A happy family of five, with three young boys, laughing and playing with soap bubbles during an outdoor photoshoot.

11 Family Photo Shoot Tips for a Great Session

March 8, 2024

Planning for a professional family photoshoot can feel like a lot of work. However, these family photo shoot tips can help you properly prepare!

As an Arizona family photographer, I’ve had the joy of photographing many incredible families through the years, all with various ages. I’ve learned a thing or two from my experience, and in this post, I want to share what I’ve learned with you so that you can have the most unforgettable family session. 

Keep reading to learn all about my best family photo shoot tips. 

Family Photo Shoot Tips

Plan outfits ahead of time to avoid extra stress

A family of four, including a teen girl, a young adopted girl, and their parents, posing with smiles in front of a concrete wall.

This one may seem simple, but plan your outfits ahead of time, and don’t wait until the last minute and stress yourself out. As a family, I’m sure you know – unexpected moments happen!

Planning ahead allows you to account for any potential mishaps, like clothing malfunctions, a shirt being too itchy, or anything else, while alleviating last-minute panic. 

Give kids choices of what to wear

Going along the topic of planning ahead, a great family photography tip is to give kids choices of what to wear. Maybe have two coordinating outfits already picked out to show them and make it seem like it’s their decision. 

Involving children in the decision-making process of something as simple as outfit selection is not only empowering, but it can also help them feel a lot more excited for the family session itself. When kids are given the freedom to choose what to wear, it also fosters a sense of ownership, which can translate into enthusiasm during the session.

Your children’s choices can also reflect their unique personalities, which can add an authentic quality to your family photos. Your kids will look back on the session photos in the future, remembering how they were able to pick their own outfits!

Do the best you can

A family dressed in semi-formal attire with a toddler girl looking curiously at her parents in a holiday-themed setting.

Let’s be honest: getting families ready can be chaotic! Don’t stress, and just do the best that you can. Don’t fight with your kids; it’s great to just get them there.

Stressing over every little detail can take away from the enjoyableness of a family session. Understand that not everything will go perfectly… and that’s okay! Remember, the aim is to photograph real, candid moments of your family, and sometimes, amidst chaos and imperfections, the most beautiful and genuine moments are created.

Your photographer can help with kids cooperating

A family photography session is intended to be a joyful occasion, showcasing your family at this specific moment in time. If your children are having a hard time cooperating, remember that as a professional family photographer, I’m here to help!

I have experience in engaging children and making them feel comfortable in front of the camera, especially with my history of being a teacher. I can utilize various tricks and strategies, like turning the session into a fun game or incorporating a toy to keep them interested and focused.

The goal here is to ensure that even the youngest family members at least somewhat enjoy the experience while we photograph the moments of laughter and connection between the family.

It’s okay to let your child bring their favorite toy

A joyful young girl with blonde hair wearing a blue dress and sandals playing with soap bubbles in a desert garden setting.

To help your children feel comfortable (and encourage their cooperation), you can let your children bring their favorite toy. Toys can really provide a sense of familiarity in an unfamiliar environment to them, even if your session location is a place that you have visited before. They can help to soothe any discomfort that your child may start to feel.

A toy can also serve as a subtle (and sometimes, much-needed) distraction during moments of restlessness or impatience. Having a child’s favorite toy in a photo can also add that extra layer of authenticity, showcasing your child’s interests and personality at this particular stage of their life.

Whether it’s a teddy bear, a well-loved blanket, a superhero action figure, or something in between, don’t hesitate to let them bring it along.

Bring snacks if you have to

Even adults know how much a snack is needed! Bringing snacks is one of the oldest family photo shoot tips out there. It’s not only acceptable, but it can also be a clever strategy for managing young children’s behavior and mood.

The “first…then” concept can be a great tool to use during your session. For example, you might tell your child, “First, we take a few pictures, then you can have a snack.” This approach offers a reward for their patience and cooperation, which can be a great incentive for them.

It’s important to remember that this is not about creating a “bribe” for your child but rather creating a positive association with the experience for them. Pack those (preferably) non-messy snacks and use them as a useful tool to ensure a great photo session!

Have fun picking the location

A family of four walking hand in hand, smiling during a sunny outdoor photoshoot with desert flora in the background.

Choosing the right location for your family photo shoot is crucial as it sets the tone and backdrop for your images. It should be a place that resonates with your family in particular.

As an Arizona photographer, I’m fortunate enough to have photographed families at a wide range of stunning locations in the Mesa/Phoenix area, from the breathtaking desert landscapes to the vibrant sunsets to even quirkier urban settings and tranquil parks. 

Whether you prefer the serene beauty of Arizona’s desert landscapes or you’d rather have something else, I can suggest a variety of locations. Just let me know what you’re thinking!

Pay attention to timing

The time of day can significantly change your photos. Lighting plays a pretty big role in photography, and the sun’s position can alter the mood and quality of your images.

Golden hour, which is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, is always a good option. (Arizona sunsets, in particular, are truly breathtaking.) During these times, the sun is often softer and warmer, which can create a nice glow in images.

Aiming for early morning or late afternoon can easily give your photos that magical, golden touch. 

Although golden hour and sunrise are the best time of day for that golden light, we can take pictures almost anytime, depending on location. If you need a different time of day, I can help you with what location best fits your timing. It could mean we rent a studio, go to an urban area where there are buildings and shade, or a greenbelt with shaded areas. We will make it work for you! 

Be yourself, but bring the energy

A portrait of a family of three with a redhead child sitting on her father's shoulders, all sharing a laugh against a backdrop of greenery.

Remember to be yourself during your session, but bring the energy. This is one of the best tips for family photo shoots. This doesn’t mean that you have to be overly animated or even step out of your comfort zone (getting in front of a camera can be uncomfortable enough!), but rather just engage with the moment.

Your enthusiasm and joy with your family will reflect directly in your photos. Laugh out loud, interact with your family, and don’t shy away from showing your true emotions in these moments.

Incorporate activities

Incorporating activities during a family session can add a playful element. Instead of posing (which I know can be uncomfortable), engaging in an activity can allow for more candid and natural interactions. This could be anything from a playful hike on a trail, reading your favorite book together, or even having a picnic set up.

The goal is to photograph genuine moments and activities that not only help in creating authentic photos but can also make them feel more like a fun family outing than a choreographed event.

Embrace the imperfections

A family of four sitting together laughing, with two young boys in their parents' embrace, during a festive Christmas tree shopping trip.

Embracing imperfections during a family session can often lead to the most genuine and heartfelt moments. Truly, it tends to be those little quirks and unexpected moments (mixed with the occasional chaos) that reflect family life most accurately.

Maybe it’s the way your toddler’s hair never says in place or how your teen can’t help but pull goofy faces. These are unique traits that add such a genuine, imperfect touch to your photos that you’ll really cherish for years to come.

Definitely let go of the idea of “picture perfect.” Instead, embrace the imperfect moments.

Final Thoughts: Tips for Family Photo Shoot

I hope you enjoyed learning all about these family photo shoot tips. Truly, no number of tips will ever help you feel entirely prepared, but hopefully, these have put you a bit at ease as you get ready for your family session.

Remember to be yourselves and bring the energy, embrace imperfections, and incorporate activities that allow for more natural and comfortable interactions between all of you. These are the moments that truly reflect family life!

With these tips in mind, your next family photo session is sure to be a memorable one. To learn more about the family sessions that I offer in Arizona, click here.

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