A Little Guide to Great Family Photos

Spring flowers, sandy beaches, even (gasp) autumn on the horizon. ‘Tis the start of family photo season! And whether you prefer waiting for the colorful leaves, or you’d rather let the ocean be your background, we have some great tips for make your family photos the best they can be.

Jamie Luebbert Photography, Fayetteville NC

Before I wore a mom hat, I wore a photographer hat. When my husband joined the military I decided to turn my long-time hobby into a business that could travel with me. I photographed families, babies, military homecomings, elopements, and weddings. And I love it! With deployments and babies, it has taken a backseat, but I still dust off my lenses every now and then! I also feel that puts me in a great position to give tips for planning your own family photo session, because I have taken photos OF kids and WITH kids.

Find a photographer that is good with kids. Many photographers do family photos, but some will actually choose not to take on those type of sessions because they aren’t their strong suit, or simply because that just isn’t where their passion lies. I really respect photographers who are able to say it’s not their thing. Newborn photography is NOT my thing. I am not good at it! I let photographers with that special ability capture those memories for me. So scope out your photographer. Don’t fall in love with some dreamy engagement photos and assume you can add two toddlers to the mix and get the same result. No. Look specifically at family albums and make sure you like them. Being able to makes kids (and sometimes husbands) genuinely smile is a gift you will appreciate tenfold.

Hannah Foulke Photography, Jacksonville NC

Ask about what you’re getting. Session packages can range from sitting fees and paying for prints to getting select digital images to getting to choose your own digital library. Make sure you ask upfront what to expect (and what timeframe to expect it in.) Some photographers offer mini sessions if you are just looking for a pregnancy announcement or Christmas card, so keep that in mind as a more affordable option! But always clarify what you are looking for an what you are getting so both parties win.

Photo credit: Hannah Bogaski

Coordinate, don’t match. The days of white t-shirts and jeans for all are a thing of the past. Don’t ALL go for the same colors, bring a few into the mix. You want to make your wall-worthy photos to be genuine and visually interesting. Just as you would decorate a room, select a color palette for your family. If you are going to be taking photos in a colorful location, such as a flower field, less is more. If you are taking your session at the beach, bring on the color! (Read to the end of this post for some fun color palettes to plan with!) Also, be sure to select colors that are flattering to both your skin tone and your surroundings. For example, if you are fair-skinned like myself and it’s really warm out, you may want to avoid red because it will bring out the red in your face as well. Or if your photos are in the woods or an open field in the springtime when everything is vibrantly green, you may want to avoid greens or yellows. If in doubt, ask your photographer for their opinion. They want the photos to turn out just as beautifully as you do, so they should be more than willing to help!

If you DO feel more comfortable sticking to a certain color for the entire family, play with pattens and shades, and mix tops and bottoms. Especially for larger groups. It gives photos more character while keeping everyone in sync.

Meghan Elizabeth Photography, Baltimore MD

Go with the flow. We all love the perfectly captured picture where everyone is all smiles, but more often my favorites from our family sessions come from genuine moments. Mom smiling at dad, the kids making funny faces, or caught mid-laughter. Because these are the moments that give people a glimpse into your real life. So of course, pose for a few photos, but enjoy the in-between and find a photographer that can capture those candid moments too. Even if babies fall asleep.

Alicia Q Photography, Jacksonville NC
Hannah Foulke Photography, Jacksonville NC

The art of distraction. Odds are, your kids are NOT going to love an hour of getting their photo taken. Parents often try to stop their kids from being kids and get them to focus on something they could literally care nothing about. This is one of the biggest tips I have to offer…I always encourage parents to let their kids play a little, within reason. Not in a mud puddle, but play in the sand a little. Run in the park. Lay in the grass. Make silly faces. I just follow along and take that chance to capture their kids loving life. And when they have gotten to do what they want to do, they are more willing to reel it back in for a family photo. If you are lucky, you get some adorable candid moments on film too! And if you’re okay with it, treats definitely don’t hurt. Just go for something that is quick to eat, and won’t melt or ruin outfits. I once gave my 1 year old M&Ms which she ate painfully slow and led to a blue mouth in a couple photos. Oops.

Don’t dress trendy. Do you ever look back at your childhood photos and think OMG, WHY?! Keep this in mind. Jumpsuits are adorable now, just as bell bottoms were once. You want to love these photos forever and not cringe at them in a few years time. So if you only get family photos done once in a blue moon, add depth to classic outfits with textures or patterns instead of trendy pieces. Lace is timeless, as are small patterns, stripes, and polkadots. If you get family photos done every year (or more), then rock all the trends you want! In fact, it would be kind of neat to see year-by-year how you dress your family.

Elizabeth Sherrill Photography, Jacksonville NC

Try not to stress too much about family photos. I do it to. You are paying for them, there are rarely do-overs, you want everyone to look and act their best, but regardless, the end result is well-captured memories. Even if it rains, even if you sit on a bumblebee (I have done this), even if you child will not smile to save his life. It’s okay. So as you plan those ever-important outfits, here are some fun color schemes to play around with:

Have any helpful family photo session know-how? Or even a funny photo story for us? We all have them! Comment below!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate