Family Portrait Session Tips & Tricks { Durham / Raleigh / Chapel Hill }

Mothers often confide to me that the mere thought of getting family photos taken is exhausting. “My kids are crazy – you’ll never get any good shots!” “My husband hates getting his picture taken.” “I don’t look good in anything right now. I really just need to lose that baby weight first.” Stoooop. Do you love your family? YES. Then you should absolutely, positively take the time to document THIS stage in your life. All the adorableness that is chubby baby thighs and scabby toddler knees, the crazy grimaces your middle child likes to throw at the camera, and the genuine love expressed through your smiles and hugs. The time will never seem perfect in the now, but you’ll definitely look back and smile over the moments we capture together. How can you make this as fun and relaxing as possible? Here are a few family portrait session tips ‘n tricks I’ve learned along the way. 

Closeup of siblings

Family Portrait Session Tips & Tricks

  • Be rested and fed  Immediately after a nap and feeding is the ideal time to catch your child(ren)’s best behavior and happiest smiles. If you’re planning on eating after the session, bring a snack to tide your children over until the session is complete. Make sure that the snack is as non-messy as possible (so leave those black-teeth-creating Oreos at home!). The optimal time to photograph outdoors is in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is at a low angle and the light and shadows are at their most flattering. If this doesn’t coincide with your child’s nap,  however, don’t worry: we can work around the harsh afternoon lighting by using shady areas and your portraits will still be beautiful.


  • Arrive early or on time You don’t want to feel stressed because you’re running late, or be anxious about having enough time to take the perfect photographs before the light changes. If you’re from out of town, give yourself enough time to navigate unfamiliar streets. Parking can sometimes be a hassle, so plan ahead in order to arrive without any stress or rush. 

  • Weather If the sky is looking a little cloudy, this is actually good! Lack of direct sunlight makes for beautiful portraits. If it does look like it’s going to storm, however, I am always more than willing to reschedule as long as we’re staying in contact and deciding on things together.


  • No cheese Although I know you want your children to smile brightly for the camera, avoid yelling “Say cheese!” or “SMILE!” to your kids. Yelling and insisting that your children look at the camera will only stress them out and result in strained, unnatural, and unflattering photographs. All too often, I’ll find that these sorts of photographs also capture mostly open mouths for the parents as they’re trying to encourage their children to smile. Just interact naturally with the kids by smiling and laughing and teasing them the way you always do. Pick them up and toss them in their air to make them giggle, kiss your spouse, tickle your son, hug, smile, snuggle, and play. These natural interactions make for the most gorgeous smiles. Don’t worry if they’re not staring right at the camera, either – some of the most intimate portraits don’t include eye contact with the camera.

Pilot & Family


  • Grouchy Spouses  I know, I know – some people really hate photos. Trust me, I’ve met more than my share of spouses who are just NOT about the photos. Here are a few tips to navigate that reluctance to get them in front of my camera. First of all, I am ALL about the natural moments. I have no desire to make them stand and stare directly at me for hours at a time anymore than they want to do that. I won’t be shouting out directions either – my goal is to very effortlessly and discreetly guide you into beautiful shots. Whatever you’re doing, I’ll just be enhancing it. Remind them, too, that the photos aren’t just for them – they’re for your kids, too, so that they can look back and remember their childhood and how your family looked and interacted at this point in time! See if maybe getting them on board with choosing a location will help get them a bit excited. Often the parents who don’t want to be in photos find that a super easy location (their home or a place with readily available parking) makes the whole experience more pleasant. I’ve also noticed that going out for a drink afterwards, or a fun dinner, usually helps get them a bit more excited! 😉


  • Clothing I love LOVE helping my families choose their outfits. It’s kind of a pet hobby of mine. I have a whole list of helpful suggestions to get you started and I really encourage you to text me photos with ideas so that I can give you input and tips.


  • I don’t feel like I look good right now I get this more than you know. After each of my kiddos, I’ve struggled to lose that baby weight. It s.u.c.k.s. feeling like your body isn’t your own and you don’t look your best. The thing is – that’s not what your kids see. They see the parent they love, who gives amazing hugs and makes the world’s best pancakes. They see the pride and excitement you feel and show when they learn to do something new or tell a particularly funny story. Don’t hide from pictures, because one day those pictures might be the only concrete and physical reminder of the two of you from this chapter of their childhood. Smile and let that love shine through.

Family Portrait Session Tips

  • Bring an activity you enjoy doing as a family Props and activities are a wonderful to make your children’s smiles more natural and the entire session more fun. Do you enjoy reading together? Bring your favorite books. Have a favorite game? Bring Candy Land and set it up on a picnic blanket. If we decide to meet at a park, feel free to bring a kite or your family bikes. Let’s go out for ice cream, or meet at a bowling alley. Or – my very favorite – let’s just gather in (or outside!) your home. Bake cookies, play in the sprinklers, or build a blanket fort in the back yard. The possibilities are endless and the resulting photographs so much more unique!


  • Location, location, location! I’ve got a wonderful list of locations all over the city, but if you have a specific area you love, be sure to tell me about it! I’m always happy to come to your house, as long as you don’t live too far away.


  • Take Two Did the session just not go as planned? Were the kiddos grouchy and not smiling? Did the color your hubby wear make everyone around him look washed out? Not to worry: because I want you to absolutely LOVE your photographs, I am always willing to do a re-shoot of a portrait session for no extra charge. 🙂

Family Portrait Session Tips

Did I forget anything? Have any other fun tips or tricks you think I should add? Let me know!





PS. Did I convince you on the importance of documenting your family? Email me today to book a session!

what to expect from a family portrait session


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