7 steps to a successful family photoshoot

September 22, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Family - Morven Park - LeesburgFamily - Morven Park - Leesburg

Whether you get pictures of your family every year, multiple times per year or hardly ever, preparing for that photo session can be STRESSFUL! I'm here to help take some of that stress out of your life with some tips and tricks that I've learned over the years. So here is a step-by-step guide to help you prepare:

Step 1: Find your photographer

This is often the hardest part for people who don't get photographed often and there are good reasons for that! How do you know who you're going to vibe with? Can you afford their prices? What do they include? Do you like their work? Are they good? So many questions come to mind and it can be overwhelming! I wrote a three part series to help you narrow down your options, which you can read, but here is a summary:

  • If you start off by posting on social media, make sure that you are specific about what you want. This will lessen the number of responses that you get, but will make the responses more likely to be what you're looking for. Part of this is stating your budget. If you don't know what your budget is, that's okay, just remember that if you say "reasonable prices", it could mean one thing to you and something entirely different to someone else.


  • Look at their work and pay attention to their style. If they're dark and moody and you want light and airy, move on to the next person on your list. If you want true to light/true to color, then keep me on your list!


  • Look at their experience. Know if you want someone who is established or if you're willing to work with a newer photographer. This also means understanding what the difference between those experiences may be. (This is especially true when it comes to newborn photography!)


  • Contact them! This is a great way to see if they feel right to you. Having a good rapport with your photographer makes the session SO much more fun! I have meetings with everyone to talk about what I do and what I offer, but most importantly, I have those meetings so that we can get to know each other and feel more comfortable once the session begins.


  • Know what they include. Are you paying for the session and all of the digitals? Are you paying for the session only? A certain number of digitals? Do you pick those digitals or does the photographer? These questions are vital to make sure that everyone is on the same page.


  • Know their pricing. This piece ties into the last one, but everyone does things a little differently, so it's important to know if the photographer that you're considering hiring is within your budget (or if you want to stretch your budget to get to work with them).

Once you've selected your photographer, you will need to book your session. This looks different depending on the photographer, but many photographers require a deposit/retainer to hold your session date. At Fluttering Shutter Photography, once you are ready to book a session, I will send you a booking link that will include the contract, paying the session fee and a simple questionnaire. 



Step 2: Establish the details

Deciding on when and where to take your family pictures can be a big decision but one question can help narrow down the answer: What kind of mood are you going for in your pictures? During my initial meeting prior to booking, I have this conversation with you so that I can help you decide on a location that suits your style. Timing also plays a role because depending on the location and time of year, you may need a pre-dinnertime session, a sunrise session or a after-dinnertime session. For example, I know that one of my favorite locations gets darker earlier because of where the sun sets, so if you want that beautiful golden back light (like in the image above), that might not be the best spot for you and I'll talk about some other options. Also be sure to tell your photographer about any specific needs your family may have that are important to know. This can be anything from "Bobby is shy" to "Mom is in a wheelchair" to "We only laugh at fart jokes." 


Step 3: Decide what to wear

This is something that I cover in my welcome guide, but here is my general advice: 

  1. Decide what colors you want to use. 2-3 main colors and 1-2 complimentary colors.
  2. Determine who the most difficult person is to dress in your family. (Most parents know immediately who that person is.) Once you know who it is, figure out what they would be willing to wear and build out outfits from there. 
  3. Explore the closets in your house because sometimes you can piece together an outfit that you've never thought of before.
  4. Pick outfits that follow the 4 C's: Clean, Comfortable, Complimentary and Complementary. 
  5. Lay out the outfits all together to make sure that you like the look of them in a group. If in doubt, my clients always have the option of contacting me to help them determine what will look best together!

Family - Morven Park - LeesburgFamily - Morven Park - Leesburg

Step 4: Hype up your session!

When you talk about your photography session with your loves, be positive about it! Make sure they know that it's going to be fun and that you're all going to be there together. Some parents will go out for a special dinner after a session or take everyone for ice cream to give the kids something extra special to look forward to. This can also work on reluctant adults...


Step 5: Primp it up!

One thing that is universal about photography is that if people feel good, they look good. Confidence goes a LONG way, so if you feel better when your nails are polished? Do it! If you want to pamper yourself with a trip to the salon? Go for it! Do something nice for yourself and help boost that confidence for the camera.


Step 6: What to bring

For most family sessions you don't need to bring anything other than yourselves, but here are a few things that I've found to be helpful to have on hand:

  • Wipes- they come in handy in a variety of situations for kids and adults alike!
  • Water
  • Snacks- Please be sure that they're not sticky and/or won't stain teeth/tongue/fingers!
  • Extra clothes- This one is big for smaller children, but having alternatives on standby can definitely be helpful in emergencies.
  • Bug spray- Although I carry bug spray in my bag for both myself and clients, if there are allergies or sensitivities, bringing your own can make for a much more pleasant experience.
  • Lovies- Sometimes kids won't leave home without their teddy or their blanket and it's okay to bring it! They often make for precious images that capture your child as exactly who they are in that moment. Even if the lovie that they want to bring along is their new pet tortoise.

Girl - Morven Park - Leesburg - LoudounGirl - Morven Park - Leesburg - Loudoun

Step 7: Take deep breaths and trust your photographer!

This is my last piece of advice about having a successful family session because it's one of the most important ones. It's important for you to relax and be present in the moment for your pictures. A parent who is facing their child and pointing at the camera to try to get them to look doesn't make for the best moment to be captured and a stressed parent makes for stressed kids. Trust your photographer to see the moments and capture the beauty of your family. Sometimes a shy pre-schooler can make for adorable portraits that capture who they are perfectly.

Girl- Claude Moore Park - Sterling - LoudounGirl- Claude Moore Park - Sterling - Loudoun

I hope that these tips are helpful for you, and if this made you want to book a session with me, let's talk!


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