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Top tips for a painless family photo shoot

I’m not going to lie.

In pretty much every family photoshoot I’ve ever had there’s been a moment where one (if not all) of the children involved give up and lose interest in what’s going on. I try to reassure the parents, who look naturally concerned when their children are frowning at me and my camera or stomping off into the bushes in a huff, that their family is really no different to any other.


I can honestly say that the beautiful photos I share with my clients come as much from careful bribery and coercion from the parents as they do photographic knowledge and skill on my part. But! Before you take all this as reason NOT to book a family photo session, let me stop you right there.

It’s easier than you’d think to avoid the pain and stress that a family photoshoot can bring and that’s where this blog post comes in. I want to give you some insider tips on making your family photoshoot far more fun for everyone concerned.

First, you have to find an awesome photographer, especially one who is an expert at shooting children. Get recommendations from friends, check out websites and Facebook pages, and find someone whose photo style speaks to you. Then follow the seven tips below and, odds are, you’ll end up with at least one photo you’ll want to frame, hang in your home, and smile at for the rest of your life.


  1. Schedule your shoot in the morning, but not too early. Most children have a sweet spot after breakfast and before naptime, and luckily that late-morning light is pretty perfect for photos, too. A late-morning shoot means everyone shows up well fed and rested, and it will also give you enough time to get everyone ready without rushing.
  2. Don’t make your wardrobe too complicated. Pick coordinated (not too matchy-matchy) outfits, and be sure to try them on your children in advance to avoid any last-minute wardrobe issues or rebellions. While an outfit change mid-session might sound appealing, the reality of changing your whole family makes it too complicated to be worth it. Pick neutral, uncomplicated outfits, and let your personalities take centre stage. And try to be sensible. That headband with a giant bow or flower might look adorable but if you know your child is going to spend the entire shoot pulling it off their head and chucking it on the floor…maybe just leave it at home.
  3. If possible, bring along a grandparent or sitter. If your children are very small or prone to acting out, bringing along a helper can be a good idea. Then, even if one child isn’t photo ready, the rest of the family can get in front of the camera instead of spending valuable time trying to get your problem child on board with the shoot. Having a familiar face also makes for a good distraction when the rest of you are trying to get into a shot together – having a friend or relative who’s happy to goof around behind the photographer and make your children laugh is never a bad thing!
  4. Go in with a goal and communicate it to your photographer. Maybe you want one great family photo for a holiday card, one individual shot of each of your children, or some awesome candid photos for a gallery wall. Whatever your goal is, be sure to talk to your photographer about it, so you’re not disappointed when they don’t get the one shot you were really hoping for but never told them you wanted.
  5. Embrace the candid. A family of seven staring at a camera with fake smiles does not make the best picture — and even that can be hard to achieve. Instead, embrace candid photos your photographer takes of your family laughing and playing with each other. Sure, you might not be able to perfectly see everyone’s face, but your emotional connections will be much more visible.
  6. Limit locations and time. If you really want photos in different locations, make sure they’re close enough that you’re not spending too much of your shoot time travelling. Also, know that most kids will hit their photo-posing limit after about 30 minutes or an hour, so consider a mini shoot (many photographers offer these shorter sessions at a discount periodically throughout the year), so you’re not wasting money trying to get your kids to cooperate to take one more photo.
  7. Trust your photographer. There’s a reason you hired a professional. Trust their talents and opinions about posing, locations, and when your kid has probably had enough.

And even though I said I’d give you 7 tips I actually have 1 more.

Enjoy your photoshoot, whatever happens. The moments that usually turn out to be the most special in photos are the ones when things go ‘wrong’. Those glimpses of your children’s true personalities that we see all the time in our home lives and rarely get to capture in photos. Those adorable pouts or frowns, the quizzical brows and the folded arms, sadly won’t be around forever.

So go on, find yourself a photographer and book yourself a family photoshoot.

It’s an hour out of one day that can give you images you’ll love for a lifetime.



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