6 Family Photo Shoot Tips for Amazing Family Photos

Guest Post by Maryssa Lewis

6 Family Photo Session Tips to Capture Amazing Family Photos

If we are honest with ourselves, family sessions can be so stressful and hectic for the entire family. Can you relate?

We’ve all been there, on the other side of the camera. As the parent, you’ve spent hours picking out the perfect coordinating outfits, stressed about the weather and location, and searched for hours on Pinterest for shot ideas.  You’re desperate to capture just one decent image. And for the kids, they’ve been given many sets of new boundaries when they just want to have fun! 

Have you ever thrown out a bunch of instructions to your kids like “move here, stand there, hand down, quit hitting your brother!” and then desperately begged, “Smile!” only to find a LOT to be desired in the resulting photo? (I have done that, I can relate!!) 

As a photographer, our job is to make our clients feel as relaxed as possible. Here are 6 family photo shoot tips that help me achieve a successful family photo shoot  that captures those authentic, genuine, raw, expressions that clients love.

Girl posing for photographer in a green field | 6 Tips for Family Photo Shoots

1. Communicate Before the Session

Get to know your clients beforehand. Call or text them! Ask about their hobbies and interests. Be a kind and encouraging voice! I always ask my clients to text some fun info about their family to me. They usually beam with pride and joy. Who doesn’t love talking about their family? Have them give you a list of all the fun things they like to do together. 

Photography is more than just a one-hour time slot to fill. It is about relationships! Building a relationship with your client before your session is a great way to start.

Baby on a beautiful quilt posing at family photo shoot

2. Show Up to the Photo Shoot Prepared

Do everything you can to memorize the names of your clients before the session. This simple practice will help the session run smoothly, especially when you're looking to get the attention of the children, instead of having to pause and ask the parents for direction.  This leaves you in control of the session and gives your client permission to relax and be in their most natural state as a family. 

I always carry a notebook with for my photo sessions and list each member of the family on it along with their interests. Making a mental note of their interests is the perfect way to keep them engaged during the session.  This is also a wonderful way to make your clients feel important. It is sure to bring out their best and most natural smiles as well. 

It's the little things that make the session a hit and make you a rockstar!  Remember, you only get one chance to make a memorable first impression. 

Family embracing each other at family photo shoot

3. Take Interest In Your Clients

Greet the Family

When my clients pull up on location, I walk to where they are, introduce myself, and from the get-go, show them that I am very excited that they are here! I immediately try to engage with the kiddos. Let them know right off the bat how much fun they are going to have!!

Talk to The Kids

When working with children, I never bring my camera out right away. This is important if you have shy children or children that are having a hard time warming up to you. We want to let them know that they can trust us and that we will not pull a fast one on them. 

Ask the older children what grade they are in, or if they play any sports! Ask them if they are in gymnastics, dance, or ballet. Ask the younger kids if they like to watch Paw Patrol or Little Einsteins.

Always keep a smile on your face, and kick your energy level into high gear. Even if you are not naturally a highly energetic person. Trust me, it will pay off. :)

Keep Mom & Dad Relaxed

Right off the bat, I run through a short plan of action with mom and dad, not because it’s anything crazy or elaborate because communicating what will be happening during the session reduces a lot of stress for them! 

If the parents are stressed out, the kids will be too. I also let them know that their number one job is - to enjoy this time and to let me give the directions. I usually say something along the lines of “You are here to enjoy your beautiful family and have fun! Relax, and trust me to take the lead in capturing your family’s best moments!".

Giving Mom and Dad a plan of action sure helps the session from getting out of control! Usually in my experience, smooth sailing from here to the very end.

capturing connection of mother and daughter at family photo shoot

4. Go Crazy, Get Silly & Have Fun!!

The most important thing I strive to get out of my images is realness. I want to get those shots where smiles happen without force. To capture this you will need to get silly with your families! Here are some quick ideas:

  • Turn on some fun Disney music and have your families dance together! 
  • Crack some jokes, make some fart noises, (trust me, the boys and men love that one) make silly animal noises!! 
  • Sing a theme song to a favorite kids show. 
  • Sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and totally butcher the words. The kids are sure to laugh on that one! 
  • I tell my client kiddos that I have a fairy living inside my lens, and to look hard to find her. I get some great shots with that one!
  • I tell my little guys that sometimes a frog jumps out when you look inside. They give me some amazing smiles.
  • Have siblings tickle each other, tell secrets, and hug! Get ready for those, they happen quick.
  • Play ring-around-the-rosy, let the kiddos take pictures of each other, and of mom and dad!!

Interact in ways that they almost forget that they are in the middle of a photo session.  I am positive you will get some authentic emotion! Those silly shots usually end up being both mine, and the parents’ favorite images! Just let loose, play games, don’t stress about getting the perfect “posed” shot!! It will happen, I promise....but do not forget to go crazy, get silly, and have FUN!!!

Mom kissing son at family photo shoot | Tips for Taking Family Photos

5. Find Pockets of Connection

Time is short. Moments are fleeting. I want to remember the way my daughter holds my hand. I never want to forget the way my son plays with my hair. Moments that eventually become memories in our minds. The beauty of a camera is to capture those moments we want to hold on to forever! To find pockets of connection, you as the photographer have to step back for a minute.

The best way to capture images that have this authentic emotion is to first pose your clients and then give them direction! This will set the stage for a stellar, raw, fun & emotional shot.

Here are some ideas:

Have the family pretend that they are on a picnic in the park together and get them in their “posed” positions. Have them play with their kids, stroke their hair, squeeze them tight, tickle them. Step back, analyze the beautiful scene in front of you, and snap away. 

If there is a baby, ask the Mom to hold the baby. Tell her to stroke her baby’s hair and to dance with her baby. You will be blown away with what you capture. You will capture a REAL family, in REAL life, doing REAL things. That is where you find the pockets of connection. Time goes so fast, or job is to freeze the moment, and make it last a lifetime!! What an honor.

Woman Posing at family photo shoot | 6 Tips for Authentic Expressions During Family Photos

6. Wrap Up Your Photo Session With a Smile & a Grateful Heart

Keep the same smile on your face that you had at the beginning, until the end of your session. Let your family know how much fun you had with them, and share with them how grateful you are to have spent time with them! 

Be reassured that you just built a relationship with them that can last a lifetime. I can’t tell you how many friends I have made through my photography journey. I have loved getting to know all of my wonderful families! 

Give your family an amazing experience, that they can talk about until the next time!

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” -Henry Thoreau 

Family Photo Session Checklist Infographic

You can download the Family Session Checklist for Photographers here.

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Do you have any questions or comments about my Family Photo Shoot Tips or any of your own tips you would like to share? Just leave me a comment below - and PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

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