Tips for Great Family Portraits

It’s that time of year again! Time to get the family together in those coordinated outfits and hit the parks with snacks and bribery in tow! Professional shots with your family are a priceless treasure you’ll have for a lifetime and should not be taken for granted! They’re only little once! :)

You’re capturing moments that will never happen again, like the kids’ ages that will come and go as quickly as the fall colors. Framed photos of the family make excellent presents all year round, for Grandma Sue and Aunt Rose, for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and for your fireplace mantel or desk at the office!

As much fun as they turn out to be, I know that family portraits can be a stressful to plan for. BUT between the location, poses, clothes and getting your kids (and husband) to cooperate – I’ve got you covered!



  • Schedule in advance!  Photographers usually fill up fast during the Holidays and if they’re like me, have tons of weddings during the summer.
  • Figure out what you want and communicate it with your photographer ahead of time.  A discussion about the style, location, and desired photos that you want can really ease the stress and get you–all of you–on the same page.



  • Pick a location that resonates with your family on a personal level. You’ll be much happier with your session. The photos should reflect this time in your lives. Ask yourself, “Would our family spend time here?” Check out my Family Portrait Inspiration Pinterest Page for some inspiration.
  • Your photographer should help you choose a shoot location. They will give you their honest opinion and know way more about the lighting conditions and areas that are photogenic and family friendly. Take a look at my session location blog post to see tons of options in this incredible city of ours!
  • Weather is always a determining factor and makes a big difference on where to shoot and when. What people don’t realize is that the best light for a photographer is a solid, bright, overcast day. These are easy to come by here in Seattle. So when you wake up on the day of our shoot and see clouds in the sky realize it’s a good thing! Morning and dusk are also really great times to shoot during the day for the right light. You might be surprised, but rain can be fun if armed with rain boots, umbrellas and the right attitude!



I think the generally consensus with most of my clients is that they like to get a combination of posed photos and candid ones. I will always give you direction while we’re shooting to make you look your best, but if you take the time to look at some examples beforehand and learn what you like, you might be happier with your pictures in the long run. It’s good to figure out what poses are your most flattering and what outfits look best on you. 

Some general rules for poses for family include:

  • Squishing together! Seriously, the closer you guys are to each other the better.
  • Stacking on top of each other, whether it’s laying the grass in a cuddle puddle, or staggering while standing, it all translates well in a shot and keeps things interesting
  • Be playful! Laughing fits are my favorite, throwing kids in the air, hanging them upside down, funny faces, food fights, you name it!
  • Laying down. I love to shoot from above while you’re laying down. It adds a really unique perspective to the shot.
  • Jumping! On couches, on beds, on the grass, on the beach, anywhere is fair game as long as it’s safe.
  • Holding hands and hugging are always winners in my book.
  • Kissing. Lots and lots of kissing, the kids, each other, your pet, kisses all around!
  • And of course, I’ll be catching plenty of natural, candid moments as you simply interact with each other, having fun and not worrying about posing at all. And honestly, you will probably do most of the above poses without even thinking about it!



  • The most important thing when choosing clothes for the shoot are to pick outfits that are in the same general color palette. Think of wearing inverted colors from each other.
  • Not sure how to create a good color palette with your families wardrobe?
  • Check out these sites for some helpful hints. Family Portrait Pinterest Board.
  • Keep your location in mind. Choose clothing appropriate for where you’re shooting. You want your outfits to fit the weather as well! 
  • Try not to go too seasonal. Unless you’re planning on using them only for holiday cards, Santa hats or Easter egg baskets may not be the best choice. Choose a style, color, and location that you don’t mind looking at for years to come at any month of the year.
  • While crazy patterns and bright colors should generally be avoided, it’s ok to incorporate some plaid, stripes, or polka dots if they go with your color palette and are not too crazy. It’s always best to wear solid colors. Whites, blacks, and skin toned colors should be avoided. Those colors tend to wash you out or look too stark. Graphics and logos should also be avoided for obvious reasons.
  • Layer Layer Layer! Adding layers to your outfits will allow you to achieve different looks in the photos without having to make complete outfit changes. Layers also add depth and texture.



  • I know this sounds silly, but practice in the mirror before the shoot! Yes, seriously. You will discover poses and faces you love….and some you hate. But at least then you’ll know!
  • Let me know what angles and shots you DON’T want before we start shooting. Communication is key. I’m here to make you feel and look your best, so by all means, tell me what you want and what you don’t want.
  • Try to to face the camera straight on, it’s always good to angle your body and lean forward a little bit
  • Leave space between your arms and body to show your waistline. Don’t slouch, keep your shoulders pushed back, and stand up straight (no matter how short your wife is).
  • Tilt your head down a tiny bit to avoid double chins and making your neck look big. I always try and shoot from straight on or from above, as those angles look flattering on everyone.
  • Don’t be a stick figure. Standing straight with your arms at your sides is never interesting. Bend those limbs! Tilt that head! Give those arms purpose!


Approach your family pictures like it’s going to be the most exciting and fun thing EVER. Excitement is contagious and your kids will catch it.Give yourself plenty of time to get yourself and your kids ready before the shoot. You don’t want to be worried all morning or have that residual feeling during the shoot. Also, rushing the kids 15 minutes before the shoot does not give anyone a sense of calm. Involve your kids as much as possible. Let them help decide on props to bring and what to wear. Give me advice on what keeps the kids involved and attentive throughout the shoot. Do they need a cheerleader to come along (Aunt Rose) or a squeaky toy? It’s also a good idea to schedule the shoot when the kids are the happiest and have the most energy. 30 minute to one hour sessions are usually best for families. I personally like to start with portraits of the kids alone and together right at the beginning before we start to loose them! Bring water and snacks to prevent blood sugar crashes and angry hungry faces. If they need some bribes to help get them through the shoot, so be it! Ice cream for smily time!



  • Have fun and try not to take it all so seriously. I couldn’t be more emphatic about this. The families I shoot that end up with the best photos are the ones that let loose and have an amazing time together. Think of the shoot as a fun family activity instead of something formal you ‘have to push through.’
  • Have an idea of what you want ahead of time and communicate that with me. 
  • Be yourselves, show emotion, be affectionate, laugh, hug, kiss, play, and have fun!
  • As hard as it can sometimes be, try to be laid back and go with the flow. No matter how much planning you and I do, things rarely go exactly as planned. There are always uncontrollable elements, like the weather, kids moods, location issues etc…The more easy going you are, the happier everyone will be, which will result in better photos.