The #1 BEST Way to Have A Successful Family Photo Session

Can we get real for a minute, please? I have been photographing families for over 10 years now, and I have experienced just about everything when it comes to the best and worst outcomes from family sessions. That special little “thing” that makes a session extra magical?
You bet I know what it is!
So what are your first thoughts when it comes time to plan that annual family photo session? Maybe something along these lines…

“I don’t even know WHERE to start when it comes to outfits! I want to look like we are perfectly put together and straight out of a magazine ad… but HOW do I even achieve that?”

“How many bribes will it take to get my children to cooperate?”

“I’m investing a LOT of time and money into this session, and it HAS to go perfectly… no pressure. Right!”

“I know that location is important… but where am I supposed to find the perfect spot for us?!”

“The husband HATES to have his photo taken… I should start praying NOW each night that this year he will have a good attitude during our session.”

Does any of this sound relatable?! Girl, I am right there with you – all of these and more go through my head when thinking about our Family Photo Session as well. But, would you guess that the BEST thing you can do to make your family photo session a success is not necessarily about any of the above mentioned pain points?

YES – coordinated and styled outfits are a part of it.
YES – it’s important to pick a location -and- a time that will get you beautiful results.
YES – often times there is a lot of pressure and bribing happening – especially with the husbands…

But the one thing that is the MOST important at your session?


I know, easier said than done, right? After all you’re just silently praying to all of the Gods and Khaleesi that your kids and husband don’t melt down, their outfits don’t get dirty and ruined, and for the love of all things, you can just get one freaking good photo of all of you before the sun sets.

I get it.
But what would you say if I told you that you’re going about it all wrong.

First and foremost, the absolute BEST sessions I have ever shot are ones where the parents had a relaxed demeanor, and the outlook on the photo session was just spending quality time together.

Playing, running, laughing, snuggling up. Your kids? They will absolutely play off of your emotions. If you are stressed out and angry- throwing out commands and threatening to take away bribes, your children will freeze up.

Your photo session is NOT the time to discipline your children. All of a sudden you’ve turned this “event” into something that has caused them to get in trouble. This is the perfect way to ensure they will NOT cooperate.

So, I know what you’re thinking – it SOUNDS all well and good… just be relaxed, right? Listen, I KNOW this is much harder than it sounds. But you MUST let go of those stresses and insecurities if you have any hope for capturing the real and authentic family that you are.

I’ve been in the business of capturing photos for people for over a decade now, so I’ve witnessed my fair share of the good, and the ugly. In an effort for everyone to have the best experience and results possible, I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks that may help the next time you feel the stress of your Family Photo session creep in…

  • Choose an outfit you FEEL good in. Pamper yourself, and have your hair and makeup done. When you arrive at your session, KNOW you look your best, and from that point on it’s up to your photographer to capture the best angles, lighting, and moments. Stop stressing over what you cannot control. Pro tip – always choose your outfit first and build the rest of your family’s wardrobe off of that.
  • Choose a location your family will enjoy. Do not set your children in a large field and expect them to stand still – wide open spaces are for frolicking! Do you have a favorite place you like to go? Maybe it’s the beach, a state park, a coffee shop… choosing somewhere familiar to happy times will suit you and your kids well.
  • Focus on your family – NOT on the photographer. If you choose the right photographer, this shouldn’t be an issue at all. I prefer my families to forget I’m even there most of the time. I like to loosely pose them, or ask them to do certain things to get the shots that I’m hoping for, but above all I want them to just BE together and having fun. I always get the “Christmas Card Photo” of everyone looking and smiling at me, as well as some great portraits with eyes at the camera, but overall I LOVE capturing the authentic moments that lie in-between. These are the images that tell the story of your family. Have fun together. Throw your baby in the air, snuggle up together and look up at the clouds, whisper a silly joke. The rest is up to me.
  • Find an activity to DO. If you’re really stressed about being in front of the camera, one idea you may like to consider is to plan out an activity for your session. Something you love to do as a family. Keep in mind, not everything is suitable for photo shoots, but usually there are things that make for amazing family photos – ending the session at the local ice cream shop with your favorite scoop, making pancakes in your kitchen, going to the carnival, going on a nature walk to explore a park, building sandcastles at the beach. When you are focused on an activity, it’s easier to look and feel natural, and you’re more likely to forget about the camera. This one can be especially beneficial for husbands.
  • DO NOT, WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT use your photo session to discipline your children. Do not put the weight or pressure on them that YOU are feeling. Do not set the expectation that “they MUST cooperate OR ELSE!!!” there will be punishments. You MUST make this experience light and fun. Tell them you’re going to have a fun time together, and a good friend will be there too taking a few photos. Ask them to bring a special toy or lovey along to show your photographer and tell them about. Obviously you know your kids best, so being age appropriate about this is essential. I am not above bribes (not in the slightest!), but threatening to take them away WILL NOT GET YOU GOOD PHOTOS. It just won’t.
  •  Find a photographer you mesh with. Make sure you like their work and their style. Make sure you get along! There’s nothing worse than an awkward photographer – this is the person who sets the tone of your session, and will be determining a lot of the outcome when it comes to the moments they capture. Find someone who knows what they are doing, is confident in themselves, and did I mention, someone who YOU GET ALONG WITH. If it’s just like meeting up with a friend, it’s much easier to be relaxed and comfortable being yourselves.
  • Have a glass of wine. Give the husband a beer. Now, I’m not saying show up to your session sloshed… definitely DO NOT do that! You will not get the images you’re hoping for… but if you’re comfortable with it a drink to cut the edge off can work miracles before your session. (It should go without saying to please drink responsibly, and do not ever drink and drive.)

I sincerely hope that this insight and these tips are helpful to you when you begin to plan for your next photo session. Relaxed and fun sessions yield the best results, period. If you can find a way to have fun together and enjoy your time at your session, you are guaranteed to have a much better variety of beautiful images to choose from when you receive your final gallery.

Give it a try! You might even start looking forward to Family Photo Sessions… ::GASP!::At the very least, you’ll take some of the pressure off of yourself and your family.


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