Tips and Tricks for a Successful Family Photo Session


When it comes to family photos, I have been on both sides of the camera. I have been fortunate enough to have people trust me with capturing their moments, and recently, I trusted someone else with capturing my family’s moments. Each side has a stressful job. The photographer wants to capture things as wonderfully as possible, and the mom wants things to go as wonderfully as possible. With experience from both perspectives, I thought that it might be helpful to list some tips and tricks to make a family photo session as successful as possible.

SMB Family Photo Tips
Photo Credit: Katie Blacker, 2011
  1. Just schedule the session already! All too often it saddens me to hear moms say things like “Oh, I need to lose a few more pounds before I schedule our photos…”  I highly encourage you to move past your insecurities and get a session on the books so that you can be in the photos. One day, these photos are what your children will have to remember you by. You should be IN them. Your children will look back and they will think you are beautiful. No. Matter. What.
  2. Bribe the little people with all the things. I tell many parents to treat family photos like air travel… DO WHAT IS NECESSARY TO SURVIVE. Screen time. Treats. Money. Break out all of the stops. You are kind of at your kids whim here. Make it worth their while.
  3. Set low expectations, and then take them down to rock bottom. If you are photographing a family with kids 6 and under, expectations just need to be low. You are asking them to sit still for an extended period of time. Plus, when kids sense your stress over something like photos, they pick up on it and act accordingly. Which usually means acting the opposite of what you were hoping for.
  4. Don’t assume your kids will smile for the photographer like they do for you. Even the most extroverted kids can become camera shy when a camera is in their face. Be patient and don’t lose your cool. It will pay off. Part of these photos are to capture the season of life that you are in and all of the crazy that comes with it. 🙂
  5. Talk it up! Let kids know that they will need to share some smiles and follow directions. I even went as far as to pull up our photographer’s Facebook page and show my kids her photo, so they knew what she looked like. We talked about how she would ask them to smile.
  6. Keep the day clear. Best not to plan family photos at the end of a jam packed day. Asking kids to sit and follow directions after being in overdrive is a recipe for noncompliance and disaster.
  7. All about location. This is pending you are doing outdoor photos, and you are not trying to achieve a specifically styled shoot, trust your photographer on locations. They know the best spots, and timing with lighting to result in the best photos. If you are located in the desert, know that asking your photographer for a space with lots of lush green is going to make them twitch a little. Embrace the desert! If you are dead set on lots of green, then better timing for your photos is spring and not fall. Plus the weather is awesome too! (PS – Photo above was taken when we lived in the Midwest. 😉 )
  8. Bring out your inner stylist. Coordinating clothes for family photos can be a little daunting, but it is possible without buying everyone a new outfit. My rule of thumb is to pick the most difficult person in the house to dress – pick an outfit they love, and then plan other outfits from there. (I’ve learned that when someone wears something they don’t like, it shows.) Solids and small prints work well. Super bright colors like neons should probably be shied away from, as well as bold athletic logos (exception here would be shoes, or a sports themed session).  Having one person wear white is okay. Putting everyone in white can blow out your photos. When in doubt, ask your photographer!
  9. PREP! If you are a planner like me, prep all outfits a few days in advance. In the hustle and bustle of picture day, having that one thing all ready to go will help eliminate stress and allow you to show up semi-relaxed and ready! Have bribes ready to go too. Anything to eliminate last minute scrambling.
  10. Make sure all photo session participants are fed and watered prior to the start of the session. Especially significant others. They tend to get extra cranky. No one feels pretty when parched or starving.

Most importantly, be ready to have fun. Family photos aren’t usually at the top of anyone’s to-do list, but once they are done, it is so great to have them and the memories that were made having them taken! And in the event the wheels do come off during your session, just go with it. One day you will look back at the photos and laugh, I promise.


  1. I want to take family photos this fall that we can use for our Christmas card that we send out to family and friends, so I am glad that I found this article. You make a great point that when preparing for your session with a professional photographer you should bring things like snacks and treats for your kids. This way I can make sure that they don’t get bored and will stay entertained during the shoot. Also, it makes sense that you say to think about the outfits in advance and use solid prints that are not too bright and I will make sure to pick my kids’ outfits in advance.

  2. My wife had the idea of having a Halloween family picturer, and we need tips. We really liked the idea of choosing an outfit for the most difficult person in the family. We will follow your advice and find a family photographer before the season.


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