Photo Session Tips for Families

As a portrait photographer, I get lots of questions about clothing choice, props, and even makeup. So this post serves as a guide for clients new and old to best prepare for a photo shoot. Even if you’re not shooting with me, the advice should serve you well in front of any camera.  

What should I wear?

It’s one of the most common questions a photographer gets. First and foremost, you should be very comfortable and confident in anything you wear to a photo shoot. This goes for adults and kids. If something doesn’t fit, or you just don’t like it, don’t wear it. Your discomfort will come through in the photos, even to the casual observer.

Do we all have to match?

No! I prefer a very natural, lifestyle look in my work. Does your family all wear matching outfits for a night out? I didn’t think so. So there’s no reason you need to match for your photo session. 

Is there any clothing to avoid?

Even if it’s the most comfortable outfit you own, if it’s neon pink, don’t wear it. Anything with loud or neon colors, or heavy patterned fabrics, should be avoided — it’s simply too distracting. Same goes for large logos and text.

Stick with soft or neutral tones. Solid colors almost always work. Remember, if the outfit has the potential to take attention away from your face, keep going through your closet.

My kids keep running around. I’m worried they’ll get all sweaty or grass stained.

They are kids, that’s what they do. I’m not looking to photograph a perfectly groomed, eerily pristine child. A little intensity is just fine — action shots are awesome on your walls!


Women, wear your ‘normal’ makeup. You should look the way people are used to seeing you. I’ll help you look like it’s a particularly good day for you, but we’re not doing glamor shots.

Men, don’t worry. No makeup necessary. But say you typically use some kind of facial moisturizer with sunscreen that you got for Father’s day. Be careful. The problem with this stuff is that it can clump in facial hair or leave your color a little blotchy if not perfectly applied. This can be a nightmare to address after the fact.

What if my child isn’t cooperating?

My goal is to capture a child’s natural expression, so if they’re being themselves, they are cooperating. Even if your kid goes into full meltdown mode, we can get great pictures. I know this may be tricky, but resist the urge to tell your kids to act a certain way during the photo session. Some are natural goofballs and others are a little tougher to crack. A smile forced at the threat of no wifi for a week will be obvious on camera, so this isn’t the time to play disciplinarian or get into arguments. A well timed bribe, on the other hand, can sometimes help everyone get in the spirit of things!

What if my spouse or partner isn’t cooperating?

See the note above about difficult children. Same strategy, different bribes.  

Should we bring props?

I believe props should be subtle so as not to take away from the people. If we’re at a park, there’s no reason you can’t bring a ball or frisbee. For younger kids, having a few favorite toys on hand can help.

That’s all for now. I hope you found these tips useful. If you have more questions don’t hesitate to ask me on Facebook. Most importantly, just relax and enjoy the experience!