How to Get Ready for a Family Photoshoot

June 18, 2019  •  1 Comment

How to Get Ready for a Family Photoshoot | Photos by CherylPhotos by Cheryl - How to Get Ready for a Family Photoshoot

If you’re reading this and have already hired me as your professional photographer for your family photos, let me be the first to tell you: I am so excited to work with you! Photographing families is my greatest joy, and it is an honour to help you create and document memories that will last you a lifetime.

This post will help everyone—and I mean everyone—feel completely ready for your family photo session. Photos will always be the most meaningful art you own, and I want your experience to be the very best one! 

For the record, your only job the day of the family portrait session is to relax, be yourself, and enjoy your time spent with your family. I’ll take care of the rest!

How to Choose a Location

Choosing the location for your family photo session is entirely up to you. If you’re still stumped or looking for ideas, I have expressed my favourite places for shooting outdoors, which you can read about in my previous blog post.

If you have a specific location in mind for the session, I can’t wait to hear about it! Perhaps there’s a personal story attached to it (something I always love receiving from my clients!). Or maybe you have special access to a location that others do not.

If you’re not at all sure where you’d like to have your session, then no worries. We can decide together on the best spot for your family.

What to Wear for Your Family Photoshoot

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get from clients is, “What should we wear?” It’s no wonder! Your family photos are not just any photos you can take on your phone—they are an investment, one that you will definitely have to spend some time and money on. Besides adorning the walls of your home, and maybe putting into your Christmas cards, these photos will be passed down for generations to come. So I definitely understand why you want to look your best!

I’ve compiled the following tips on what to wear. Hopefully these will help you feel less overwhelmed when it comes to selecting your wardrobe for the session. Keep in mind that these are all ideas and not exact rules—you do not have to follow them exactly, or even follow any of them. But if you’re looking for inspiration or feel stuck, then perhaps these can help.

Styling Tips for the Entire Family

I often encourage mom to figure out her outfit first, and then build out the rest of the family’s clothing from there. My number one tip is, find something that makes you feel beautiful! If you feel good about what you’re wearing, that feeling will shine out in your photos. Being both confident and comfortable makes a huge difference in how we feel and how relaxed we are in front of the camera.

Styling Tips for Mom

Don’t be afraid to dress up, mom! Dresses are the most flattering clothing for women and they photograph beautifully. Dresses with a sense of movement and flow add an extra touch of grace and elegance to your photos! Consider picking a dress with softer fabrics for an extra romantic and classy feel.

Adding a statement accessory or two is a great way to finish off the look. If you’re looking for a way to tie in your colour palette or to give a finishing touch to your outfit, statement accessories are always a win!

Styling Tips for Dad

Chinos and button-up shirts or henleys make dad look sharp, masculine, and tailored in family photos. Keep in mind that fitted slacks, khakis, or jeans look the most put together and photograph the best.

Dad, go ahead and mix it up by adding a blazer, sport coat, or vest. This is a great way to layer and add colour or additional texture, giving dad’s outfit a nice handsome finish.

Styling Tips for the Kids

For the girls, dresses and skirts are usually a go-to, especially for those fun twirling pictures! Boys look fantastic in slacks, button-ups, or henleys just like dad. Little touches like hair accessories, bow ties, and suspenders can add the perfect finishing touch to your photos.

I always recommend you get the kids to try on their clothes ahead of time to make sure their clothing fits and they’re comfortable in their outfits. This will save a lot of headaches on picture day!

Coordination & Colours

There is this old idea still floating around that everyone in the picture needs to match. This is an old-fashioned idea that’s just not true! Choose colours that go well together, but don’t fall into the trap that you all need to wear the exact same outfit or colour. Coordinating your outfits is way better than matching. Your photos will look far more interesting with some variation!

Consider your home decor. You’ll want to consider its style when picking out what to wear for your family photos. Since a few of these photos will most likely be hanging in your home and on display for a long time, make sure the clothing you select blends in seamlessly with your home’s colour scheme.

