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Top Tips for a Successful Family Photo Session

There’s nothing I love more than photographing families – capturing your love and connection is such a gift. At the same time, I know my experience behind the lens is a little different than being in front of it, so I totally understand those jitters that come with planning a family photo session! The worries, the ‘what-ifs’ – it’s all part of the experience. What if your little one has a meltdown? What if your spouse seems disinterested? What if you end up looking a tad awkward?

Guess what? You’re not alone in this! I’m a mom too and I’ve been through the same moments of doubt and apprehension. 

That’s precisely why I’ve crafted this comprehensive guide – to ensure that your family photo session becomes an enjoyable and stress-free experience (yes, it’s absolutely achievable)! Remember: you and your family are already perfect, just as you are. Read on for my top tips for a successful family photo session:

Make Sure Your Kids are Fed and Well Rested

First, make sure to take care of yourself too! Eat and use the restroom before our session (moms, I know how hard this can be!). If your child still naps make sure to include plenty of time for them to get their full nap, plus extra time to get your child fed and ready. We know hangry and tired kids are cranky and cranky kids don’t have fun taking photos! 

I always come armed with fruit snacks, but be sure to bring one of your child’s favorite snacks. (small and not messy, please) and water to guarantee your child won’t be hungry or thirsty during the shoot! 

Plan Your Clothing Well in Advance

Clothing choices have a huge impact on how much you love your family photos! If everyone feels comfortable and confident, it’ll make for better images. Here are a few helpful reminders:

  • Don’t wait until a few days before your session to choose clothing 
  • Have your kids try on their outfit and shoes to make sure your child feels comfortable in their clothing 
  • It really helps to include your child in the process as much as possible! They’ll have a better experience taking photos if they’re agreeable to their outfit 
  • Let your children be themselves– if your daughter hates dresses, don’t try to force her to wear one and then expect her to feel happy during your session 
  • For moms especially, I recommend moms choosing outfit you feel comfortable and beautiful in since when you feel good, you look your best 
  • If you have a baby or toddler, bring along a back up outfit, just in case! (accidents happen, enough said) 

NOTE: When you book a session with me, I’ll provide plenty of guidance in choosing clothing that will photograph well and reflect your personality! 

Pro tip: Have kids wear pajamas in the car so outfits stay nice and clean and not super wrinkly. 



Keep it Neutral

Speaking of outfits, if you plan to display your photos, picking neutral colors or colors that match your home decor is a good idea. That way the photos will look beautiful in any room you choose to display them in! (Especially helpful if you’re gifting the photos to relatives.) These photos will be like artwork in your home so if you wouldn’t decorate with these colors then don’t wear them in your photos.

Tell Your Kids What to Expect

Talk to your kids in advance to help prepare them for the session. For younger kids, explain to them that you are going to meet up with a friend who is going to take their picture. Assure them that they’ll have fun and play games in the process. If you have a child who is especially shy or anxious around strangers make your photographer aware of this prior to the session. 

Pro tip: It can really help to look at my About Page your child to see a few photos of me and my family so they can put a face to the photographer before we meet. 

Bring an Activity That You All Enjoy

Let small kids bring the small toy or book they’re into at the moment. Not only does it help everyone relax and forget about the camera, plus I can capture storytelling images of you family’s favorite pastimes. It also helps keep little ones engaged and brings out authentic smiles. Additionally, it can help kids be entertained between photos. For older kids, playing catch, piggy back rides, races, hiking and dancing are all great activities that allow children to have fun and be themselves, and that always shines through in pictures. 

On that note: remember that every child is different. 

Some are slower to warm up, while others are a ball of energy. However your child shows up is perfect, I promise! 

Location, Location, Location

If you want to change it up from the studio, get outside! A beach, arboretum, or botanical garden makes for a pretty backdrop for photos. Plus the added benefit of natural light, natural

smiles and you can utilize the space by allowing the kids to run around and relax. Speaking of getting outside, you can utilize the outdoor light for Golden Hour. 

Expect the Unexpected 

If parenthood teaches us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected!

This can be hard to do when you have everything carefully planned out and you’ve invested in a photo session, taken the time to pick out outfits, and showed up on time. It’s understandable that you want everything to go perfectly. But expecting the unexpected really is one of the most important tips to a successful family photo session. The truth is, even if you follow all of these tips, kids have off days. If your child isn’t cooperating, don’t go into command mode or start issuing threats – “You better smile, RIGHT now”- because it sours the mood and will backfire. Instead, trust me. I’ll take the lead no matter what happens. When you’re anxious your child isn’t doing what you’d hoped during your session, take a deep breath. No matter what happens, I’ll capture the beauty in your family’s moments together. 

Keep the Photos Short and Sweet

Keeping long poses for long periods of time can lead to cranky kids and unpredictable outcomes. Keeping photos short keeps everyone happy and the photos genuine.

Invest in the Best

If you’re here, you’ve found a great photographer in me. If you’re using this guide and you aren’t local to the Seattle, Washington area, research photographers well, and check their social media and portfolios to make sure that their photos match your vision. 

Remember Your Why

What prompted you to schedule your photo session? Sure, maybe it’s to get a photo for an annual holiday card, but that’s likely not the real reason. You want photos that capture your family’s love and connection and have a tangible memory of how life in that moment felt. You want photos that will become family heirlooms. As your photographer, I promise to capture all ranges of emotions. Whether it’s you and your family giggling or your husband comforting your crying baby. No matter what happens don’t stress, because every moment reflects your family and your story. Remember to look at your children and smile at your spouse. 

Take it all in, hug and kiss them, think of how much you cherish them. It will shine through in your photos.


Want to keep this guide handy? Click below and I’ll email it as a PDF download!