5 Things to Consider When Taking Family Pictures

Taking family pictures can be a challenge!
Deanna Harrington Photography

Oh, family pictures . . . I have such a love-hate relationship with you. I love the idea of having a beautiful photo documenting a moment in time, where we all look happy, relaxed, and skinny. Where we appear to really like each other while dressed impeccably coordinated (but not matchy!) with a picture-perfect background like a field of wildflowers or a well-lit forest.

Again, I love the IDEA.

Skilled photographers and expensive editing programs can make most of that stuff happen, but so much more goes into those family photos, and we often forget about these little things until it’s time to book our session.

This is all fresh for me, as my family just had a photo session recently. It was the first time we had professional photos taken since the baby of the family was born nearly three years ago. Some people might gasp at that, because I swear I know a lot of people who have photos taken twice a year. When I consider everything I went through for this last session, the thought of doing another photo shoot – even in a year – exhausts me.

Based on my most recent experience, here are a few things to consider when scheduling those family photo sessions.

5 Things to Consider When Taking Family Pictures

1. Don’t stress about the outfits. It’s totally fine.

Yeah, right. As moms, we want everything to be perfect, and that means well-coordinated outfits that aren’t matchy-matchy. I knew we were having a fall photo shoot, and I knew I wanted to wear something other than jeans, but trying to pick out coordinating outfits for FIVE PEOPLE was overwhelming to me. After scouring Pinterest for hours and reading tips from a bajillion different photographers, I decided I should pick out my outfit first. For an indecisive person like myself, that was a lot harder than it sounds. In any case, I finally settled on a skirt and top in the colors I wanted, and I was then able to find somewhat coordinating dresses for my three girls. I decided it was fine for the hubby to wear jeans, mainly because I didn’t have the energy to consider any more options.

So for the outfits, my biggest tip is to start planning early. I was running around town the Friday before our session looking for white tights, brown flats, and coordinating hair bows. Fun.

2. If you have kids under the age of three, lower your expectations about how they’ll behave during the session.

My girls are five, four, and two. The older two generally listen and follow instructions, although when you tell the five year old to smile, the result is a toothy grin that looks not only unnatural but borderline psycho. So we say, “Smile NORMAL!” and all of her facial muscles go limp and she looks bored or comatose. Not really an in-between unless someone tells a joke and she genuinely laughs. But who wants to tell jokes during a photo shoot?

The four year old, meanwhile, apparently thinks “Smile” means “Stick out your tongue.”

And the two year old. God help us . . . she wanted NO part of documenting her love for her family. She was more interested in playing with her racecar, spinning around in the dirt, and looking at the photographer like she was posing for a mug shot.

Taking family pictures with toddlers can be a challenge!

I admit, for the first few minutes of our session as my sweet children were not being cooperative, I panicked. I thought, I spent all this time and energy getting READY for this photo shoot and we aren’t going to get ONE GOOD PICTURE. Luckily, our photographer had clearly dealt with devilish two year olds (and overly-hopeful moms) and she told me over and over it was fine, that we would get some good shots.

3. Bring snacks.

I didn’t do this. But you should.

4. Don’t let the kids bring their toys. They’ll end up in your pictures.

I failed here, too. My two year old is showing off a matchbox car in lots of the pictures. Once I realized she had it with her, I didn’t care.

5. Trust your photographer.

Like I said, our photographer was amazing at reassuring me the entire time, when I thought there wasn’t a chance we’d have one picture with all of us looking at the camera and smiling like a normal, happy family. As I put my head in my hands when two kids were going one way and one kid was going the other, she promised me again we’d have some winners.

And she was right. Just the next day she texted me with an image that almost knocked me down. It was us, dressed to the nines, all looking at the camera, all SMILING! I was floored. And thankful. And so glad it was over.

Taking family pictures - a good photographer can manage some winners even against the toddler odds!
Deanna Harrington Photography

So, Moms, when your photo shoot is all over, give yourself a high five. All of us other moms know what it took to get that perfect shot. Now you can go bask in the glory of your beautiful family portrait until it’s time to start prepping for the next photo session.

And don’t forget to actually PRINT the pictures.

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A North Carolina native, Jennifer has called Colorado Springs, CO, Lynchburg, VA, New Orleans, LA, and Charleston, SC home since graduating from Elon University in 2003. She has spent time as a journalist, event planner, and sports information director. Now, the Hoover resident is a full-time sales & marketing professional for an outdoor furniture company and an independent rep for Zyia Active. Of all the hats Jennifer wears, her most important roles are as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. She has been married to her husband Mike since 2011, and together they have three daughters ages 5, 4 and 2, and a sweet eight-year-old beagle, Cooper.