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Ugh, family photos. It’s that time of the year to be stressed to the max, get the kids and the husband ready to go on time, and and sit in front of a potential stranger with a camera, hoping and praying they get at least ONE good photo for all of your trouble. What if I were to tell you that your family photos didn’t have to be this way? What if I were to tell you that with our 10 Decisive Ways to Save Your Family Photoshoot, you will ensure that every aspect of your family photo session will fall smoothly into place? Don’t believe me? Read the tips below to see just how easy it can all be!

1. Find Your Photographer

Jess & Jeff Dobbs - Your Family & Senior Photographers in Michigan

Hi! We’re Jess & Jeff, and we volunteer as tribute for this first tip.

You might think, “Gee, this is more than obvious…”, and that would be exactly why, it is our first tip! The best way to ensure that your family portraits are beyond what you would hope for, is to find that special photographer that you feel can deliver not only the best family photos for you, but one that can also help you through the entire process! Think of it this way, would you rather try to plan all of this alone and by yourself? Or would you rather have the professional assistance and knowledge of a great photographer? If you find a professional photographer who is willing to help you the rest of the way, then you can be sure that your photos will be in your heart for the rest of your life! And before you continue on to the next tips, be sure to keep this tip in mind, as the rest will tie into this one quite closely. (If it is important for wedding clients to connect with their photographers, it is just as important for you and your family too!)

2. Think of the Theme of the Session

Family Photoshoot in Winter and Snow

This family looks so snuggly in their winter outfits, among the trees and the snow! Good thing they prepared properly for this cold winter session!

This one is pretty easy. What exactly are you hoping for from this session? Are you looking for a more relaxed session that captures your daily life at home? (Lifestyle Session) Are you looking to dress up in your Sunday Best for a more refined look? (Styled Session) Are you wanting pictures taken in a popular area that usually has lots of people? (In a popular park, city, etc.) Or are you wanting to go on a unique adventure with your family, exploring new areas, seeing new sites, and having your photographer act as photographer and tour guide? (Portrait Adventure Session) Will your session take place in the winter, spring, summer, or the fall?

Once you have nailed down a basic theme for your session, you can discuss this with your photographer in more detail and make sure that everything will go as you are envisioning it to go.

3. Think of a Location for Your Photos

First Birthday Photo Session at Elizabeth Park Trenton MI

Choosing a location shouldn’t be a chore. If you need help, ask your photographer!

This will tie into the step directly above. Now, before you start to think on how to make it to five different locations within an hour for your photos, I want you to take a step back for a moment. If you have chosen a great photographer, you won’t need multiple locations for a single family session. Our advice to you is to keep it simple, not only for your benefit, but that of your family. If you are already stressing about what they should wear, how you will get everyone ready in time, and more, then you should take this bit of advice to heart. Keep it simple, and to one location.

If you don’t have any idea where you would like your session to be, discuss it with your photographer! You would be surprised at what a good photographer can do, even in locations that seem less than ideal. Not only that, but many photographers travel their local areas in search of new and interesting places to photograph their clients in. So they may even be able to point you in a direction that is less often used, but closer to what your session theme is!

4. Pick a Date Well in Advance

Family Together at the Henry Ford Museum

Depending on the time of the year, inside might be better than outside for your family. Plan in advance in either case!

You won’t want to wait until the last moment to schedule your family session. This is especially true for the Summer and Autumn seasons. Our recommendation is to start planning your session as late as six months in advance. Not only does this give you time to find the best photographer for your family needs, but it also allows you plenty of time to plan and prepare. You will be able to have plenty of time to plan your outfits, hair, makeup, nails, travel time, when you should eat, ask for time off of work (if needed) and so much more! Not only that, but many photographers are booked months in advance, especially if they photograph weddings as well. (If your chosen photographer does photograph weddings, you’ll find that most Saturdays will be unavailable.)

5. Plan Your Props

Childless Family with their Dogs in the photo

Yes, even dogs can be considered props to some people. If you have dogs, we consider them a part of your family, so bring them along!

