Family Photo Session: How to Prepare | St. Louis Photographer

It’s that time of year again, time for your yearly family photo session. Even though you might have one every year, it is a stressful event that causes some sleepless nights.

As a photographer and a mom, I have been on both sides of this yearly tradition. I am hoping this article will help answer your questions as well as give you a bit of advice to make your session run smoothly… or as smoothly as possible.

I have come up with 6 tips

  1. Timing – choose a time when all the people being photographed will be happy and well rested. As photographers, we know the best time of day for taking photos but you are the one who knows your family’s schedule best. Consider naptimes and meal times. Trust me, I would rather schedule a session at a less that ideal time than have tired, hungry, cranky kiddos at the best time. It’s my job to get good photos no matter what the time of day.
  2. What to bring – what to they say about Murphy’s Law? If something can go wrong, it will. From my experience, bringing the following items to your session can be a real lifesaver: enough water (or other beverage) for every person being photographed for at least 1 hour, bug spray, hairbrush/comb, snacks (you would be surprised how hungry taking photographs is for kiddos), baby wipes, something to keep kiddos entertained when they have some down time.
  3. Bribes… I mean Incentives – If children are being photographed, I encourage you to bring something to the session that kiddos love, small, non-messy candy works really well. These incentives work great to get kiddos to cooperate “in the moment”. Along those same lines, I really encourage you to plan something special for after the shoot such as letting the kiddos play at the park’s playground or going for ice cream. When kids can be reminded of the fun they are going to have when the shoot is finished, they tend to be more cooperative so they can get finished more quickly.
  4. Preparing the kids – I am a parent and know how stressful it is to want the “perfect” family photo. In an effort to “prepare” our kids, we explain how important the session is and tell them that they need to behave and do what the photographer asks them to do. While we do want them to behave, we have to be careful not to transfer our stress to them. Stressed kids are so hard to photograph. My job is to capture your family, the special bond you share. It’s really hard to do when everyone is so stressed. I would love if you would tell your kids that they are going to have fun with a photographer who is going to tell jokes, be silly, and do almost anything else (including using potty humor) to make them laugh and have fun. I want everyone to forget I am there and that’s hard to do when the kids are feeling pressure.
  5. Trust Me, let me lead – this tip goes along with the tip above. During the shoot, it’s my job to get your kids to loosen up and have fun. I have tons of tricks up my sleeve to help with this. If you are constantly telling them to “smile” you are likely to get the exact opposite from them. No, your kids might not smile in every photo but I promise, if you let me get everyone warmed up, I will get them to smile and even better I will capture those authentic expressions you love.
  6. “What Should We Wear?” – I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten this question. Obviously, this is ultimately your decision but I do have some suggestions.
    • Wear what makes you look and feel great.
    • Make sure the clothing fits well. If the clothing is too baggy, it could gape awkwardly.
    • Consider the location of the shoot – park, museum, formal event – wearing a cocktail dress to a park may not be the best “fit”.
    • I prefer family members “coordinate” not “match”. For example, I don’t suggest everyone wear the same color shirt. Think about colors that coordinate. Pinterest is a great resource here. I have a Pinterest page where I have “Pinned” several articles about what to wear.
    • The following do not photograph well – neon colors (including the color fuschia); clothing with very small, repeating patterns; clothing with very large patterns/prints, clothing with lots of skinny stripes.
    • Avoid clothing with characters on them. Think about whether you will want to look at a photo of your son with a Sponge Bob Square Pants shirt on hanging above your fireplace in 5 years.
    • Think “Classic” – solid colors, subtle patterns, subtle stripes, etc.

I really hope this information has been helpful for you. If you have any questions before your session, just let me know and I will be happy to help!



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Kerie Griggs is a natural light photographer located in the St. Louis, MO area. She loves working with families to ensure their memories are captured and treasured.

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