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10 ‘Must-Do’s’ to Have Amazing Family Photographs

10 ‘Must-Do’s’ to Have Amazing Family Photographs

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10 'Must-Do's' to Have Amazing Family Photographs I love family photographs! It’s really fun to see family photos of my friends and of course have great ones too. We set out to get ours done, and let me tell you, getting it right can be a big production. But if you are prepared well, I think any family can get amazing family photographs. Here are 10 steps to it. I’ll also be sharing our family photographs throughout this post as well.

1- Start planning early.

10 'Must-Do's' to Have Amazing Family Photographs

It took me a week to find a good photographer and schedule an appointment. Brian Smyer was our photographer—he’s awesome. It took about two weeks to gather and decide on the right color scheme and clothes. And it took some time to scout out the spot we wanted to go to and wait for the fall leaves to turn more yellow. Prepping is vital so start at least a few weeks early.

2- Find a good photographer.

IF you have children I highly recommend hiring someone (and someone professional to take your photos). It is worth the expense. Trust me if I say this because I’m extremely frugal and was more than happy to pay for the photos we now have.

NOTE- Not everyone has the same taste in photography. I simply posted on Facebook asking for referrals and then looked through all of the work and found the photographer WE really liked.

Take the time to go through the websites and photographs of at least a handful of different photographers before booking yours. The one that has the style you love, is in your price range, and has good reviews (or was referred by a trusted source) will almost always be a great option.

3- Choose clothing carefully.

I started out with my daughter’s darling dress from Gymboree. Then I built out matching coordinates from there. We had most of the clothes we are wearing but I lacked the right color yellow in my wardrobe and needed red leggings for my daughter. A trip to the mall solved both of those issues.

I tend to like vibrant colors. If you like less vibrant tones, go for more subtle ones. Do what you love.

Use solids, patterns, and layering for visual interest. Be careful to not do too much of one thing. I think you should have at least three or more different colors, textures, and patterns that work together but will balance and round off the look. But again, this is totally up to your style and taste. Whatever you do, layout or try on the clothes beforehand to make sure they are working well together.

Another important thing to consider is comfort, functionality, weather, and how the colors you’ve picked will look against the back drop of your photo shoot. I changed the colors of my wedding due to this rule. We booked an amazing venue (shown in this post) but my original colors aqua, pink, and silver would have clashed bad. So I changed my color to purple hues and it worked well in the venue. Do the same for your photo shoot.

Plan for cold weather or reschedule if the weather is bad. But don’t be afraid if it’s overcast. You can get awesome ranges of colors on an overcast day (like ours was). The sun came through a little here so the use of flash was usually not necessary. I also had a little light blue coat and navy long sleeve shirt for my son and daughter in case they got too cold.

And if you have kids, don’t wear white until you are ready to be photographed. I made sure to put my white shirt on/change after the kids were strapped into the car seats and everything was ready to go.

Helpful Tip- There are tons of family photo color scheme collages and ideas on Pinterest. While I didn’t use one because I usually just pick out a staple item and match everything else to it, they can be very helpful.

4- Get help getting ready.

10 'Must-Do's' to Have Amazing Family Photographs

I was able to get my neighbor to watch the kids (I paid her) while I got ready. It’s difficult for me with two under three to get ready. If you are stressed when you arrive it will be difficult to enjoy the experience.

Arrange a play date or babysitter to help with small kids so you can look and feel your best.

5- Take extra outfits, diapers, and shoes for little ones.

I had a bag of an entire extra outfit (pulled from the closet) for both kids just incase of blowout, etc.

And although Denali hopped into the river and got his jeans wet, we just went forward with the shoot. If he would have slowed down, or if it was more serious (a blowout, etc.), we would’ve stopped and changed.

6- Take snacks and favorite toys to bribe young children and get them to look at the camera.

10 'Must-Do's' to Have Amazing Family Photographs

We had some fruit snacks for my son to keep him happy and Brian (our photographer) was nice enough to give Denali a Cliff Bar.

We should have brought a bell or whistle or something that made a rattling noise and had Brian rattle it to capture the attention of our 11 month-old but we got lucky and for the most part she was looking where we wanted her to.

So just in retrospect, we would’ve been better off bringing those things along.

7- If you have kids, don’t expect perfection.

I admit I was a little disappointed that my son was as wild as he normally is. I was hoping he would sit still and smile for the camera just as I had planned.

Boy was I in for a wake up call! During our session, he didn’t stop moving, was in the water and dirt, had sticks and stones and was everywhere all the time—pretty much like normal.

