7 Tips for How to Prepare for Family Photos

Getting your family photos taken is something that is so exciting, but can turn stressful in a second! You want everyone to look good, behave and enjoy the experience. I'm here to tell you it is absolutely possible... as long as you know how to prepare for a family photo session.

Having been a family photographer for several years now, I am always the one behind the camera instead of in front of it.  So while on vacation a couple summers ago, I decided to have my talented photographer friend, Allison Johnson do a beach family session for us. It was a little different for me to be the subject instead of the photographer. Being in front of the camera taught me a lot about what my clients experience and I wanted to share these 7 tips for how to prepare for your family photos.

Need some help deciding what to wear in your pictures?  Check out my 10 ideas for what to wear for family photos.

How to Prepare for a Family Photo session | Sweetlife Photography

7 Tips for How to Prepare for Family Photos


Being in front of the camera can be a little nerve wracking! Ok. A LOT nerve wracking - that's why I'd rather be behind the camera telling people what to do, than to be in front of it. HA! When getting family photos taken, remember that it is natural to feel a little nervous and embarrassed at the beginning of the session.  Everyone feels the same way, it’s normal!  That's why you (and I!) hire a professional photographer. I will help guide you through the process, make you feel more comfortable and capture sweet moments you didn't even know were naturally happening - like Allison did for me.


Many people don’t realize how much their clothing choice affects the style and tone of their photos.  Think about how you want your photos to feel and look, then base your clothing choices around those concepts.  If you are looking for exciting and vibrant images, your clothing choices will probably include bright colored clothing.  For me, I like my photos to match my home decor so that they naturally flow on my walls.  I love light airy images. My home is mostly white, natural colors. So I chose to base our wardrobe around more neutral and light tones.  When in doubt, look around your home for style inspiration.

How to Prepare for a Family Photo session | Sweetlife Photography


If you have children, be sure to schedule your session for a time when your children tend to be on their "better" behavior, like after a nap or in the morning.  Scheduling a session during a time when your child normally naps or during a time of day when they are generally more tired isn’t the best idea, as you will be combating behavior throughout your entire session.  Yes, as a photographer, I always love to shoot during golden hour, which is an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset.  But, the reality is…those times of day aren’t always the best for every child.  Think of it this way, if you are going to spend money hiring a photographer and buying new clothes, schedule your session for a time when your children are the happiest.  There is no use spending all of that money and doing all that planning to have cranky kids in your pictures.

How to Prepare for a Family Photo session | Sweetlife Photography


On the day of your session, be sure you don’t make too many additional plans.  Keep the day relaxed so you don’t wear out your children nor yourself and so everyone is calm going into the session.  For example, if you have company coming into town and your son has a baseball game the morning of your session, that may put too much distracting stress on your family.  Schedule your photos for a day when you have no additional plans or distractions to ensure that you have plenty of time to get to and from your session.


There is nothing like traffic or having to turn around because you forgot your daughter’s shoes to put stress on your family before getting family photos taken.  Trust me, the stress of that 5th red light that you hit on the way to your session will show on your face in your pictures.  Plan on arriving 15 minutes before your session to ensure you have plenty of time to travel to your session and relax before it begins.

Arriving early also helps your children because you can walk around the location and get your children comfortable before the camera comes out.  Sometimes children just need to familiarize themselves with their new environment to help encourage comfort and confidence for the photos.  When everyone is relaxed and comfortable, I will have a much easier time capturing natural and honest photos of your family instead of spending time relaxing everyone.


Once the camera comes out, be yourself.  And more importantly, let your children be themselves.  Family portraits are all about capturing the honest moments that make up your family.  Let your kids be your kids, silly faces and all.  Trust me, in the years ahead you will be so thankful that I've captured your true family instead of a nervous looking deer in the headlights looking family with forced smiles all staring blankly at the camera.  Don’t be intimidated when your kids become lively, I love capturing their personalities! Now, this is all within reason.  By all means, bribe your kids to ensure that they behave themselves. I am not saying a wild pack of monkeys makes great photos, only that a little personality doesn’t hurt.

When in comes to children, their comfort while getting family photos taken is important.  Allow them to bring their favorite stuffed animal or their blankie.  While you may not want this item in every single photo, sometimes a little comfort between shots is all your little one may need to keep them cooperative during the session.

How to Prepare for a Family Photo session | Sweetlife Photography


As a photographer, I will be the first to tell you that some of my favorite photos I have ever taken of clients are the ones between takes, the candid ones. I will be taking pictures non stop.  When you are in front of my camera, it is fair game!  Make sure you are smiling all the time, you never know when one of those in between moments is going to be your favorite photo.  If you have little ones, let me worry about getting smiles of out them.  There is nothing worse than having a photo of a child that is smiling, only to see the parents both frowning in the picture because they were trying to elicit a smile behind the scenes.  Just keep smiling and allow me to help get the smiles out of your little ones.

How to Prepare for a Family Photo session | Sweetlife Photography

Getting family photos taken is something that is so special. I love that they visually and permanently document a time in my life that otherwise would have been a memory. Remember that the purpose of family photos is to document the here and now, silly faces and all. By keeping these tips for getting your family photos taken in mind, you will help prepare yourself for a wonderful session that will result in beautiful memories framed on the walls of your home.

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