There aren’t many things that will put me straight into a cold sweat of panic more quickly than the idea of a fully organized and coordinated family photo shoot. You want me to get my husband and two sons AND
Fine Tune Your Expectations
It’s important to know what you want to get out of your photo session before you begin. Are you trying for some new photos to put on the wall? Christmas gifts? Christmas cards? All of the above? I find that if you know what you are looking to get out of the session, it’s a lot easier to back into the steps and preparation required for the shoot.
Definitely keep in mind, it’s important to meet your family where they are in
But I KNOW that about my little family, and I can plan with the photographer accordingly.
Where Are The Pictures Going?
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Another thing to keep in mind is what you plan to do with the finished pictures. Are they going to be gifts? Going into frames on your walls? Will it be your Christmas card? I totally understand you can’t plan everything ahead, but if you have a certain wall collage in mind, let the photographer know. That way, they can shoot at the right angles and get you some of the shots like what you have in mind.
For example, if you were to get frames like this set from Amazon it would be helpful to let the photographer know ahead of time. That way they can shoot photos accordingly to make sure you have the right size and orientation. Or if your intended frames are a mixed size set, this is also good to let the photographer know.
I’m not saying you should make your photographer nuts with all the details of your display frames. But it is helpful for your photographer to know what you have in mind for your pictures too.
Preparing for a Successful Family Photo Shoot
Find a photographer
First, I think finding a photographer is the most important step in the process. And, once you find your photographer, they can help you with details and recommendations for locations, wardrobe, poses and any other questions you have. Do remember, this is what the photographer does for a living and chances are, they know the details of what works better than you do. They know what photographs well, and they have SO many tricks up their sleeves for family photo shoots!
Lots of photographers will do a 1-2 hour family session at the location of your choosing. Most packages include the session and then the photographer editing the pictures. Usually from there you can pick your prints and have them made, or you get the rights to the pictures and can have them printed yourself. I really like the option of being able to just print what I want for the sizes I want. I don’t like having to buy a package and ending up with a ton of pictures in a folder that aren’t up on the wall anywhere.
Go online for recommendations for a good photographer and then find one that has a package you like. Or if you see great pictures from your friends online or in person, ask for the name of their photographer! There are a ton of options out there!
Location, Location, Location
The photographer can help you choose a location. If you have something specific in mind, that’s perfect, as long as the photographer can make it work. If you don’t have a location in mind, have no fear. The local photographer probably has a few favorite places that are “tried and true” locations where they prefer to shoot sessions and have had great success. Think outdoor gardens, parks, etc.
I don’t recommend trying to do it in your own house. First off, you are going to feel like the whole house needs to be clean and tidy. Second of all, your kids will get super distracted because all their toys and tv’s and iPad are right there and available. I think a location out of the house is better. It might be your back yard, or a nearby park. I really like to see what locations the photographer suggests too. Because chances are, they have already done photos in that place and they know they are both easy to shoot and turn out great in the pictures.
I would suggest, once again, dip into the fountain of wisdom that is your photographer for questions about wardrobe. They can help you with which colors photograph well and what colors or prints to avoid altogether. You want them to look good and like what you see in these new pictures you are going to hang all around the house.
You should definitely spend some time online looking at pictures online and see what color palettes you like best in different family
Here’s some links for wardrobe ideas:
- 11 Tips for What to Wear in Family Photos
- What to Wear for Family Photos
- What to Wear for Family Photos – Great Family Photo Outfits for All Occastions
You can plan to spend at least $300-$500 for your pictures, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that much. A good photographer is going to be at least $100 per hour. And by the time you purchase the rights to the photos, or a photo package, it can get a little pricy.
While I’m not just looking to part with that much money, I never regret spending money on good pictures. You truly will have them forever and they are wonderful snapshots of your life and your family at that time in your lives.
Also, we only do an organized professional photo shoot every few years. This is expensive, so it doesn’t make sense to do it twice a year or anything crazy. I think every other year or so is a good combination. Do a session at the beach one year, and then a session in the fall in the woods for another year. It’s too expensive to do all the time, and waiting a little bit in between really gives you a good look at how everyone grows and changes in between sessions, especially the kids!
Keep in mind, if you do this well and the pictures turn out, you could also make this your Christmas card for the year! AND probably give the pictures as presents to some family members as well. You are crossing a lot of items off the to-do list with this little family photo shoot!
Poses can get tricky, especially if you have little kids. I think it’s best to do a mixture of both planned poses and then shots that are just candid. Some of my favorite photos we have taken over the years have been candid shots.
Our latest family session we did at the beach was a mixture of both. The photographer had us do a few planned poses at the beginning of the session and then kind of just let us run wild and do our thing for the second half of the session. She would give me and my husband more direction and then let us make adjustments so that the kids could just keep doing their thing. And some of those shots were FANTASTIC. Some of the planned poses were also fabulous. It made for wonderful family photos to treasure for years to come.
- 15 Best Poses for Photographing Families
- 5 Easy Family Portrait Posing Ideas
- 10 Family Portrait Posting Tips for Photographers
Also go to Pinterest for ideas! There are a TON of pose examples there.
Special Needs Photo Shoots
If you have a child(ren) with special needs, don’t shy away from getting the pictures made. Just make any adjustments you might need to make it easier for them participate in the photo session.
For our family, that means that the planned poses are probably not going to go as well as the more candid shots. And that’s ok! Some of my most favorite family pictures weren’t planned ones anyway!
Make adjustments for what your special needs child can tolerate. Maybe make it a shorter session for them and give them lots of breaks. We make sure to give our little guy some iPad time in between sessions and poses for sure.
My #1 Hack for Photo Shoots with Kids
And speaking of iPad! My number one hack I’ve ever done for pictures that worked SO well was… wrapping the iPad like a gift. We were doing Christmas pictures for our Christmas card in front of the tree. With Christmas jammies and all. Ahead of time, I knew Cooper would want his iPad to be the comfiest and most smiley fella he could be, so I thought, why fight it? I’m just going to wrap it up in Christmas paper, cut out the screen for him to see, and no one would be the wiser. And they are the cutest pictures ever! He looks like he’s looking at a gift to open! I’m super proud of that mommy hack!
The Biggest Point – Don’t Wait for Pictures
My biggest piece of advice is… don’t wait and put this off.
I know I tend to shy away from planned photo sessions because I don’t think I look my best at this point in my life. But I would strongly encourage you to have the pictures made anyway. With an awesome outfit and good camera angles, you’ll be shocked at how wonderful you could look. And you want to capture the moment with your kids as they grow up and have plenty of pictures over the years. And your kids will want to look back at pictures and see what their parents looked like too.
Don’t wait for the perfect weight or the perfect haircut. Do it now and capture the memories while they are happening. Definitely don’t keep saying “as soon as…”. You’ll miss a lot of wonderful moments you could have captured.
The Complete Guide to a Successful Family Photo Shoot – Conclusion
In conclusion, just pick outfits you’ll love on the kids, find some you love for yourself and your husband and go with it. Don’t get too much in your head, don’t get mental about it. Clean everybody up. Do your hair and put on some makeup. And go take pictures for an hour, see which ones you love, and move on from there! It’s as easy as that. It doesn’t have to be this big huge production of worry and stress.
I’m going to take my own advice and schedule a fall family photo shoot this week for later in the fall when the leaves are changing! I’ll try and take my own advice for preparing for a successful family photo shoot. In the meantime, just keep shuffling!
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