He LOVES the mountains and would not stop moving. When we tried to get him to slow down, change, and take his stick or rocks away, he’d cry.

10 'Must-Do's' to Have Amazing Family Photographs

Normally we are pretty strict as parents, but when you are wanting to keep a kid happy for photos you kind of lax a bit. So we did the best we could but let him run free for most of the shoot.


I was so happy when our photographer sent me the photographs. There were about 100 great photos and 30 we LOVED. Many of the ones I adore are of Denali being Denali.

It was probably one of the hardest photo sessions Brian’s had to photograph with Denali screaming and running everywhere.

10 Must-Read Steps to Amazing Family Photographs

But because we had a great professional he was able to capture him in all his glory and get the rest of us when we were ready too.

So my lesson was learned, now you can avoid it too. Don’t be like me and get discouraged if your kids are being kids. Let them be themselves and hopefully your photographer will capture their amazing individual and unique personalities. It can make for some pretty fun and humorous photos (like the one below) that you’ll cherish!

8- Suggest edits or edit photos. Print correctly.

Post processing is very important. Be communicative with your photographer about what you like or don’t like about a photo. Is there a hair stuck to your eyelash? Chances are he/she can edit it out. Is there a blemish you’d rather not see on a large printed canvas? Have them edit it out. Professional photographers can even warm up an image or change the lighting, dodge, and burn, etc.

I don’t endorse being overly picky, but if there is really something bothering you about an image you love otherwise, mention it. And check with your photographer on if you can edit the photos yourself.

On this same note, print your photographs at the highest resolution you can for larger prints. You can ruin the best photographs by taking a small file and trying to print it large. Google, or ask your photographer if you have questions on what size photograph (pixels) you need for certain sized prints.

9. Choose a location you’ll enjoy and fits your personality.

10 'Must-Do's' to Have Amazing Family Photographs

We LOVE the mountains. We feel at home in them, and it is a good representation of who we are. I love photo shoots in people’s homes, at their cabins, and at locations that mean something to them or that are unique and interesting. Ask your photographer for ideas if you can’t think of any.

10- Schedule your photography session when there is good lighting.

As a wife of a professional landscape photographer I hear about lighting ALL the time. Light is such an important aspect of a photograph.

Mornings and early evenings are great for lighting (its softer ‘sweet light’). Overcast days are also good. Try and schedule your photo shot (if possible) during the times of day when the light isn’t super intense and blaring in your face, making you squint and sweat.

Or if mornings or evenings is not at all possible, try to take your photographs in a grove of trees or some type of shade/light mix.

Further, a good portrait photographer will know when to use flash and when not to. When it got darker Brian used his flash, when the sun peaked through the cloud cover and earlier in the shoot he didn’t—another reason to hire a professional.

Finally, enjoy and share the end product—that’s the funnest part!


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Saturday 26th of November 2016

Thank you for sharing your tips! It's so important for mamas to relax during their shoot, although that takes intention. Glad you shared that! One note: a professional photographer should offer printing options as well as edit the photos themselves or have them professionally edited, and they should be well educated on correct lighting as well as file size of final images. Most professional photographers would never allow a consumer to edit images, as that is part of the final art they present to you. If they do not do these things, be sure to ask to see full galleries of completed work, and ESPECIALLY printed work. It is possible to make a few images look good for the web, but not high quality for printed images you will pass to the next generation, so make sure your investment is worth it! A good photographer studies to have correct technique both in-camera and in posing/interaction, and high-quality equipment to provide you with keepsake quality art, and doesn't rely on "flash in the pan" photoshop techniques. Research wisely: someday your kids will be so thankful to have it (even those crying pics, lol!)

Anita Fowler

Monday 28th of November 2016

You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

Shirria @ GDTH

Tuesday 13th of October 2015

You have a beautiful family. These are lovely pictures!


Tuesday 25th of April 2017

That's a wise answer to a tricky qusotien

Chelsea @ Life With My Littles

Tuesday 13th of October 2015

I love these! We did our photos on the 3rd, and we did them in a big wooded area by the hills. And I agree with so many of these tips! In the middle of our shoot, our daughter barfed on her shirt. And then the place we went was super windy and muddy. Yikes! But I got a sneak peek of one of the photos today and it turned out better than I thought! You only need one good picture, and it's totally okay if your kids are being kids! You shouldn't expect anything else!!

Anita Fowler

Wednesday 14th of October 2015

oh man! It sounds like you had a similar but worse experience than us. It is so important to be prepared and to not expect kids to not be kids-you're right. I hope you love your photos as well!