10 Tips for Making a Family Session Amazing (Part One)

I love, love, love photographing families. Creating connections between moms and dads and their kids, it's so much fun. If there's one thing, though, that can be a downer for a photo session, it's when families don't know what to expect and are ill-prepared for their session. Boo.

Empowering my clients to make good, educated choices before, during and after our shoot translate into better images and happier clients. When my clients are happy, I am extra happy- like cherry on top of ice cream kind of happy.

Folks don't always know what's best when preparing for a photo session. Like any other area of specialty, we only know what we've been told or what we're read. Photographers are pros in the area of taking pictures- we know this. They know what you likely don't know, thus why hiring a pro is valuable for creating timeless pictures of your unique family.

So allow me to give you 10 tips for making a family session successful! After this post you can consider yourself a pro in getting ready for your time in the spot light. #uptop

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#1 - Fill out the questionnaire

This is #1 because it's literally the #1 one thing you can do to make your session 100% better!

Completing the questionnaire is like giving me all the cliff notes to knowing your family.

  • Sister is a drama queen.
  • Brother is introverted.
  • Mama loves to read with the kids.
  • The kids love it when daddy wrestles with them.
  • Little brother has a lovey that he never leaves home without lest said lovey be lonely and sad without him.

This allows me to get to know y'all, which translates into a more relaxed session, which creates more authentic pictures, which allows you to look back and remember for years to come.

These details also help me interact with your family. If baby sister is shy, I'm going to approach her totally different than rambunctious, talkative big sister. I need to earn their trust to capture sincere moments. Filling out the questionnaire is designed to do just that!

So, do it. Please. You'll be so thrilled you did. Trust me.

#2 - Tell your kids (and husband!) what's going to happen

The next helpful thing you can do to have a successful photo session is to tell your kids and husband what's going to happen. Not sure? Lemme answer that for ya.

FUN! We're gonna have fun! That's my goal. If the whole family isn't having fun, it will show in the pictures.

Family Fun

So prepare them to meet this fun lady named Jenn who's coming to hang out and play and dance and sing, all the while taking pictures for your family. They may even get to jump on the bed! #winning

This is actually more helpful than you may think. Lots of people (especially men-folk) think taking photos is a chore. And, sure, you gotta get ready. You want to look nice. I can't get your family out of that one, but the rest isn't a pain and is actually a lot of fun!

Happy Parents To-Be

When we choose a location together, I'm taking into account your family's style and tastes. If you love being outdoors and hiking, then we'll take a hike or a nice walk. If you love reading and playing music, then we'll have a home session and take photos doing what you love (my personal favorite). If you like going to the park, then we'll go play at the park (dads like this one too).

We'll still get a few posed photos cause, Mama, I know you have goals for this session, and those are top priority. But who says we can't have fun and laugh even when we're trying to sit down for a quick family shot. (Pst! That's another example of when filling out the questionnaire helps me.)

Family Fun

#3 - Have full bellies and be well rested

It’s simple. Children, even the older ones, are much more agreeable when they're not acting like they haven't eaten in three days. Feed those babies and teenagers for the love.

If our session lands post-nap, don't stress about getting the littles ready. They need their naps more. We'll all thank you. Aim to put them down for a nap a little earlier or right on time.

Make sure all their things are ready so that when they wake up, their snack is good to go and afterward they can get dressed.

If I'm shooting an in-home session, I enjoy getting there a bit early to scope things out and snap a few getting ready photos!

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#4 - Choose your clothes carefully

This one requires help, especially if you're not color savvy, but even if you are, you still need encouragement because coordinating a family's wardrobe can be tricky. 

Certain colors coordinate better than others (think color wheel), and I want to make sure your family looks their best (even in casual clothes and bare feet). This one thing can turn a photo session from "Ehh, okay" to "Whoa! Shut the front door."

What to Wear

And that's where I come in! I'll give you a fantastic Style Guide to use in choosing colors and clothes. We'll talk color schemes and outfits, shoes and bows, you name it.

The guide covers the basics of color, including the color wheel, how choosing complimentary colors works beautifully in photos and what  things to avoid when styling your family.

One caveat: please don't buy new clothes for our photo session, unless you have the budget for it, then it's totally cool.

My Style Guide will encourage you. I even request that you take a photo of your outfits and text them to me for feedback. I'm here for you. This is part of what you're paying for with Jennifer Sue Photography!

Last thing about getting clothes ready: don't wait until the morning our session. No one ever wins when mama is running around like a chicken with her head cut off frantically trying to get everyone dressed. Which brings us to our next point...

#5 - Give yourself extra time to get ready

Do not, under any circumstances, wait until the last minute to choose clothes and get ready.

This is classic procrastination because maybe you had a busy week and now you're late for your photo session and go figure cause all you wanted was professional pictures of your growing family and you forgot sister's headband that went perfectly with her dress and brother won't stop screaming because you didn't have time to feed him a snack...

Night. Mare.

So, lemme help!

  1. Choose clothes AT LEAST two days before the shoot (Text Jenn for feedback.)
  2. Make sure planned clothes are set aside in closets so they don't get worn.
  3. Choose hair accessories for the girly-girls, if wanted.
  4. Don't forget bubba's bow-tie if we're dressing this thang up.
  5. Night before:
    • If a location session: Grab any props (books, lovies, fav blanket, activity if planned- more on this in part two) and food (easy, mess-free snacks for the littles, water) as well as wipes and spare clothes for the youngest of kids. Put these things in a bag and place it next to the front door.
    • If an in-home session: Pick up clutter. DO. NOT. CLEAN.
  6. Day of:
    • Mama, get ready first.
    • Dad, feed the little monsters before they get dressed and while mom gets ready.
    • Mama, once you're ready, dress your littles and/or have your bigs put their clothes on.
    • Dad, get ready, yo. (I know some dads who take longer than the moms to get ready. If your family is one of these families, God bless you, and let pops get ready first.)
    • Mama, do the kids' hair and brush teeth.
    • If location session, get shoes on.

If you're still getting ready when I arrive for an in-home session, I'll just jump right in!

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Alrighty, y'all! That's it for Part One! Head on over here for part two of how to create an amazing family session.

I really hope these posts help you when getting ready for your family session! It truly is my joy to photograph families.