Your props can be as simple as a blanket for a picnic type session in a park, or as elaborate as two hay-bales, blankets, scarecrows, pumpkins and more for a styled fall session. Props can certainly help add more variety to your family portraits, as well as to help tell the story of your family in this time of your life. You could choose something as simple as your families favorite books, or cute hats and scarves for your winter session. Maybe you have a child in band, and they want to bring their instrument for a portrait. Or maybe your youngest child has a favorite stuffed animal. Really think about your families’ story, where you and your family are in this time of your lives, and what parts of your story you wish to be told with your portraits.

6. Planning Your Wardrobe

Small Family Walking Along a Pathway

Don’t match one another exactly. Show off your personality, and the personalities of your children with your wardrobe!

This is one of the biggest questions many photographers face when clients come to them for family photos. “What should we wear?” is almost asked right away. Our suggestion, is to coordinate your wardrobe, but to wear what is comfortable. Remember, you’ll want to match your session theme. So if you’re hoping for a Sunday Best session, you won’t want to arrive in ripped jeans, and wrinkled dresses. If you’re hoping for a beach session, don’t match everyone completely in khaki shorts and white shirts. (You’ll blend into the sky if there isn’t any color from a sunrise/sunset.)

When you coordinate your wardrobe with the rest of your family, you will have one element that is the same throughout everyone’s clothes. That could be a color in different but similar shades, the same sort of style (everyone in jeans of varying colors, but different types of shirts), or maybe you want everyone to be in their Sunday best! (Everyone looks dressed up, but with different outfits. Maybe little Johnny is in a suit jacket with jeans, but Dad is in a full suit with tie.) Again, this will tie into the theme of your session and the story you wish to tell with your portraits. (One website to help you plan or create outfits, is with TrendMe.)

7. Dress for the Weather

Family walking among fallen leaves on a path in autumn

Fall weather can sometimes be warm, and most of the time, be chilly. Dress accordingly, and you’ll do great!

This is another somewhat obvious statement. But it is just as important as the rest of the tips. If you are having a colder season session, you won’t want to be in shorts. Just as if you’re having a beach session, it wouldn’t make much sense to be dressed in sweaters and winter hats. (Unless the beach session is in winter, but I digress.) Also, we recommend planning for the worst weather that could befall your session. If it is in the autumn, make sure to have warmer choices in case the weather happens to be cold on the day of your session. If it is in the summer, and it rains, maybe add some cute rain jackets and rain boots to transform your session into a rainy (but very fun) session. In Michigan especially, if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes, and it will change. But, be prepared for the changes that may come your way.

8. Hanger is Real, Don’t Let it Ruin Your Session

Child Crying in Photoshoot

Don’t let hanger get the better of your kids, and your photos! Keep them full and we’ll do our best, to keep them happy.

Everyone knows of the Snickers commercials, where a famous celebrity does something that wouldn’t be normal for them. Their friends notice this, and hand them a Snickers bar to eat. After eating it, they ask, “Better?”, and the celebrity, now back in their “normal” appearance agrees that they are indeed, better. This plays on the fact that people get grumpy when they are hungry. This applies to everyone, in my experience. Whether you are 85 or 2 years old, if you’re hungry, you won’t be happy to do things that you’re not wanting to do. And that’s because your stomach has your attention more than anything else. So, our recommendation to you is to be sure that everyone has a full meal, before their session. Also, it helps if you pack a small snack (and of course water!) for the kids (and for yourself), just to keep their stomachs (and yours) completely tamed.

9. Let Your Kids Be Themselves

Fairy Session with Child Blowing Glitter

Let your kids do their own thing, at least for a little bit. If they want to blow the seeds from a dandelion, or glitter to act as a fairy – let them! It may just be an adorable photo you love for the rest of your life.

Let’s face it. Every parent stresses about how their children act while out in public, especially in front of people who aren’t your best friend or family. However, what you might not be thinking of, is allowing your kids to be themselves during the session. You’ll most likely want them to, “Sit down. Shut up. Smile for the camera! Do what the photographer says! Don’t get into the mud! You can’t run around! Stop it! Ahhh, why did I plan this?!?!?” Now, that may be a little beyond what you are thinking for your session, or it might be spot on. However, our advice to you is to let your kids be themselves. If they want to run, we will chase after them. If they want to play in the mud (be sure to pack secondary outfits to keep everyone clean after the session), let them play in the mud! Your children will only be small for so long, so why not let them be kids and play? Why not let their little personalities (or big ones, lol) show through in the portraits? Wouldn’t you like to look back at these pictures 10+ years in the future and remember how little Susan loved to make mud pies? Or, how little Johnny loved to run and dive into a pile of leaves?

