10 Tips for Beautiful Family Photos

Family photos are one holiday activity many families dread. What’s meant to be a fun, memorable event can quickly become a stressful, panic-inducing nightmare. Believe me, I’ve totally been there guys. I feel your pain!
I enlisted the help of both a photographer who works a lot with families, Ashley Thalman, and a stylist, Emily Frame, to help put some tips together for those of you with a family photo shoot penciled into your calender this coming month.

Photos by Ashley Thalman, styling by Emily Frame, graphics by Ashley Aikele, and thanks Abby Sharp for letting us photograph her beautiful family (aren’t they??)

1. Find the right photographer
In addition to thoroughly looking at the photographer’s work online (on blogs, instagram, and facebook) be sure to review your photographer’s pricing and policies. If you want a large portion of your session to be in black and white find a photographer who loves black and white. If you want a natural, candid session with minimal posing find a photographer whose work reflects that. There are so many fantastic photographers out there providing a wide range of aesthetics so don’t waste time and energy hoping the photographer understands your vision, rather, find someone whose work communicates that. — Ashley
2. Plan Ahead
All too often people spend the day(s) before their photo session running around to the dry cleaner, hair stylist, and novelty stores for last minute purchases and props etc. While I prefer work with a clientele who appreciate a lifestyle feel over posed shots, I encourage my clients to plan the look they want a few days before. Whether that’s making sure your son’s favorite shirt is clean, or that your roots are touched up- only you know what makes you feel your confident best. Plan for that!

Have kids try everything on to be sure you have socks and the desired hair style/length. Kids and spouses feel your stress and it is often hard for families to recover from a day of being neglected and nagged. Spend time enjoying yourself and your kids a few hours before. Your kids and the photographer will thank you and the images will reflect your best selves. —Ashley

3. Color Themes + A Couple Pops
Instead of looking for top to bottom looks for everyone in your family, look in each closet for color themes. For the Sharps we saw lots of dusty blues and navys. These are pretty neutral colors, so we picked two pop colors to add interest. Mustard yellow and red compliment the neutrals and were found in tiny doses throughout each of their closets. By picking a couple neutrals and a couple pop colors you can create a really natural family look without feeling too matchy-matchy. —Emily

4. Talk to your kids beforehand
Kids are smart and they love feeling big and informed. However small they are tell them the morning of your session that a “famous photographer” is coming over. Show them a photograph of the photographer or discuss a bribe for good behavior. Show them the clothes they will be wearing, involve them in the discussion of what you will be doing and where you will be doing it. As you know, new people and new places can be unsettling to kids especially to melting down toddlers in the afternoon hours (a common time for family portraits) so do what you can to make this new friend familiar before they arrive. — Ashley

5. Don’t try to be something you’re not
Dress how you feel comfortable but just up the ante on accessories, make sure each piece fits well and is ironed or steamed, add a little more make-up, do a proper blow-out. Sure neon suspenders and a striped bow-tie are cute (are they?), but unless your guy wears them normally, he’s gonna look and feel stiff and uncomfortable. –Emily

Five more awesome tips…

6. Props and location should be natural
Shooting at home, or their favorite park, or somewhere that actually means something to the family will allow everyone to let loose and be more natural. — Emily

7.  Decide on a Bribe
Choose a small toy, treat or other incentive that can help your kids when the photographer needs their attention. Don’t overuse this. In fact, let the photographer use the bribe when (s)he needs it. Kids need far less prompting, and are much better at candid expression than adults. If you’ve been needlessly bribing them then, as you know, the bribe looses it’s magic. If the photographer gets the say if your family gets a trip to have frozen yogurt the kids will be far more apt to cooperate. You know your kid, choose a good bribe the choose it BEFORE the shoot. –Ashley

8. Make sure everyone is well fed beforehand
Pick a time that your kids are usually well behaved to do the shoot. If they’re grumpy in the morning, don’t plan a morning photo shoot and expect them to be pumped about it. Bring butterscotch lozenges so they’re still hands-free, or something without too much coloring if they need a bribe (no blue raspberry teeth or chocolate chins needed!). But bring an extra set of clothes just in case! –Emily

9. An extra set of hands
If you can, bring an extra pair of hands that aren’t in the photo to check for things, fix hair, get your kids to smile and look at the photographer, and take some stress off of you. Grandma, a funny uncle, etc. —Emily

(floral crown c/0 Larkspur Floral Design)

10. Trust the Photographer
All too often parents get naggy and nervous that their child isn’t looking at the photographer or smiling “right” causing their child anxiety and robbing the photographer, and themselves, the chance for candid portraits. If you’ve hired a seasoned family photographer (s)he knows how to make your child(ren) feel comfortable so let them work the magic you’re paying them to do. —Ashley


Hey, that’s my sister!!!!
Love these photos! Love the natural-ness of it all. Love the clothes. Love the location. Love all these people!

Absolutely gorgeous photos and excellent tips! My family and I are just about planning our Holiday Photos for this weekend and will definitely use your nifty tips!

Love your blog!

Jessica from the Doily Duck

Such beautiful images! I am swooning over the mustard accents and would love to know where Abby’s heels and skirt came from (if possible).

Thank you Kate! The heels are from Urban Outfitters (I think) and the blouse is from a boutique in Provo, Utah called Soel. The brand is Comme Toi if that helps.

beautiful pictures! the flower headband is adorable. any idea where they got it? are those real flowers?

Thanks Debra! Yes, they are real flowers glued to a headband. Emily got them from an etsy seller but I can’t remember the name. Definitely something DIY-able, though!

Great post. Love the couch in the picture. Any idea what brand? Thanks!

I’m embarrassed to say the couch is from Smith’s Marketplace. It has great lines but the quality is about what you’d expect. 🙂

Thanks for the tips! I’m going to need to know about Abby’s blouse! Who makes it and can I still find it?

Thanks Melissa! The blouse is from a boutique in Provo called Soel. The brand is Comme Toi. Hope that helps!

I’m French and for me, posed family photos are so American! But the tips are great! And the last picture is the cutest 🙂

Haha…I wish i’d had this last week. We had photos done this week with extended family. My husband, son and I looked relatively put together – stripes etc. But the others wore ‘striking’ items so when we were all together it looked hilarious. But sometimes the funniest, least matching photos are the sweetest.

Haa yes, it’s a little trickier when you aren’t able to put together the whole look. I agree, I like a casual look but I think these look casual without being too matchy-matchy or trying to hard.

Such great tips! My husband is a photographer and I’m going to suggest he share this post with his clients!

Fantastic tips. I agree that if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So moms (and dads) lighten up and have fun, your family will follow your lead and the photos will turn out amazing!

Wow, this family is just absurdly adorable. Any idea where the little girl’s dress is from? It’s fantastic!

Thanks for the great tips and the beautiful photos!

Is + Was

Thank you so much Jessica! The dress is from Kayce Hughes last year. That site has amazing sales a few times a year.

I might have to steal this idea. I too have been looking for a way to do the family photos.

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