Insider Secrets: Top 10 Tips to Improve Your Family Photo Session

List: Posted: 10/07/11

Nothing has stood the test of time like the family portrait studio.  With the proliferation of digital cameras, it seems that everyone is snapping photos of the kids and the pets all the time.  While digital prints are nice, you probably want to have some photos taken by professional photographers from time to time.  They are a great way to commemorate holidays and the pictures can make wonderful gifts for relatives. 


The following tips are based on my 10 years of experience as a professional family photographer in a busy portrait studio.  These should help you have a smooth session at the studio with your family.


Tip #1: Be on Time


Make sure that you arrive on time so the photographer isn't hurrying you through your session and you aren't feeling rushed and stressed.  The best photos tend to happen at the end of the session when everyone is relaxed, so the last thing you want is the next family arriving and stopping the session.  If you get there early, talk to the photographer before the shoot and tell them any ideas you have that you'd like to achieve in the session.


Tip #2: Bring Several Changes of Clothes


Bring along at least one change of clothes in case something happens to the ones you are wearing.  This is very important if you are bringing children or pets along with you. 


Ask the photographer beforehand how many changes of clothing to bring.  For a one-hour session with 2-4 people, the usual recommendation is two complete changes of clothing per person.  If you have a large family, stick to one change only or you'll be spending more time changing clothes than being photographed!


Tip #3: Bring Your Hairbrush


Make sure that you have a comb or brush with you to tame your hair, and (if you wish) a styling iron.  There may or may not be brushes you can borrow at the photography studio - but do you really want to borrow someone else's hairbrush?


Tip #4: Don't Forget Your Make-Up


Bring along some extra makeup for some last minute touch-ups.  A small mirror is a good idea too so you can see what you're doing and can make sure you don't have lipstick on your teeth for the whole session.


Tip #5: Take a Nap With the Kids


Get a good night's sleep before the session, and re-schedule if you're sleep-deprived or hung-over.  The lights used in the studio are very bright, and the last thing you want is to have bags under your eyes or be squinting in all the pictures! 


Make sure the little ones have had their naps before you go to the studio.  Cranky children can turn the session into a disaster and may require a re-book.


Tip #6: Eat a Light Snack Before the Session


Let the family eat before the session.  You don't want rumbling stomachs while being photographed.  Make sure everyone cleans their teeth before the shoot so you don't have broccoli in your teeth for your close-up shots!


Tip #7: Co-Ordinate Outfits and Don't Wear White


Make sure that you wear clothes that have similar colors so they match in the photo. Solid, bright colors such as reds, yellows, greens and blues work best.  For a casual family session, bright, logo-free tops, blue jeans and bare feet looks fantastic. 


Avoid all-white outfits - most photo studios these days are a solid white background, so if you wear white, you'll 'disappear' into the background in all the shots.  Wearing all-black is a photographer's nightmare as you will not photograph well, and should also be avoided.


Tip #8: Clean Your Shoes and Paint Your Toenails


Not many people think of this, but make sure everyone in the family is wearing clean shoes!  A lot of shots will be taken sitting down, and nothing looks worse in a family photo than seeing dirty shoes soles with gum on the bottom! 


The photographer may ask you to take your shoes off for part of the session, so make sure all the family's feet are clean and toe-nails painted.  Shoes (especially trainers) look dated very fast, and bare feet make for a more classic-looking photo.  If you don't feel comfortable removing your shoes, let the photographer know at the start.


Tip # 9: Relax!


Relax and have fun at the studio.  These days, no good photographer worth his or her salt will make you pose and sit still for long periods of time.  Unless you specifically asked for a 'formal' session, they should ask you to move about, play with the kids, laugh and have fun.  This will create natural looking photos.


Bring toys for the kids and rattling items to entertain any babies.  Squeaky toys are great for getting the baby (or dog) to look at the camera.  When you look upon a photo session as a time to play with your family and have fun, the entire family and even the photographer can have a good time. 


Don't be afraid to speak up if you have a good idea for a shot - the photographer will have his or her own list of shots to work through, but they will be glad of input or fresh ideas!


Tip # 10: Shoot on a 'Happy Day'


Settle any family disputes before you enter the studio.  If the kids are fighting or you and your other half have just had a bad argument, reschedule for another day.  The camera can capture the most subtle of emotions, and if you're grumpy on shoot day, even if you smile, it will still shown in your eyes and you won't look your best.  Come back when things are happy again and you'll see a huge difference in the finished photos.


Article by:



Natasha Rhodes

P Cert P Family Portrait Photographer,

Venture Lifestyle Studios, London

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