sweating through dress shirts or spilling anything on your clothes, either.
A spare outfit is perfect for everyone to change into before starting the session is always a good family photo tip.
3. Snacks to Keep Energies Up
It can be exhausting to have a full family portrait session done, especially if you have small ones!
In case of low-energy emergencies, snacks are a great way to keep energies up and to hold their attention as it starts to fade as we get to the end of our session.
Just make sure you bring snacks that won’t stain teeth, lips, tongues, or fingers, like puffs or gummies.
3 Tips for Arriving to Your Family Portrait Session
1. Get Plenty of Rest
This is especially important for families with little ones. Too much activity the day of or not enough rest the night before leaves kids feeling worn out during the entire session.
2. Eat An Hour or Two Beforehand
Having a full belly (but not too full!) beforehand is one of the best tips for family photo sessions. It’ll keep everyone’s mood lifted and keep everyone from getting hangry halfway through.
I recommend eating an hour or two beforehand so no one is uncomfortably full during the session. Any later than an hour or two, and you run the risk of getting hungry again.
Just make sure smiles are clear and they eat in a separate outfit than what you plan on them wearing for the session!
3. Give Yourself Plenty of Time and Arrive Early
To make sure we can take advantage of all of our time together, definitely give yourself plenty of time to get ready and arrive at our location.
Not only will we be able to use all of our session time together, you’ll also feel less stressed and frazzled beforehand. And that’s going to lead to more relaxed, genuine photos!
2 Easy Tips on How to Look Your Best in Front of the Camera:
1. Allow Me to Guide You
We’ve all been conditioned to say it at one point or another. But, I promise, there’s no need to say cheese in front of the camera.
There’s no need to even look up poses on Pinterest beforehand! I’ll give plenty of direction and guidance for angles that feel completely natural and that have you looking your best. There will be absolutely no “what do I do with my hands” moment during our time together.
2. Relax Your Shoulders, Take a Deep Breath, and Have Fun!
And on that note, I have one final tip for your upcoming family photo session. When you step in front of the camera, I want you to remember three simple things:
- Relax your shoulders. Roll them up to your ears, and then let them drop naturally.
- Take a deep breath. Everything is going to work out wonderfully, and you’ll have photos to cherish for a lifetime!
- Have fun! That’s what we’re here to capture, right? All of the joyful moments you have with your family. So, don’t think too hard about how you’re positioned (I’ll handle that for you). Instead, focus on having fun and loving on your family. Maybe that looks like joking around with your kids. Maybe it’s giving your husband a sweet kiss on the cheek. Either way, focus on having a great time with everyone – I’ll handle the photos!
And just so you know – if you have little ones, there is a good chance that there may be a meltdown at the beginning of the session (or at any point throughout). I completely understand that the idea of your child having one is stressful, especially when all you want is some incredible family portraits to treasure.
Trust me – it’s completely normal and totally expected. I’ve handled my fair share of meltdowns, and I’ve worked with so many families that I know exactly how to pivot so we still wind up with those beautiful grinning faces.
And there you have it – my top 16 tips for your family photo session. I can’t wait to celebrate this milestone in your life with you and your family, no matter how big or small it may be!
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