How to Plan Your Family Photos

Seattle Family Photographer

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 photos with your family are a priceless treasure you’ll have for a lifetime and should not be taken for granted! You’re capturing moments that will never happen again, like the kids’ ages that will come and go as quickly as the fall colors, so don’t miss out on capturing these fleeting moments. They’re only little once! :)

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

Book Your Photographer in Advance

I can’t stress this enough; schedule your photographer (aka me) in advance! My schedule usually fills up fast during the holidays and I also have tons of weddings during the summer, so the earlier you reach out the better chance we have of scheduling your preferred date. I recommend families reach out at least 3-4 months in advance for Summer or Fall sessions. Autumn can be a great time to schedule family photos because the weather is cool and crisp so you avoid everyone being miserable in the heat. It also is ideal because you will have new photos to display or gift for the holidays. Thinking of sending out your annual holiday cards? Your new family photos will come in handy for that!

No matter what time of year you choose to take your family photos, decide the mood you want and communicate it with me ahead of time. A discussion about the style, location, and desired photos that you want can really ease the stress and get all of us on the same page.

Choose the Best Location

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to deciding on your family photoshoot location, but the best advice I can give is to pick a location that resonates with your family on a personal level; you’ll be so much happier with your session if you do. Your annual family photos should reflect the time in your lives you are in. Ask yourself, “Would our family spend time here?” For instance, if you’ve just had a new baby, you may want to consider scheduling your photos at home, or if you find yourself taking the kids to the skate park every week, think about scheduling your photoshoot there. This can help everyone feel comfortable and relaxed in a place they are familiar with and you are likely to have more fun doing things that you already enjoy doing on a regular basis!

I can also help you choose a family photoshoot location and will give you my honest opinion on whether or not it will work for your specific needs. I have an entire blog post dedicated to session locations where you can see and read about some of my favorite location options for family photos in Seattle.

Consider the Weather And Plan Appropriately

Weather is also a determining factor and makes a big difference on when and where to shoot. In the summer morning and dusk are really great times of the day to shoot because they provide ideal lighting. Regarding the rest of the year, 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!

If it’s raining the day of your photoshoot, don’t be discouraged; you don’t have to cancel your session. There are very few outdoor shoot locations that will shield you from the rain, but you might be surprised to find that photos in the rain can be fun if armed with rain boots, umbrellas, and the right attitude!

If rain is a concern for your family, consider booking a studio session. These sessions will need to be booked in advance and they require an additional cost, but they are a great alternative to outdoor photos as they are not weather dependent and they also provide a beautiful, cozy atmosphere without requiring you to do any of the preparation and cleaning! :)

Family Photoshoot with Kids
Family Photoshoot

Should You Pose for Family Photos?

While it’s nice to get that handful of traditional ‘posed’ family shots of everyone looking at the camera and smiling for the holiday cards, you and I both know it’s not a reality most of the time with the younger kiddos. Kids have the best personalities and, let’s face it, the craziest mood swings, so let’s keep it real and capture those completely candid and authentic moments that only your kids can provide. I will always give you direction while we’re shooting to make sure you look your best but feel free to look around and send me posing examples of what you like beforehand so I can be sure to incorporate them in your session.

Some general rules for family poses 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, we can do 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!

Check out my Family Portrait Pinterest Page for some additional inspiration.

Seattle Family Photography

What to Wear to Your Family Photo Session

– The most important thing when choosing clothes for the shoot is to pick outfits that are in the same general color palette. Not sure how to create a good color palette with your family’s wardrobe? Check out my Pinterest board for some helpful hints.

– Keep your location in mind. Choose clothing appropriate for where you are 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 loud. Solid colors always look great, but whites, blacks, and skin-toned colors should be avoided as those colors tend to wash you out or look too stark.

– 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, so feel free to play around with the different fabric textures and mix and match.

Tips for Looking Your Best in Your Family Photoshoot

– 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 look and feel your best, so by all means, tell me what you want and what you don’t want.

– Try not to face the camera straight on. It’s always good to angle your body and lean forward a little bit and 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 significant other is.)

– Tilt your head down a tiny bit to avoid a double chin. I always try to 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!

And if all this seems like too much to remember, don’t worry. I’ll be there every step of the way to guide you.

Family Photo Ideas with Kids

Tips for Getting Your Kids Excited and Cooperative for Family Photos

Approach your family pictures like it’s going to be the most exciting and fun thing EVER! Excitement is contagious and if you are excited, your kids will likely catch on. Involve your kids in the planning process as much as possible. Let them help decide on props to bring and outfits to wear. Give yourself plenty of time to get yourself and your kids ready before the shoot. Rushing the kids 15 minutes before the shoot does not give anyone a sense of calm.

Once you arrive at the shoot give me your 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 to grab their attention? 30 minute to one-hour sessions are usually best for families and I personally like to start with portraits of the kids alone or together right at the beginning before we start to lose 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 smiley time!

*Pro-tip: If possible, try to schedule the shoot around the time of day that the kids are the happiest and have the most energy.

Helpful Things to Bring

– Snacks
– Drinks
– Baby wipes
– Favorite toy
– Squeaky toy
– Change of clothes for each kid (especially if on the younger side)
– Favorite songs on Spotify / Apple Music to play on your phone during the session

Final Tips

Above all else, 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.’ Be yourselves, show emotion, and 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 both 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.