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Family photography sessions: the Do's and Don'ts

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

With fall quickly approaching, it's time to start planning for your annual family photos, and if you're anything like a normal human being, this thought may stress you out a bit. But it doesn't have to! Over the years I have devised the ultimate guide of tips and tricks to help you plan for a great session.

How do I dress my family for a photography session?

Probably the most common question I get is what to wear to your family photo shoot. Well, there are about a million answers! So I've compiled the simplest answers in a list of do's of don'ts.

Styling your family


  • Coordinate outfits (as opposed to matchy matchy): i.e your shirt and your kiddos pants are the same color, his tie matches her dress etc. This is easy to to achieve if you stick to neutral tones. Though with holiday images (particularly for festive cards), colorful clothing can be a must.

  • Consider what these images are being used for. Will they go on your wall? Maybe neutral is best. Is it for a card? I love pops of red on mine! Thinking this way will help you visualize what you'd like best.

  • Classic styles over trendy ones. You'll want to love these photos 30 years from now, not focus on that awful owl necklace you thought was cute in 2016. Classic style makes for timeless images.

  • Plan ahead of time! Throwing everyone's outfits together at last minute can be a disaster. This also includes hair cuts (fresh bangs sometimes need a couple weeks), and cosmetic procedures (peels, botox, and filler all require at least a couple weeks post appointment).


  • Fine stripes can appear strange in digital imagery so avoid them.

  • Don't dress inappropriately for the current weather. This mostly applies to children. If it's cold and your toddler is in a sundress, welp, it's not going to go well. Similarly, if it's 90 degrees out and you're all in wool sweaters...things can get heated. See what I did there?

  • Don't force unwanted outfits. If your kid or spouse absolutely cannot stand the outfit you chose for them, let it go, it will be worth it.

  • Poorly fitted clothing. This goes for everyone. It is unflattering on adults, and very frustrating to children.

  • High maintenance clothing: if your toddler's collar is constantly needing to be fixed, or if we have to tuck in a bra strap throughout, that's a lot of great potential shots I'm missing.

  • Apple watches. No I won't elaborate.

  • Hair ties on wrists

  • Sunglasses

  • Visible diapers & underwear -make sure diapers are covered completely by outfit or by bloomers.

How do I prepare my family for a photography session?

It's important that your family isn't miserable the whole time, so prepare them with the right mindset and all will (almost certainly) go well! Some things will always be out of our control but we can do our best to prevent frowns and meltdowns.

Prepping the family


  • Be optimistic when you tell your family about the upcoming shoot. Your attitude will set the tone of what to expect. Speak as if it's a play date you and your children can look forward to. If your older child or spouse doesn't love photo shoots, sincerely express how meaningful it is to you and they will likely lighten up a bit.

  • Schedule at a convenient time for your family. Sure, sunset is a beautiful time to shoot, but if it's also your toddler's bedtime then we should likely schedule earlier.

  • Have realistic expectations. Babies cry, toddlers run, kids make funny faces. It's life! Embrace the phases and capture your family as they are.


  • Don't pre-bribe the children! I repeat DO NOT PRE BRIBE YOUR CHILDREN. The younger they are, the more this applies. If you tell a 3 yr old they can have ice cream after they smile (over and over) they may freak out within the first 5 minutes. However, if you wait until during the session, the mention of ice cream after the shoot can be highly motivating.

  • Don't threaten anything! Threats won't work. If you are upset then kiddos will reflect your mood. If they're being silly etc just calm down, I promise the pics are going to be great! Let me do the manipulating, I've got tricks up my sleeve!

It's the day of my photo shoot, what to do?

You can do a number a things the day of your session that will help it move along smoothly. Let's go over the most important things I have observed over the years.


  • Feed the family beforehand (and before you dress them!). Hungry kids are not happy kids. This goes for parents too!

  • Bring water. It's a must!

  • Know exactly where you're going! Double check location and plan ahead for parking/walking etc.

  • Relax and keep smiling! Let me handle the fam. I can't tell you how many times we've finally gotten a smile out a difficult or silly kiddo, meanwhile mom and dad are visibly snarling.


  • Don't be late! Particularly for mini sessions. Running late for a private session is generally fine, but with minis your photographer likely has another session booked after yours. Additionally, being late is never good for stress levels.

  • Don't worry! With all these tips and tricks we are gonna have a great time!

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