Let’s face it…planning a family photo session can be challenging. Not to worry. I’m here to help. Over the years of photographing families, I’ve come up with some simple tips to ensure you have a fun and successful family photo session.
Okay. I know that sounds obvious, but this is important, especially with younger kids. If your child still naps, make sure you put her down with plenty of time to allow a full nap AND extra time to get her fed and ready. Skipping nap time is a recipe for disaster. We all know that hungry and/or tired kids are cranky and not likely to smile happily for family photos.
Pack a small snack (one that isn’t messy please), and water, just in case your child gets hungry or thirsty in the middle of your session, or needs a quick break.
Clothing choices can have a huge impact on how much you love your family photos. Don’t wait until a few days before to choose clothing or have your kids try on an outfit or shoes, only to discover the dress you’ve been dreaming to see your daughter in doesn’t fit, or your son’s shoes are too tight. I can’t stress enough how important it is that your children feel comfortable in their clothing AND are agreeable to the outfits you’ve selected. In fact, I recommend that you include your child in the process as much as possible. If you’re daughter hates dresses, don’t try to force her to wear one and then expect her to feel happy during your session.
When you book a session with me, I’ll provide plenty of guidance in choosing clothing that will photograph well and reflect your personality. I’ll also share my Wardrobe Inspire Guide with lots of great do’s and don’ts. Or you can browse my blog for tips on what to wear, including:
Most important, I recommend moms choose an outfit they feel comfortable and beautiful in since when you feel good, you look your best.
Need a little inspiration? You can also check out my Pinterest Board Here.
If you have a baby or toddler, I also recommend bringing along a back up outfit, just in case! Occasionally things happen, so if your spirited son takes a small spill in the dirt, you’ll be thankful you brought a back-up pair of pants.
Talk to your kids in advance to prepare them for your session. For younger kids, tell them you are going meet a friend at the park who will take your pictures. Assure them that they will have fun and get to play some games in the process.
If you have a child who is especially shy or anxious around strangers make your photographer aware of this before your session. It may help to take a look at my About page with your child to see a few photos of me and my family so she can put a face to your photographer before we meet.
Think about the activities that your family enjoys together. If your toddler has a favorite book or small toy she loves to carry with her, bring it along. Having an activity to do together will not only help you relax and forget about the camera, but it also allows me to capture storytelling images of your family’s favorite pastimes. Activities help engage little ones, and bring out authentic smiles.
For older kids, playing catch, piggy back rides, races, hiking, and dancing, are great activities that allow children to have fun and be themselves. I can capture beautiful and authentic photos when kids are doing what they love.
Every child is different. Some are slower to warm up, while others are a ball of energy. However your child shows up is OK! I promise. Let go of any worries about them acting wild or misbehaving and do your best to just go with the flow.
I find sessions go best when parents allow me to direct their kids and follow my prompts and directions. When parents focus on interacting with their kids, rather than telling them what to do or not do, kids are happier and more relaxed and this results in images that parents love.
If your child wants to wander and pick up a pretty leaf off the ground, let him. But if your toddler just wants to be in your arms, that’s okay too. I’ll capture her sweet cuddles with you.
This may be the hardest tip to embrace. But I think it’s one of the most important tips to a successful family photo session. I get it. You want everything to be perfect. I do too! But the truth is that no matter how carefully we plan, we can’t control how everything will go. Kids and babies have off days, even when they’ve been fed and are well-rested. Maybe little Jack just doesn’t feel like looking or smiling at the camera. When this happens, some parents get overly anxious and start to issue commands to their kids to “smile, or else….” Kids pick up on this so quickly. Trust me. This will NEVER lead to happy smiles.
The best thing you can do when this happens is to take a deep breath and trust me to see and capture the beauty in your family’s moments.
Why did you book your family photo session? Was it to get family photos for a holiday card? Sure, that might be one reason, but hopefully it’s not your main reason. If you’ve chosen me to photograph your family, you’re NOT looking for stiff smiles or perfect Pinterest poses that aren’t true to who you are as family. You want photos that capture your family’s love and connection and essence. You want images that will evoke emotion, and trigger a memory of how life in that moment felt. You want photos that will become family heirlooms. So remember that when little Johnny starts to cry and try not to stress. Close your eyes and let your baby bury his head against you. Remember that those tender moments of motherhood are worth capturing too, not just the wide-eyed joyful ones. As your photographer, I’ll capture all of the emotions–whether it’s you and your family giggling or your husband comforting your crying baby. Because those moments reflect your family and tell your story.
Yes. I mean really look at them. Breathe them in like the first time your baby was placed in your arms. Hug them and kiss them. Think of how much you love them, even if they’re not cooperating. In fact, even when they’re not cooperating, keep smiling.
When parents’ eyes are on their children, they give the most natural, relaxed and beautiful smiles. As a mom, I cherish these types of images the most and I hope you will too because they portray your family’s connection and love.
Remember, not everyone has to be looking at the camera at the same time in every image. In fact, if you’ve hired me for a lifestyle family session, you know this is not the goal of your session. The goal is to interact with your loved ones.
You got your family dressed and ready and arrived on time for your session. Congratulations! I know it isn’t easy. Now it’s time to relax, have fun and enjoy spending time with your loved ones. Let me do all the work. Hey, that’s why you hired me. 🥰
I’ll handle all the directing and if your toddler needs some time to run around, no problem. I’ll capture a few shots of you and your spouse. I find that giving kids a few moments to explore, while I focus on other family members often makes them want to be part of the picture.
We’ll play games and I’ll guide you into genuine interactions with your family. You’ll snuggle, hold hands, laugh, play, give hugs and kisses, and tickle your children. I’ll show you that your children and your family are beautiful, just as you are!
I hope these tips for a successful family photo session were helpful! Want to learn more about a family portrait session with me? You might enjoy reading my Session FAQ.
Ready to book your family session? Get in touch HERE! We’ll schedule a time to chat.
Winner of the Westfield Area Most Loved Family Photographer award by Hulafrog two years in a row, Debbie Camba Photography is a New Jersey Family Photographer based in Scotch Plains. She specializes in capturing candid and meaningful moments that reflect the love and wonder of childhood and family life.
Debbie photographs families outdoors and in homes throughout Scotch Plains, Westfield, Mountainside, Cranford, Summit, Basking Ridge and the surrounding area, including Somerset County, Morris County and Middlesex County. She is available in other locations upon request.
Debbie was awarded Master Photographer Certifications by the National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP) for demonstrating excellence in the craft of child and family photography.