Preparing for your Family Photo Session

Mom is picking out all the outfits, getting snacks packed, dad is trying to figure out where his shoes went, kids are resisting tooth and nail even getting ready for photos they don’t want to do. Family photos are hard enough without the pressure of what to expect during the session. Parents want things to just go smoothly and sometimes that isn’t the easiest without knowing what the session will look like. Of course, there will be families of different sizes that will book a session with us but there are some common tips that can help families of all sizes. We really like to focus on comfort, natural interaction, and fun!

Feeling Comfortable

I know a lot of us definitely do not feel comfortable in front of a camera. We want the memories but we cringe to think about looking at ourselves when we get the photos back. It is also very difficult to feel comfortable when your little one decides that the middle of the shoot is best time to throw a tantrum. We will never blame a kid for wanting to be done sitting still for several minutes and smile nice for the camera. There are some tips and tricks, though, that we’ve found can help the experience more comfortable.

Parents / Adults

Parents/adults if you know that you have a hard time with how you look in photos, there are a few tips that can help you feel more comfortable. Before the shoot, you can prepare by looking at your angles in a mirror or taking photos on your phone to figure out your favorite angle. This might not be perfect but try to understand what it is that you like or don’t like about the photos.

Another way to feel more comfortable is to be transparent with your photographer. Us photographers don’t see you with the same critical eye. If other photographers are anything like me, they’re going to think you’re absolutely beautiful or handsome. To make you feel more comfortable, however, sharing the things that you want to avoid or do during the shoot can help the session go the direction you’d like it to.

For the Kids!

A great option to make you feel more comfortable and your kids, bring someone along that the kids enjoy and love. We do what we can to make them smile and have a good time but we are a perfect stranger to them (& I encourage their natural instinct to stay away from / be skeptical of strangers). Someone your kids know can find all the right things to make them happy if they’re babies or toddlers or to get them to laugh if they’re young kids. Additionally, if the kids need a quick break from photos to regroup, we can use that time to get photos of mom and dad together without worrying about what the kids are doing while you’re trying to focus on smiling without a stress line between your eyebrows.

Natural Interaction

Not many people like the extremely posed, tilt your head this way, point your nose that way, place your hand here or there, photos anymore. Clients don’t want to look back on the photos and think, “that doesn’t look like us at all.” What makes family photos so special, from my experience, is when we can completely encompass who the family is in those photos. The photographer is absolutely in charge of making sure that hands and body language don’t look weird but that is in collaboration with how the family naturally interacts. Before arriving at the session, your family can form an idea of how the shoot can go because it really is all about you! 

The most common comment that I receive is about being nervous because clients don’t understand how the shoot is supposed to go. This, mixed with the self-conscious thoughts about whether they’re going to do something right or not shows in the photos. Now, this isn’t supposed to make you nervous! I’m hoping to give you some relief that you don’t have to do anything out of ordinary for your family if you don’t want to. When it comes to posing, often times I will have the family wrap their arms around each other and be close. 

Posing Prompts

When I tell clients pose ideas, those can look however you want it to with your family. Your natural interaction in that moment and what you would naturally do with family members is all I look for in posing. Sometimes when you those poses beforehand, it can help which is why I wanted to give you the basic structure of posing for families:

Walking Pose

The walking pose will typically be one of the first prompts that I try to give clients so that we can break the ice with something simple. This pose can have variations of holding hands (mom & dad, mom with daughter, dad with little, etc.). You might be linked arm in arm. You might be walking separately while looking at each other and laughing. There are many different ways to do this that can create a fun photo and ways to bring in your family’s personality.

Standing Close Pose

Standing close is more of a traditional pose but there are so many variations to this pose. Families will typically find a lot of their time in some kind of standing close pose, especially if there is nowhere to sit. 

Typically, I prefer to pose families with their arms around each other, slightly behind another person, holding small children, turned in toward each other, hands on shoulders, and more. Any pose that makes families look close and connected really pulls photos together. The look of a group connecting in some way looks way more aesthetically pleasing than an old type of amish photo… 👀

Photo Courtesy of Lake Superior Magazine

Sitting Pose

This pose is heavily reliant on location. My other blogs will give you an idea on what those locations offer. If there is grass, a tree, block walls, low trees, rocks, etc. I will often prompt families to sit close but that can change with different prompts as well. I might tell a family to sit in a grass area turned in towards each other then prompt for the kids to make silly faces at their parents. This can get natural laughs as long as everyone isn’t shy about it. I want to have fun on the shoot and I want my families to have fun. Another prompt might be for kids to sit on low branches of a tree while parents hug or snuggle close, sometimes I will suggest tickling. If you know your family, feel free to tickle them when I prompt to get close. Y’all know your family the best and I want everyone to be making great memories.

Let's Have Fun

These photos are meant to preserve memories of more than just a point in time and that’s my goal with families. I want to create memories for your family during your session so that it’s an experience, not just something mom & dad made kids do. When clients share their thoughts for the shoot or give me ideas that work for them, it helps me get a clearer picture (hah!) in my head of what the family dynamics are. When you have a picture in your head of what the shoot is going to be, you can feel more confident and relaxed to really just enjoy the time with your family. I hope these photos and tips helped you and I look forward to possibly meeting you or taking your photos again someday!

Much love,
T 🤍