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How to Prepare for Your Family Photo Shoot

I have had a lot of questions lately about what to wear to an engagement session or how to prep for shoots so I decided I would go ahead and start talking about it so I can refer people to a handy blog post. First up is family sessions!!! Yay!

1. Make sure to tell your kids, no matter their ages, about the shoot about a week in advance. This way it will get them excited or if they are really dreading it, it will at least make them aware that the impending doom is happening no matter what and they should change their thinking about it. If I were the parents, I would get them excited by having them have a say in their outfits, maybe some ideas for things they want to incorporate or do, and ave fun practicing smiles in the mirror together.

2. Make sure everyone is happily fed. I cannot stress the importance of this one. I am the worst version of myself when I am hungry. I am a hangry mess. Guess what? So are you! And your spouses! And your kids! So gosh darnit, don’t come hungry! Or everyone will be cranky hot messes. Don’t say you want to look thin for the photos so you’re not eating, just eat something. I promise it will go so much smoother. Also, drink a lot of water! Hydration is important, especially in the summer months.

3. Dress for weather and comfort. When it comes to family shoots, I like when there is a coordinating theme that brings everyone together. Maybe one color, or a color palette so everyone sorta matches without matching perfectly. Because let’s get real, matching is awkward and you don’t want to end up on Awkward Family Photos. I’m going to ask you to sit, most likely in the grass, so keep that in mind and avoid clothes with restrictions. I might ask kids to do even stranger things, like go run in the sand, go climb those rocks, none of this is out of the norm.

4. Bribery is 110% ok in this case. The truth is that your kids are in charge of this session. Yes, we get to tell them what to do, but for the most part, our job is to keep them happy. And if that means you are getting pizza for dinner, or Tutti Frutti after the session to celebrate, then definitely tell them that. I want smiles. I want them to be happy. I want them to get what they want from the shoot too. Trust me, the 5-15 year olds already know what they want for their pictures and I am going to listen to them as long as they want me to shoot them.

5. Don’t stress, don’t yell at your kids, and throw away your expectations. Focus on this being fun, let your kids be kids. I have seen enough meltdowns, fits, the works. Do not be embarrassed and do not get upset at your kids in front of me. I am a very go with the flow person and I want you to feel the same that day. And guess what? Your kid is probably not going to sit still. And they will want to get up and run around. And they will not want to let go of their favorite stuffed animal. But won’t you look back on these photos and think,  remember that stuffed animal he could never let go of? And wouldn’t you want to look back on the family portraits and see your kids running, skipping rocks, being kids? Trust me, let them do what they want first, let me capture them being their natural selfs and then let’s ask them to sit nicely and smile into the camera. Oh, and pleaseeeeee don’t ask them to say cheese. Then I get monster smiles.


  • July 10, 2014 - 9:19 am

    Anna - Great advice!

  • July 10, 2014 - 9:25 am

    Brea - LOL @ Monster smiles. SO true. So many good pieces of advice! I hadn’t even thought of some of these before. I bet #1 and #2 make all the difference.

  • July 10, 2014 - 10:47 am

    Caitlin - these are the best tips, ever!! haha #4 is so so true

  • July 10, 2014 - 10:55 am

    tPoz - great tips!!! and that last pic is simply PRICELESS. THAT is the one I would be treasuring & years later hanging on my wall to show how much fun I had with my brother!

  • July 10, 2014 - 12:27 pm

    Emily - This is really helpful, even reading it as a photographer and not a parent. It is so true that kids have an idea of what they want too. Sometimes I forget that.

  • July 11, 2014 - 1:28 pm

    Kyle - I was just thinking about this the other day 🙂 great advice!

  • July 15, 2014 - 7:21 am

    Kat - Make them aware of the impending doom… I laughed out loud. And that last shot… that would be blown up large on my wall too

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