8 Tips to Getting Better Family Photos

Family photos. Most of us want them. Some of us pay a lot of money for them. Some of us spend WAY TOO MANY cycles worrying about them. I have had a lot of photos taken over the years. Some for me. Some to help friends with their businesses. I have had meltdowns. I have had 15 minute shoots because of rain. I’ve even let Laura oil me up in her backyard. So clearly I am some sort of weird professional here is what I’m saying. Today I share a little wisdom to help get more out of your family photo shoots.

staredownWM#1 Pick a time that works for EVERYONE.

Mood is the biggest factor in having a nice time at a photo shoot. This can be the difference in a happy looking family and screaming kids that won’t even look at the camera. you will save yourself SO MUCH STRESS if you look at your schedule and plan accordingly. Have little kids? Don’t let them skip nap to take photos. You are asking for disaster.

I have found that early morning works best for us. We usually do outdoor shoots and the best light is either early morning or at dusk. WE usually choose mornings because everyone is well rested and we get it out of the way. Also depending on season, dusk can encroach on dinner time…and that leads me to #2.

Special note: newborn shoots are SUPER tricky but if you have a good photographer, they are aware of this. Allow for A LOT of time here.

#2 Prepare your food arsenal.

snacksWMSNACKS. Pack a bag full of “weapons”. Do your kids have a favorite snack? Goldfish, pretzels, yogurt raisins. All small little hand held foods work. They will inevitably get tired of smiling after a few minutes and get fidgety. Don’t get upset with them. This is natural for smaller children. Their attention span is LOW. Special drinks help as well (that’s like juice boxes for us). I usually stop and say “snack break!”. We find a spot and have a handful of pretzels or fruit snacks to regear.

And if you allow some candy, pack that. I recommend using healthier snacks until towards the end when you need bribes. It’s ok. It’s one day and you would like to make the kids WANT to take pictures another time, yes? FILL THEM WITH STARBURSTS.

PRO TIP: Go for colorless juices and relatively neat snacks. You don’t want blueberry drool or smeared cheese in your picture. 

#3 Dress like yourselves

This is a little personal taste honestly but also putting kids/husbands in clothes they hate means you are going to get potentially grumps. I usually start assembling outfits based around things the kids either have or I can get for cheap quickly in their style. Buying a seersucker suit for a single photo shoot where your 18 month old would rather have diaper rash than wear that jacket does NOTHING for your shoot. He is pissed. You are tired wrangling him. And now you have a suit he will never wear. Not worth it. This also applies to spouses obviously as well. While he isn’t going to throw a tantrum, keeping him happy will help you more than anything.

PRO TIP: I usually find one thing someone owns that looks good in and build around that. I HATE people dressed alike. I play around with textures and some patterns but try to get colors and cuts that flatter everyone. 

#4 Get your spouse involved

bkWMNow I don’t have as many practical tips here because I have been blessed with an amazing picture taker partner. He has been complemented multiple times. If your photographer is very laid back (all mine have been), it’s good to get kids playing around and happy. While you are talking to the photographer, he just needs to keep some order but with fun.

Tickling them.


Taking them to the ponds to see goldfish.


Once again, if anyone is grumpy, it won’t go well. Try to make it as natural as you can and those true smiles will come out…even if it isn’t how you were planning.

PRO TIP: Husbands can be bribed too. Promise his favorite dinner and no one should be shy with sexual favors. Just sayin.

#5 Pick a fun location

Well this isn’t rocket science but pick a location you can get creative. Large spaces for kids to roam and explore are the best. In these photos we went to the J.C. Raulston arboretum and just let the kids explore. Our photographer was already familiar with the location and had ideas for where to get some shots but it was a natural progression of the exploration.

We looked for tadpoles.



Jumped off rock walls.


Once again, make it fun and your kids won’t be whining “when are we done?!” Like this one…


#6 Go with the flow

Trust your photographer. Be open to new ideas. Something may seem really silly while you are doing it but it may look awesome. Kevin said this with our wedding photos when the photographer made the groomsmen walk down the street and jump. Some of the stills were silly but when they all landed and kept walking, it was pure natural awesome. Being open to new ideas is really key. If you go in with a specific idea in your head of the perfect shot and it doesn’t really work, don’t feel defeated. Work with it. Sonja had us do a lot of just walking around and playing. Some of these candids ended up being my favorites. Getting that perfect photo of your smiling might not be what you get….it may be a collage of moments. Remember that. I plan to do like a set of smaller canvases together vs that ONE family photo.

sideeyeollieWM smileymomWM ollierunWM


#7 Stop making excuses

This is about photos in general. I am mostly talking to the moms here. Stop saying you are too fat to take photos. My friend Teresa (see what i did there?) put this beautifully years ago that went viral after she was in a horrible car crash. Stop putting off photos of you and your family. When you are 70 and look back, you aren’t going to nit pick your muffin top, you are going to see how happy you were. How small your babies were. Get over the self doubt and that gorgeous smile will come out and shine. Even in some of these photos I can spy imperfections like anyone but I look up and see a smile. That’s what matters.


#8 Pick a photographer that fits y’all

I got lucky in my years of finding friends who do photography but in retrospect, I think this was major in having good shoots. Having a report with a photographer is HUGE. They can read your parenting style and even gather how to get your kids to smile. Laura carries smarties and a stuffed lion who is always messing around. Mandy had special “friends” to help make them warm up to her. Sonja made Landon look for the secret animal in her camera the whole shoot until the end. It was the little things that made those eyes of wonder open up and those kids laugh and put us all at ease.



Hopefully this will take off some headache of your next shoot. Have fun…watch what happens.


Thanks to Sonja Lombard for the inspiration behind this post as well as all the pictures. She is starting her photography business here in the Triangle and she is fabulous. She was very creative in getting us all to open up and try all kinds of kooky things. She also has an adorable South African accent. 🙂 THANK YOU SONJA!

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