Best Tips for a Successful Family Photo Session

Jun 15, 2021 | Tips & Tricks

A family with two sons and a dog walk through a park smiling.

I personally feel that one of the most important things I can provide families as their photographer is education. Sure, I also do my best to provide beautiful images that capture their memories. But long before the photo session itself, I try to educate folks so they can have the easiest, most fun experience possible. I’ve gathered up a few of my favorite tips for a successful family photo session. These are all super easy things to do (or not do), but they’re also easy to overlook. Consider this a piece of your guide to a great session.

Before Your Photo Session

Plan/try on your outfits ahead of time

I know how stressful it can be to figure out what everyone in your family should wear for a photo session. That’s why it’s important that everyone’s outfit is planned and tried on at least a few days before your session. You don’t want to be caught at the last minute discovering that the shirt your son was going to wear is stained. Or maybe your daughter had a growth spurt you didn’t realize was quite so dramatic and now her dresses are all eight inches above her knees. Definitely allow enough time to order or pick up replacement items if need be!

Dress Weather-Appropriately

Along the lines of planning clothing, make sure you dress appropriately for the weather. Here in Wisconsin, our seasons can be pretty extreme. I’d hate to have you or your family members shivering in a sleeveless dress when it’s cold and windy in October. And I know that I can be pretty miserable if I’m sweating in too many layers in July. 

Mentally Prepare the Family

One thing that can be super helpful to get everyone on the same page during the photo session is to prepare them ahead of time. For kids, tell them that you’re going to be having some fun family time or an adventure at the park. Hype it up! For your spouse, let them know what to expect. This won’t be a smile and say cheese kind of photo session. We want everyone to be relaxed and having fun, so sometimes just knowing what will happen can help with that immensely.

Make Sure Everyone is Fed/Rested

The last thing we want is a hangry family member. Please make sure you’ve eaten and kids have napped before you come. While crankiness is a genuine emotion, I doubt it’s the one you want memorialized in photos.

Bring water/non-messy snacks

While it’s important to be well-fed before your session, I totally understand that sometimes we all need a break for a snack. If this is you or your family, please remember to bring snacks that won’t be super messy. I have the ability to Photoshop chocolate off a kid’s face, but I’d really rather not have to. And please feel free to bring water, especially on hot days!

Arrive on Time

know it can be super hard to get kids ready and in the car on time, but please do your best to do so. My sessions are scheduled according to the available light, so if you arrive late, we might not be able to get all the great shots we were hoping to. 

During Your Photo Session

Leave your things in the car

For most of us, it’s just habit to bring all of things with us when we exit our cars – for me it’s my phone, my purse, my keys, my water bottle…you get the idea. For this hour though, let’s leave all that in the car. If you need me to, I’m more than happy to carry your keys or phone or whatever else. It’s just that items in pockets can look bulky and weird in pictures. And oftentimes some of the best interactions I get are during transitions between one location to another. If you’re carrying your handbag or water bottle, it’s far more difficult to get those really sweet images.

Spit out the gum

We all want fresh breath and I’m totally ok with you chewing a stick of Doublemint before your session, but please remove it before the session begins. Your gum doesn’t need to be memorialized in your family photos!

Don’t say “cheese”

I know we were all taught from a young age that when we’re getting our picture taken, we look at the camera and say “cheese!” But it turns out, that doesn’t look natural at all. So please don’t say “cheese” or tell your kids to say “cheese.” In fact, most of the time, you don’t even need to look at me! I’d much prefer you just interact with your family and enjoy each other through laughter, snuggles, and play.

Get close

Folks often feel like they don’t know how or where to position themselves in photos. Let me just say that you can’t go wrong by getting close to each other. If you’re always touching at least one of your family members, you’re probably in good shape! Hugs, holding hands, foreheads touching – seriously, if you think you’re close, get closer!

Have fun!

Lastly, I just want everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves. That joy will shine through in the final images and you’ll be able to feel the love you have for one another. If you find yourself feeling stressed about anything before, during, or after the session contact me. I am here to help. Now let’s have some fun!


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Hi! This is my little corner of the internet. Have a little peak around to find all sorts of tips & tricks as well as family session faves.


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