Tips for family photos that are candid and natural

Just booked a family photoshoot and not sure how to plan? I’ve got you covered with some of my best tips for family photos. Read on!

Family photography has had a special place in my heart since I started my business, mainly because I come from a large family, who I don’t see as often as I would like since I moved to a different state. I know how precious each of the photos we have together are to me. I’m also a mom. And one thing I know about time…it moves FAST.  Families change fast. Kids grow up fast. And what I love about photography is that it freezes a moment in time forever.

My goal when shooting is to give my clients experience that goes beyond their expectations, and a gallery of images that they will treasure forever (and hopefully hang on the wall)! My goal is not perfection, but authenticity. Real, honest connection, and to tell the story of family through photography.

I’ve spent a decade learning how to create authentic, joyful family photos with a lifestyle vibe. Here are some tips for family photos that will help you prepare for your session!

1. Wear neutrals and light colors

Bright colors are not your friend for family photos! They can both distract from your faces, and cast color onto your skin. I recommend soft naturals, beige, cream, light pinks and blues. Avoid bright reds or oranges, fuchsia, black, mustard yellow, and anything too bold.

I recommend that mom finds herself an outfit that she loves and feels confident in, and then chooses the rest of the family outfits to coordinate around that.

2. Layer textures and soft patterns

Mixing fabric textures and patterns can add depth and interest to your photos! Soft linen, breezy cotton, velvet, lace, ruffles, florals, plaids. Pair them together to bring life to your photos. Avoid logos or large, distracting prints.Flowy, feminine dresses photograph beautifully. Some of my favorite shops for dresses are Baltic Born, Anthropologie, and Lulus.

Layering textures and patterns is not just for her! Dads, don’t be afraid to dress up. Click here to see one of my favorite Instagram accounts for everyday guy’s fashion!

3. Wear classy footwear

I discourage any kind of sneakers for family photos. Go classy with your shoe choices. Sandals or boots are always a great choice for her, and a casual dress shoe or boot for him. This applies to kids as well! Or go barefoot if you are getting photos done in an open field and want a more wild & free vibe!

4. The season and location will determine the colors in your photos

Keep in mind that I cannot edit out the colors of the location and the season. If you choose a Fall session at my farm, the colors in the background of your photos will be muted greens and earth tones, browns, greys, etc. If you choose Spring photos, the greens will be brighter and more vivid, and there may be pink from blooming trees. This is another reason I recommend neutral clothing for family sessions. It makes choosing outfits that coordinate with the season and location that much easier.

5. Mom sets the tone

Mom sets the mood for family photos! I have seen this over and over again. If mom is stressed out with unrealistic expectations, the kids become stressed out too, and subsequently start acting out. Even if you ARE feeling stressed before your session, try your best to not let it show. Be patient with your kiddos, be calm, and allow yourself to have fun and relax during your session.

See a beautiful example of this here.

6. Keep moving, and let me do the work

Tips for family photos

The key to photos that tell your story, is MOVEMENT. A big mistake I see when I photograph families is that parents think everyone needs to be perfectly still for photos. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! I am constantly directing families through prompts, fun games, walking, tickling, dancing, swinging the kids, and shooting the entire time. Don’t worry about your kids being still…I’ll let you know when I need them to be. But most of the time, they can move to their hearts content!

7. Don’t expect perfection. Let the kids lead!

Can I tell you a secret? For a long time I hated taking family photos. I hated the pressure I felt to deliver a gallery full of images where kids are holding perfectly still with showing off their best fake smile. But now I have a different mindset. I shoot REAL photos, fun photos, still beautiful, but not studio-stiff. 

While I always do my best to deliver several group photos where everyone is smiling nicely, I also started focusing a good deal on connection, genuine connection and fun between parents and kids. I now ask parents to play some games with the kids; smiling contests, tickle fights, anything to inspire that connection. I began to let the kids roam around and explore while taking photos from afar. And guess what?  When I shifted my approach to family sessions, I fell in LOVE with them!

Take what I’ve learned, and don’t ask your kids for more than they’re able to give. Kids will get crazy, shy, upset, and silly. I can work with all of that! Don’t expect them to act like adults. Let them lead, and go with it.

8. The little details matter

Tips for family photos that are candid and natural

Tan lines, dirty fingernails, ill fitting clothes, and poorly done makeup will show up in photos. Close ups are where the magic happens, but those tighter shots also show every little detail. If you have small children, make sure their noses & mouths are clean (we all know how quickly kids get dirty!) Now I’m not going to lie, I respect when a hardworking dad has a little grease under his fingernails, but for mom & the kids, show your nails a little love before your session. Make sure you choose clothes that fit you well and that you love at every angle.

9. Empty your pockets

Along similar lines, make sure you take out phones, wallets, and anything else from your pockets before your session. Anything in your pockets will be a distraction. Also, don’t forget to take your smart watches and hairbands off your wrists. An Apple Watch will totally date your photos. On behalf of photographers everywhere, take that thing off.

10. Hats off

A lot of guys hate to part with their baseball caps but trust me, hatless photos are the way to go. (And make sure to take care of hat hair before we start the session!)

11. Don’t apologize

Sometimes, even after preparing every detail, things don’t go as planned. Please don’t apologize if your kids just aren’t having it. There are many tricks that we photographers have up our sleeves, and you’d be amazed at the beautiful photos that can be captured even when someone is crabby. Try to let your expectations go, and relax and interact with your family. Magic will happen.

Thanks for reading my favorite tips for family photos! I hope they are helpful as you plan for your session. For more info on my offerings, click here!



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