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8 Tips for a Meltdown-free Family Portrait Session

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  • Post last modified:April 3, 2020

8 Tips for a Meltdown-free Family Photo Session 

I know that for many of us dread the thought of a family session. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we all want beautiful family photos, but just don’t see our own family as able to pull through. We’ve all heard the horror stories from friends and family. But I am here to reassure you that I have 8 tried-and-true tips on how to make your family shoot flawless! Hope these are helpful! -Laura

1. Focus on the Love

It is so easy to forget the REAL reason why you scheduled this family session. It’s not for social media, about the outfits, or the locations! It’s because you want to capture life right now. The love between you and your family at this stage in your life. A tribute to the good ol‘ days before your kids grow up and move out.  

2. Plan your outfits ahead of time

There is nothing worse than running late for a photoshoot and then having a wardrobe malfunction. Whether that’s finding out something doesn’t fit, or is stained, it is sure to cause stress for the rest of the shoot. That’s why I recommend choosing a date and having everyone in the family try on their entire outfit and look at them all together to make sure the colors and styles blend. 

3. Make a day of it

Don’t over schedule yourself. Book your photoshoot for the scheduled day and then spend the rest of it relaxing with the family. You want to be fresh and relaxed for the session and not tired and already annoyed with the family! Think of the photoshoot as the major event of the day, the activity that your family will enjoy together. 

4. Naps + Snacks

Well-rested and well-fed kids are a must! Make sure that everyone has had a good meal and enough sleep and rest before the session. If your family session is later in the evening, try pushing nap time to be a little later at night during the days leading to the photoshoot! 

5. Treat

Don’t bribe your children, just offer rewards! Tell to your child that you will meet a friend in the park, you’ll hang out together and have fun while she takes your pictures. Tell your child that you’d like them to smile and have fun during the session. Then tell them that after the portrait session you’ll go out to continue the family fun with a special treat. I recommend the incentive be an ice cream trip, a walk in the park, or a new toy. But try not to bring up this reward during the shoot, cause not being able to get the prize immediately often results in tears and/or frustration. 

6. Don’t over-plan

Nothing spoils a child’s mood or for that matter a dad’s mood faster than a giant checklist. Too many props, locations, and outfit changes can quickly overwhelm and dishearten your family members. Cause let’s be honest, they can’t envision the Pinterest inspiration  the way you can! So, I always go by the philosophy that less is more, and by letting go of impossible expectations, you will get more organic family portraits. 

7. Double check yourself

Below is a checklist of items you may like to bring with you to your family portrait session.

  • comfy shoes
  • a quilt or blanket 
  • lint roller (if you have pets that shed)
  • sunscreen 
  • remove all scrunchies, ponytail holders, bracelets, and watches
  • food + water for snack breaks
  • keys + phones out of pockets
  • kid’s faces are wiped
  • your child’s favorite toy
  • clothing ironed

8. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early

If you are anything like me, you often have trouble with time management! 🙂 That’s is why I go by this rule of thumb. The most helpful thing is to arrive early so that you have time to scope the location and find spots that you would like to have portraits taken. I also stress this importance because your session times are scheduled specifically to work around the lighting. 


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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