We recently headed out to take family photos. We’ve captured some less-than-ideal photos when we’ve done this in the past, so I wanted to do everything I could to make sure we got great shots this time.
Based on my experience, there are a number of pretty simple things we can do to increase the chances that our family photo sessions are successful.
How to have great family photo sessions
- Eat well and sleep well before the session. Hungry kids are grumpy kids. Likewise, sleepy kids are grumpy kids. These are true of parents, too! If we’re going to have alert, happy families during photo sessions, then we must make sure everyone gets a good night’s rest (or a good nap) and has a full belly before taking photos. The sleep is a little tricky, but we can at least address the hunger by having an easy-to-eat snack in the diaper bag to assuage hunger if it arises during a session.
- Schedule the session at a good time. There are so many things to consider before scheduling photo sessions, especially if you will be outdoors. There’s not enough time to discuss all of them here, but we’ll look at a few. It is best to avoid scheduling sessions during mealtimes or naptimes. It’s also a good idea to schedule them at times that allow for ample preparation. It’s more likely that the shoots will go smoothly and that we’ll looked relaxed in the photos when we’ve had plenty of time to get dressed, do everyone’s hair, and deal with inevitable complications like missing shoes or props.
- Choose clothing carefully. Our clothes have a significant impact on how we look in photos. It generally looks great when family members wear coordinating clothes (the clothes don’t have to match, but each family member may wear hues of the same colors or something like that). It’s important that the clothes contrast (but don’t clash) with the scenery or backdrop so that family members are clearly visible in the pictures, but don’t stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Comfort is another important consideration. Family members will have difficulty smiling and looking relaxed if their toes are pinched, they’re being chafed, or they’re too cold.
- Take things to keep the kids busy. Getting photos taken isn’t that exciting for kids. They may get bored, and when kids get bored they start getting grumpy and making mischief. Thus, it’s helpful if we take along some small items to keep them busy. Many of these, such as bubbles or their favorite stuffed toys, can be used as props in the photos!
- Be authentic. When looking at portraits, you can often tell when family members were posed in ways that weren’t comfortable and when their smiles were forced. On the other hand, you can often tell when photos were candid or when family members were genuinely laughing or smiling. In my opinion, the latter are better. A great way to achieve these authentic photos is for family members to be themselves. As long as the setting allows for it, it’s okay for kids to run in circles around mom and dad. In fact, this would make a great photo! It’s okay for kids to explore their surroundings. It’s okay for dad to tease the kids. Funny antics, spontaneous hugs or kisses, and other unscripted interactions make wonderful photos and memories.
- Relax. If we are tense, then our kids sense this and they become tense, too. On the other hand, if we’re relaxed, then our kids will sense this and become relaxed. The best way to get the lovely family photos we want isn’t to stress about it and rush around nitpicking, but to plan ahead and then relax as we enjoy the experience of the photo shoot.
Tell me about some of your experiences taking family photos. What factors have made photo shoots successful for your family?