I always recommend having at least three core colours in your palette. After you’ve selected your own outfit, take a look at the accent colours in it, and use those to tie in the outfits of everyone else. Make things interesting by keeping each person’s primary colour different. For example, if you’re wearing a cream dress with blush accents/accessories, and brown leather shoes (with your primary colour being cream), your husband could wear navy slacks with a simple cream or blue shirt and tan blazer (his primary colour being tan); one child could wear a blush dress with cream accents, and another could wear khaki slacks with a cream shirt and navy vest.

Wardrobe Colour Guide

Wardrobe colour guide for styling in family photos. Photos by Cheryl.Photos by Cheryl - Wardrobe colour guide for family photo outfits

Finishing the Look

Once you’ve settled on each person’s outfits, you can now start thinking about how to finish the look. Keep in mind that layers and accessories will always give you the most complete look!

For the girls, consider adding a statement scarf, necklace, or hair piece. For the boys, consider adding accessories such as a vest, jacket, belt, hat, suspenders, ties, or bow ties. These are all simple but perfect ways to add a perfect finishing touch to your family photos.

Planning for Success: Prepping the Little Ones

Before your family photo session, pack a bag with snacks, water, and any special toys the kids might need in case they’re feeling extra shy. Most of the time, it’s best that they don’t know you have these on hand so that we only have to get them out if necessary. If the kids are old enough to understand, it’s a good idea to prepare them for the session by explaining what we’ll be doing. Be sure to include telling them we’ll be having fun!

Having an empty stomach can cause your nerves to act up, so making sure everyone has a snack ahead of time is a great idea! A lot of families discuss a fun activity or treat to have together after pictures are done too!  

Once you’ve prepared the little ones physically and mentally, feel free to give them (and yourself) grace. Little kids are who they are, and I know some days don’t go as you originally planned. I really have seen it all, so please don’t panic if your kids aren’t doing what you want them to do...I know just how to get the shots I’m after, and have complete confidence we will get great photos. My goal is always to make this as stress-free and fun as possible for you and your family!

Planning for Success: Prepping Dad

Let’s be honest...when it comes to having their photo taken, most guys could think of a thousand things they’d rather be doing. But something I’ve found is for most of them, the stress of pictures comes from high expectations, the stress of the experience, and the worry about not doing it ‘right’.

It’s time to put dad at ease. Let him know that the best thing he can do is just enjoy his family—and let me do the work. The pressure is off. Let him know how much this means to you, and that you’re glad he’s willing to be such a team player for an hour! And of course, keep in mind that feeling rested and well-fed applies to the grown-ups, too!

Planning for Success: Prepping Yourself 

I know how important these photos are to you! The best advice I can give you is to let go of your need for perfection. This is the biggest anxiety for most moms. It’s okay if your kids aren’t ‘perfect’ during our time together. Remember that I’m very used to working with children, and I’m most likely getting photos, glances, and smiles you aren’t even seeing.

Be sure to give yourself enough time to prepare on session day so you don’t feel rushed and anxious. Your family will follow your lead, so being as relaxed as you possibly can will set the tone for everyone having a great time!

Your Portrait Session Checklist

  • Select outfits and accessories

Pack a bag with the following:

  • Comfy shoes for walking in between spots
  • Snacks for the kids that won’t stain
  • Makeup for touch-ups
  • Tissues for runny noses
  • Comfort toys
  • Extra diapers and wipes

Final Thoughts

I know I’ve given you so much to think about. Remember, in spite of everything else, the most important thing is to just enjoy your family. Let this be a time you have fun with each other, tell silly stories, and laugh a lot! At the end of the day, it won’t matter nearly as much if you were having a bad hair day, if the location was perfect or not, or if your kids weren’t listening to your every word. You will look back on these photos and remember those fleeting moments, and how quickly they went. I’m so honoured to document this precious time for you!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any other questions as you prepare for your family photo session!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Photos by Cheryl and a clickable link back to this page.


Josh N Photography(non-registered)
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