How to Survive Family Photo Day

While photoshoots are kind of the norm for our household, coordinating a shoot that includes the whole family is an entirely different beast. These days, most people are moving away from the staged studio shoots and going more for candid lifestyle shoots. And while this type of shoot may capture more of your family’s real personalities, they are a lot harder to plan.

In this post, I want to share some tips based on things that I do for work photoshoots that might help get your family on board and make your all preparations go smoothly, so that you can get the fun candid shots that you want with less stress! Also, check out my earlier post on how to put together coordinating outfits for the whole family!

  • Location: Do you want dark fall colors or bright summer colors? City streets? Steps to sit on? A bridge? A field? A tree farm? Planning ahead and deciding what season and/or vibe you want for your photos is step one in the planning process. Look for areas close to home with lots of trees and a fun walking trail, or plan a trip to downtown for a more urban vibe. You will also want to plan for any props that you might want in your photos. Some photographers have props included in their packages, but many don’t, and if you want something specific, you will have to bring that yourself. That being said- KEEP IT SIMPLE. Stick with one or two things, like a few wooden crates to sit on, or a blanket and picnic basket. The last thing you want to do is have to load your car with a ton of large props and then haul them around the shoot location.

  • Make a shot list: Having a list of photos you want to reference helps cut down on shoot time, and helps ensure that in all the chaos you don’t forget to get a specific shot you wanted. I find that using Pinterest to create a mood board helps give me inspiration for what kind of lighting, poses and outfits I like, and it is also a great tool to share with your photographer so they know exactly what look you’re trying to achieve.

The photos I usually want are: - Full family (both sitting and standing options) - All the siblings together - Each child on their own - Mom and Dad (and/or spouses) together - Mom with all of the kids - Dad with all of the kids

*Always ask for both a horizontal and vertical shot of the entire family so that you have the option to design a vertical or horizontal holiday card, or if you have specific frames you want to put the photos in.

  • Make it as fun as possible: It's a lot of work to pull off a successful photoshoot, so try to come up with little games to play to keep the kids entertained and engaged. I’m also not above bribing! Let the kids know there is an incentive if they cooperate, like their favorite food or ice cream after the shoot. Also, using treats such as candy during the shoot is a good way to keep their attention. Make sure though to bring something small that won't get messy on the clothes. Some clean ideas are puffs, mini marshmallows, or small gummy snacks.

Since Will is too young to play games, distraction and toys was the key for us. Having my parents and sisters around was also a huge help, and he was happy being passed from person to person.

  • Be prepared: Bring an extra pair of hands if you can. Some photographers have assistants that can lend a hand, but if yours doesn't, bring another family member or your go-to babysitter if possible to help with the kids. An assistant can also use noisy toys or do peek-a-boo to encourage real smiles. Also bring lots of wipes, a spare outfit for the kiddos, and anything you may need (hair gel, makeup, a brush) to do touch-ups during the shoot.​

Our photographer, Tiffany, was great at using rattles to get William's attention so he was at least looking in the direction of the camera most of the time, and she was even able to coax out a few smiles!

  • Have realistic expectations: Dad probably won’t be totally into it, one (or all) of your kids will be grumpy, and the weather probably won't be as perfect as you're planning. Just remember to to try to be upbeat & positive to help make things go as easy and quickly as possible. Definitely expect real life and meltdowns to happen, that will make for the most candid photos anyways! If someone starts to cry or gets in a mood, move onto the next person and come back to them after they’ve had a breather.

The weather took a turn for FREEZING the day we had our photos scheduled, so cuddles in between shots to warm up was a must for William! Our photographer was great and worked really quickly so we could minimize the time we had to be out in the cold.

  • Last but not least, relax!: Some of the best photos are captured when you are just having fun as a family and not thinking about the camera. I have learned over years of taking pictures, it is hard to get everyone looking, smiling and posing for the camera at the SAME time, so just let it go and enjoy the moment with your family!


If you're looking for a great photographer to capture your special moments, I highly recommend Tiffany Marie! She made everything so easy and fun, we will be using her again & again!


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