10 Tips for Preparing for Your Family Portrait Session

Family portrait guide 1 1

A guide to having the best family portrait session – by Claire Binks Photography

So you’ve booked a family portrait session with a fabulous photographer (If you are in Toronto, I hope it’s me!) and now you are wondering what next?  Here is my family portrait guide with some tips to planning and preparing you and your family for an amazing family portrait experience.

1. Location, Location, Location!

Planning the perfect location for your family portraits can feel daunting.  I usually suggest to my clients to pick a location that has some meaning to them whether it be a place in nature, like a park or an urban location such as a favourite neighbourhood.  Usually photographers will have a set of locations they are used to shooting at and they will be happy to give you suggestions, after all, we usually know where the beautiful light is! Most outdoor photographers like myself like to shoot at golden hour, which is about 90 minutes before sunset.  

2. Wardrobe Selection

I always suggest planning your family’s outfits well in advance of your session.  You do not want to feel stressed in the days leading up to your portraits because you don’t know what you are going to wear.  Think about the location you have selected for your portraits and the time of year you will be having them.  You might dress differently if you choose an urban session compared to a setting more in nature.  You also should keep in mind the season you will be having your family portraits taken.  You can add layers of colour and patterns in the fall but perhaps in the spring and summer you want to select lighter simpler clothing options that won’t have you hot and uncomfortable. 

I suggest coordinating your outfits instead of matching entirely.  You can mix solids with pattern for example but try and stick to similar colour families.  Think earth tones, jewel tones, pastels.  Whatever you select, make sure you feel comfortable in it and you won’t be worried about things like your blouse being too low cut or your dress/skirt being too short. 

It’s also good to think about what you plan to do with your images.  Will you be displaying them on a wall in your house? Perhaps then you’d like to compliment the colour palette in your home.  

I have created a Pinterest board with some outfit planning inspiration. 

If you have small children, I highly suggest bringing a back up outfit.  Accidents can happen and it’s best to be prepared! 

3. Prepping your family members

If you have any family members who aren’t super excited about having their picture taken it’s best to talk about your upcoming session long before it happens.  Talk to your kids about how much fun it will be and even practice some of your favourite happy faces in the mirror.  If your spouse or partner isn’t super keen on photos, talk to them about how important they are to you and how special it will be to have photos to cherish for years to come. 

The day of your session: 

4. Plan your time well

Make sure to leave extra time for yourself in the day if you plan on getting hair and makeup done.  Schedule time for everyone to get dressed.  The less rushed you are the more relaxed you will feel coming to your session.

5. Feed everyone and make sure the littles have had a nap/rest

Hungry and tired kids can make for grumpy kids.  Make sure to feed everyone before your session.  If you have babies or small children make sure they have had a nap. If you have older kids, try and make sure their day isn’t super jam packed with activities.  You want everyone to feel their best. 

What to bring to your session

6. Snacks!!! 

Let’s face it, snacks are king when it comes to little kids. Some snacks are better than others. Try and select snacks that aren’t messy or sticky such as: goldfish crackers, plain biscuits, cheese cubes, dried fruit. Leave the lollipops, chocolate and anything that takes a long time to eat until after your session. 

7. Extra clothes for the kids (And even you!)

Accidents can happen.  Tumbles into mud puddles, spit ups and other spills can turn a photo ready outfit into a bit of a disaster.  It’s always a good idea to have extra clothes for your smaller children and babies.  You are investing a lot of time AND money into your session so you don’t want to feel disappointed by icky stains. You might even want to bring an extra outfit for yourself and your husband/wife just in case.  You can even use these clothes for a second “look” if you’d like a variety of looks. 

8. Touch-up Supplies

If you are coming with small children I suggest bringing a package of wipes. You may need to wipe some crusties off or a dirty face after a snack.  I always suggest you bring a brush and extra hair ties.  Sometimes it can be windy and if you or you kids have long hair, you may decide you want it out of your face.  Bring extra powder and lipstick if you think you may need a touch up.  This is especially important on a hot, sunny evening. 


At your session

9. Relax and have fun!

You’ve made it…photo time!  Now is your time to shine!  I (or your photographer) will give you guidance on where to place yourselves so the light is the best.  Your job is to have fun and enjoy each other.  Don’t stress if the kids are getting grumpy or aren’t listening.  The more relaxed the parents are, the more relaxed the children will be!

10. Don’t just smile at the camera!

I will give you cues and prompts so that I can capture natural moments between everyone.  Don’t worry, I will never leave you hanging! For sure we will try to get a few images of everyone looking happy at the camera, but I will also be guiding you to interact with each other so that the magic can really be captured! Be playful with your kids, tickle them, give lots of hugs, laugh! I love capturing these moments. 

I hope you have found this list helpful! If you have already booked your session with me and have more questions, please get in touch! If you’d like to learn more about my family sessions, click here.

Other posts you may be interested in: 

5 great reasons to have your newborn photography session in your home

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