10. Think About What Happens to the Photos AFTER the Session

Your Family Should Adorn Your Walls

Remind yourself daily about why you do what you do, and who exactly, you do it all for… with printed options displayed throughout your home!

Oh! I bet you thought the final tip would be something like, “Relax and Have Fun!” While, that is also a major thing to think about for your session, we wanted to touch on this tip first. What will you do with your photos, after they have been taken? Will you post them on Facebook, and only see them for a week before moving on to the next thing in your life? Will you let them sit in a USB Flash Drive in a drawer, to be left, forgotten, until the technology has advanced so far that you no longer have an easy way to access them. (Think about the CD’s photographers used to give. Now tell me, does your laptop or computer even have a disc drive anymore? Mine doesn’t.)

While it is important to not only prepare for the session itself, it is equally important to plan and prepare for what you wish to do with the photographs after they have been taken. If you’re hoping to print the pictures yourself, you will want to find a photographer who allows you to do so. (*Studies show that 67% of people store photos solely on a computer or phone, and 53% of people have not printed a photo in more than 12 months.) However, if you don’t want to worry about that hassle (like finding the perfect print medium, size, and do the ordering yourself), you’ll want to find a photographer who will assist you with these choices, and do the ordering for you. (Hey guys, shameless plug here. We do all of this!) Will you want a family photo album? Will you want some framed prints? Will you want some prints for frames you have already? Will you want a new canvas over your couch to show off your family for years to come? What about gifts for grandma? There is a lot to think of here, and it helps if you have a photographer who can help you wade through all of these options, without allowing you to sink into indecision and inaction.

Why have a photo session, if you’re only willing to go halfway? The other half, is what to do with the photos, once they have been taken. (Suggested Further Reading: Don’t Wait for Someday – Perserve and Tell Your Story Today)

BONUS TIP: Have Fun and Relax!

Two Children Playing in a Field of Dandelions

Have some fun, and stay relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your children will be. And the more relaxed they are… the more likely they are to explore the world around them for some truly heartwarming photographs.

Hahaaa, and there it is folks! Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Make this a fun experience for yourself, and your family. Why go through all of the planning, only to make yourself and your family more stressed than you probably already are! If you have followed all of our steps above, and if you have found the right photographer, you can be sure that you will have no trouble what-so-ever with this bonus tip. You’ll be able to sit back, relax, have fun with some of the people you love most in this world, and you’ll end up with beautiful portraits after the fact! It’ll truly be a win for everyone involved.

Whew! So, after reading our 10 Decisive Ways to Save Your Family Photoshoot, do you feel more confident in, and less stressed about, your ability to have a family photo session of a lifetime? I sure hope so! Remember, if you follow our tips above, you should have a fantastic and remarkably easy time preparing for, loving, and saving your family photoshoot. The key tip, would be to find the perfect professional photographer to assist you along the way.

I truly hope you enjoyed reading our tips, and if you have any questions, or would like to learn more about how Jeff and I could help you with your family session, leave a comment below! Thank you and have a wonderful day!


*Statistics are based on a 2015 nationwide survey conducted by Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

10 Decisive Ways to Save Your Family Photoshoot Family Photos | Family Photoshoot Planning | Family Photo Tips | Family Portraits | Family Portrait Session | Easy Family Photos | Family Photoshoot Tips | How to Take Better Family Photos | Taking Better Family Photos | Family Portrait Planning Tips

10 Decisive Ways to Save Your Family Photoshoot
Family Photos | Family Photoshoot Planning | Family Photo Tips | Family Portraits | Family Portrait Session | Easy Family Photos | Family Photoshoot Tips | How to Take Better Family Photos | Taking Better Family Photos | Family Portrait Planning Tips

Jess is a professional photographer and officiant. She loves coffee, adventuring, hiking, video gaming, anime, and so much more!

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