You’ve found a photographer, booked the date, and paid the deposit. Congrats, the first big hurdles are finally done! You’re officially on the calendar for a beautiful family portrait session. Yay! Here’s a comprehensive checklist that will walk you through every step of the portrait process to help you feel confident and prepared for your session.
So below you will find some tips that can help you and your family to achieve a successful photo shoot
Things To Do Before Your Session:
Make hair, nail, and/or makeup appointments for before your session. Make sure your roots are touched up and you aren’t wearing chipped nail polish to your session! These are small details but we want everything to be perfect.
Plan your outfits at least a week in advance—don’t wait ‘til the last day, trust me! You want to wake up feeling relaxed and prepared, so plan these details out early. Feel free to text me photos of your wardrobe if you’re having a hard time choosing! I’m happy to help.
Prepare your kids (and husband!) with laid-back, low-key references to let them know what’s happening. Tell them you will be “hanging out with our friend Bia on Saturday!” or “going to the park to play!” and keep things fun, lighthearted, and casual. (Families have shared that this tip is especially helpful if they have a particularly shy child.)
Brainstorm about specific props, mementos, or special types of images you want captured. Some families bring heirloom quilts, a special stuffed animal, an embroidered keepsake, etc. Some families know they want a very specific type of photograph taken. If you have these preferences, be sure to brainstorm them in advance and let me know as well!
Review all the things I emailed you: links to blog posts, the Session Guide, or Wardrobe vision boards. These are all very important because they are full of tips and information that is very useful!
And of course, make sure everyone gets a great night’s sleep and eats a good meal beforehand.For parents with kids and teenagers. Don't schedule your photo shoot after sports activities because your child will be tired and cranky.
Don’t show up to a photo shoot on an empty stomach. Very often my clients come to a photo shoot with dinner plans after the shoot as a reward, which is OK, although bring snacks and water ideally NO MESSY snacks.
Don't be late or too early. Give yourself extra time so that you are ready before it’s time to head out that door. Additionally if your photo shoot is scheduled around sunset or sunrise its imperative that you are on time because on these circumstances light is crucial!In the other hand, get to the photo shoot location too early is also recipe for disaster. Kids wont sit in the car for too long and what usually happens is that the parents let the kids out of the car. By the time the photographer gets there usually the kids are dirty, sweaty and had enough of the place. You want to keep the kids curious about the location, let the photographer capture your kids exploring the place, it yields nice candid shots.
How to Dress for Your Session:
Obviously, dress for the weather! We want everyone comfortable!
Don’t wear matching clothes— no more jeans-and-matching-shirts these days! Instead, wear colors in a complimentary color palette, such as earth tones and neutrals.What do your dream family photos look like? If they are soft and elegant? Chose neutral colors with soft, flowing fabrics…. think creams, very soft pastels, oatmeals, light browns, tans, grays, and slate blues. Want to showcase the fun and spunky side of your family? Choose coordinating colors (but not matchy, matchy) with bold accent colors, such as hues of gray with yellow or bright red accents.
No tennis shoes, T shirts, or shirts with writing on them!
Be careful about undergarments. While I am very experienced at Photoshop, editing out bra straps or undergarment lines is very difficult and time-consuming. Choose an ensemble that properly covers your undergarments, in all types of movement scenarios.
If the child is still in diapers make sure the outfit covers it.
I recommend women wear medium or long dresses instead of pants because they capture more movement and generally photograph more flatteringly. Short dresses will be a challenge when we do any seated photos, so keep that in mind.
Wear comfortable shoes and clothes you can move in. If your dress gets suddenly too short when you bend over, or your pants are too tight to sit down in, opt for more breathable pieces. Be prepared to move!
Do opt for accessories! Bowties, suspenders, hats, flower headbands, chunky scarves, beautiful flowing dresses and skirts—these create visual interest and movement in your photos, and really help the images stand apart. Photos are a special occasion; take advantage of this fun opportunity to dress up a little more.
If you have a little girl with bright nailpolish on, go ahead and remove it. Neon pink and vibrant turquoise nails will almost undoubtedly clash with your beautiful wardrobe choice, and yes, it will show up in the photos.
Cell phones in the pockets
Watches and hair ties on the wrist
Avoid any hair accessories that does not stay still in the hair and/or it bothers the child.
Avoid tan lines
Avoid changing hair style/color before the session days before the session
Still not sure what to wear. Share your thoughts with your photographer.
What to Bring to Your Photo Session:
Moms are already super prepared, and you know your family better than anyone on Earth, so you probably have your own tricks for managing your little ones! But here’s a few things you might want to add to your list:
Any personal appearance touchup items you might want, including things like lipstick or a hairbrush.
Snacks on snacks on snacks, and if necessary, treats to bribe kiddos with! (However, it’s best not to tell kids about the treats before the session; wait until the kids start getting fatigued before you pull out candy card! They’ll usually perk right up then!)
Water Specially for kids
Ticks and bug spray depending on the location.
Walkable shoes. We will probably be walking short/moderate distances, often on unpaved trails, possibly with hills. Walkable shoes are a must! If you just love your wedges, bring them to change into before we start shooting.
A change of clothes for the kiddos, in case anyone gets muddy or dirty. As a photographer, I love when kids interact fully with their surroundings, and I’m thrilled to photograph them playing in water or running through the grass. As a parent, you might not be too keen to let them back into your car, covered in mud. Feel free to bring a change of clothes or shoes. Maybe even a towel. You never know!!
A beer. Just kidding! (kind of!) But seriously, if a beer will loosen up hubby a bit beforehand, I totally support it :)
How to Pose During Your Photo Session:
This is the most important part of this whole blog post, so be sure to read carefully!
No need to ‘Cheese’! I’m chasing natural interactions and unposed moments. I strive to capture and encourage authentic expressions. No need to coax your children into fake smiles!
On a related note, children around the ages of 5-10 will sometimes try to “cheese” in the photos, because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to do when they see a camera! Help me create more candid shots by interacting playfully with your children.
Laugh, play, tickle, and snuggle. This is how we’ll capture the REAL moments.
Not everyone has to be looking at the camera. Actually, I usually encourage my gentlemen to NOT look at the camera. (they seem to prefer that, as well!) I like to especially encourage my dads to focus on their partners and their kids.
When in doubt, just smile and look at your family lovingly.
Stand close together. Actually, as close as possible :)
Relax, slow down, and don’t force anything. Don’t feel pressured to make everything perfect! Just be present with your family and I’ll do the rest. And don’t stress if any of the kids get fussy! I’ve seen it all before, trust me. Just snuggle your kiddos and we can still capture beautiful images :)
Expect me to move you around to different spots to capture images. The more variety we get, the bigger your gallery and the more great shots we have the opportunity to create together!
What to Expect After Your Photo Session:
After your session, your work is almost done! You can let your hair down, put your feet up, and relax a little bit.
After your session, I will be working hard behind the scenes to cull the best photos (eliminating duplicates, blurs, and blinks) Your gallery is typically ready within 3 weeks of your session.
I will soon deliver a watermarked proofing gallery so you can select your favorite images to keep, or upgrade your package after seeing the photos.
Last step to complete your portrait experience: ENJOY YOUR PHOTOS! I am passionate about printed art because then you can see it and appreciate it in your home every single day. I can’t wait to help you create something beautiful, timeless, and meaningful, just for your unique family.
And that’s it! The complete checklist for guiding you through your family photography session. What to wear, how to pose, how to plan, and what to do afterwards—all easy to follow! Thank you for choosing me to be your trusted photographer. I can’t wait to love on your family and leave you with beautiful artwork you will love for decades to come.