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6 Tips for the Perfect Family Photo Shoot

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  • Post last modified:September 7, 2023

Whether your oldest is graduating from college, or if you’ve just had your first baby and want to capture them at their smallest, there’s never a bad time to schedule a family photo shoot!

However, if you’re not comfortable in front of the camera — or if you haven’t thought about what you’d like your shoot to look like ahead of time? Things can go downhill fast. In this post, we’re sharing with you some of our best tips for family photos. From advice about what you should wear to covering how to choose the right setting for your shoot, by the end, you’ll be ready to get the best family photos ever.

1. Avoid Matchy-Matchy Looks

We know that you want your family photo shoot to show off your family at its finest. And while coordination when it comes to outfits is important, don’t make the mistake of wearing things that are too matchy-matchy. If everyone in your family is wearing the same shirt, pants, hat, and pair of sunglasses? The photo starts to look more like a parody and less like you’re trying to capture a beautiful moment together. 

Instead of wearing the same thing, focus on choosing complimentary colors. Check out this super handy guide on color theory to get some basic ideas about what looks good together. You could also try wearing different shades/patterns of the same color. For example, a father and son could wear light blue and navy blue, while a mother and daughter might opt for different shades of red or yellow.

2. Choose a Meaningful Setting

If you want to nail your family photo shoot, you need to pick the right setting. Do you really want your next Christmas card to be taken in the exact same spot as everyone else? We strongly suggest choosing a location that’s meaningful to you as a family. Maybe it’s the soccer field where your kids play every weekend. Perhaps it’s a beautiful park where you all love watching the ducks. Maybe it’s the farm where you go strawberry picking every season.

Whatever it is, make sure that it has meaning to you. Not only will this make the photos more special, it will also help younger kids to relax, as they’ll be in a familiar environment. Plus, you can always talk about the location and why it’s special to you on the inside of a card — or as a conversation starter when your friends see it hanging on your wall.

3. Get Creative

Next up on our list of tips for family photos? Don’t be afraid to think a little bit outside of the box. In other words? The days of just “smiling and saying cheese” are gone. The more unique you can be with your family photo shoot, the happier you’ll be with the results.

Some of our favorite family photo shoot ideas? Play a game like red rover or hide-and-go-seek, and have your photographer capture a few candid moments. Is there an album that you especially love, like the Beatles’ famous Abbey Road cover? Why not have your family re-create the cover together? (You could even play around with wigs or makeup if you want the photos to be really fun.) You could always grab a large frame and hold it up yourselves, framing your family as a part of the photo.

Finally, we love the idea of highlighting a quote from a book, Bible passage, or even just a funny “inside joke” phrase or word that your family uses all the time. Print out a banner with the quote you’d like to feature on it. Then, have your family members hold it up and show it off throughout the shoot.

4. Hire a Profesional

Hiring a family photographer means that you won’t just get a beautiful setting and the right lighting for your family photos. It means that your photographer will work hard to actually capture the essence and energy of your family. So, your photos will show your family in authentic light — and won’t look uncomfortably staged.

Working with a professional also means that you’ll have access to expert editing services. In fact, professional editing is one of the most important reasons why you should always go with a professional. After all, you don’t want your family photos to end up looking like this.

When you’re in the market for a professional photographer, make sure that you take a look at their portfolio of past work. Depending on the age of your children (especially if you want to capture a newborn or infant) you may want to ask about their experience level with babies and toddlers.

Finally, we strongly suggest that you take the time to either read reviews from past clients on their website or speak with their references directly. This is the perfect way to anticipate the kind of experience you and your family are likely to have.

5. Plan Ahead of Time

If you really want to nail your family photo shoot, then you’ll need to make preparations ahead of time. One of our biggest tips for family photos isn’t actually about nailing the perfect pose or even planning the perfect outfit. Instead, it’s about making sure that your family — especially if you have younger children — are both entertained and well behaved during the photoshoot. Not only will this make the pictures come out the best that they possibly can. It’s also an awesome way to make your photographer fall in love with you! 

If you have little ones that may get a bit restless? Make sure that you bring along a favorite book, blanket, game or toy for them to play with when things are slow. (That might even make for a great candid!) And if your family members have a tendency to get a little bit hangry? Make sure that you sneak a few extra snacks into your purse before you arrive on location. The same goes for plenty of water, especially if you’re shooting outside. Keeping your family happy and hydrated will help you to avoid running into any meltdowns. A smart woman from a recent large family session recently brought along a variety of beverages and fresh fruit to keep everyone (even the adults) having a blast between shots! 

Above all, talk to your family and make your expectations clear beforehand. Not only is this an awesome way to get everyone excited about taking the pictures. It also helps them to think about any ideas that they might want to contribute to your photoshoot themselves!

6. Take Individual and Small Group Portraits

As long as you have the entire family in the same place (and actually dressed) why not take advantage of it? Talk to your photographer, and ask if they’d be willing to take some individual shots, especially of your children. These are photos you’ll certainly be glad to have when they get a bit older. 

And if the last professional photos you and your partner had were taken on your wedding day? There’s no better time to snap some sweet photos of you and the love of your life. If you plan on doing this, you may want to bring along an outfit change just in case. For example, if you’re posing with your hubby, you could wear a white dress that’s reminiscent of your wedding gown. You can even make a little sign that says how many years you and your partner have been together, and then hold it up between the two of you. Better yet? Why not have your children hold up the sign for you!

There are tons of super-cute photo props available on sites like Etsy, or, if you’re the crafty type yourself, you can always make your own. These little details make a beautiful picture even more special!

Ready to Book Your Family Photo Shoot?

No matter how many people are in your family or where you want to hold your session, we hope that this post has inspired you to book a family photo shoot. When you’re looking to work with expert creatives that will keep everyone in your family comfortable and relaxed throughout the process? We invite you to get in touch with us. Whether you’re looking to capture your entire family, or if you’re looking for a photographer for your wedding?

We’re here to help you to think outside of the box and get photos you’ll treasure for the rest of your life. We can’t help you to perfectly capture your memories.

Ready to document your story?

Let’s work together to create beautiful images that you can treasure for a lifetime!


Hi, I'm Laura Mares! I'm thankful to be a wife, mother and Pittsburgh lifestyle photographer. I photograph because I believe that life is simply beautiful and every person has a story worth telling. I'd love to tell yours.

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