It’s time to have family pictures done and you want them to be amazing.  After 8 years of taking pictures of families I am FINALLY compiling a list of the best way to have a successful family picture session.  This post has been rolling around in the back of my brain for YEARS and I’m excited to finally be putting it together.  It has been much needed and I hope it helps you in your pursuit of family picture perfection!  Now, I’m assuming that you’ve already booked your photog (or me?) for a session after naptimes and dinner (or at least some sort of food-never photograph children and parents hungry!).  Here are some additional guidelines when it comes to what to wear, how to prepare and what to plan for:

  • Start a Pinterest Board.  That is such an easy way to organize what you’re thinking, get ideas for clothes, poses, locations and the like.
I love that everyone has hints of lavender but not enough to look too matchy.
  • Consider your family.  If you have young children, dressing in all white may not be for you.  I typically don’t love all white BUT I’ve seen it work amazing too!!  I also recommend having your children wear the outfits at least once before we do pictures in them so that it’s something they’re used to AND to see if it’s uncomfortable/itchy/not fun to wear before pictures instead of during.
I really like this all black because of the added texture and accents with the scarf, bow, etc.  And with it being a winter shoot in the snow and forest it contrasted really nicely with the background and was gorgeous with all their dark hair.
  • In a pinch the easiest way to dress for family pictures is to dress around Mom.  I recommend Mothers find an outfit that they love and feel comfortable in and then match everyone to them.  Dads rarely care, kids certainly do not but if mom is uncomfortable in her outfit it is SO obvious.
    Normally I don’t like so much white/matching but I LOVED it in this case.  They’re kids also did amazing staying clean!!  Their subtle pink was a perfect pop of color.
  • Consider your home.  Where will you be hanging these pictures?  If they’re going in your black and red living room dressing your family in pinks and blues is going to CLASH and you probably won’t want to hang your pictures.  Take grandparents into account too-neutrals can look really good in pictures and they match everyone’s walls.
    Blue is surprisingly neutral and I absolutely LOVE how well this family dressed!  They have the perfect balance of matchy but not too much, lots of texture and a beautiful bench that even goes with it all!  They stand out from their background but don’t clash with it.
  • Consider your location.  If you are planning to have your pictures taken in a beautiful green forest DO NOT DRESS YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY IN GREEN.  If you’re having them done up on the red rocks do not wear rust color.  You don’t want to blend, you want to pop!  If you have questions about this, ask me or your photog!
    This one was too matchy to the location AND presented a grouping challenge!  Because 3 of them were in rust and the other 2 in blue it was very hard not to have too many like colors grouped together.  It was also difficult because not only did the rust match the rock but the blue matched the sky!
  • Consider groupings.  Mom and Dad cannot be matching and then everyone else in a different color.  It doesn’t look good.  I once did a shoot with the Mom, Dad and only single son in black and everyone else in different earth tones…it was rough.  The logical thing was to put the single son next to Mom and Dad since everyone else had a family of their own BUT I couldn’t do that because it was bad enough having Mom and Dad next to each other in black!  Use multiple colors or put everyone in matching-ish neutrals.
    Seriously Grandma and Grandpa…red?
  • Think darks or lights.  Pictures blend and look best if everyone is in lighter colors or darker colors.  There are MANY exceptions to this rule BUT it’s still worth mentioning.  It seems like I tell people over and over to dress in all blacks/darks OR all whites/lights and somehow that gets confused as “wear black and white and we’ll just stagger every other one.”  Don’t do this!!  It really doesn’t look good.
  • Details.  Even up everyone’s fingernails.  Make sure nail polish is on or off but not chipped.  Tend to your eyebrows.  I once had a bride have her make-up and hair professionally done and no one did anything about her eyebrows!!  And they were a mess!  Give everyone’s hair a good brush and once over before pics.  If you’re touching up hair color try to do that a few weeks before so you’ve settled into it.  Match up shoes-everyone in sandals, etc or at least matching.
  • No logos. No running shoes. Ever.  Really try to avoid anything that would distract from the entire family.  We want you and your family to be the best part of the picture.
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    • Day of.  Eat or at least have a small snack beforehand.  Bring water if it’s going to be hot.  Consider bringing a blanket or folding chairs as well for different posing (depending on your location).  Have discussions about letting go of blankets/binkies/sippy cups/bottles beforehand so that your toddler knows that they’ll be giving those up for pictures, but that they will be returned after!
  • Bribes.  I’m really big on bribes.  Normally I don’t necessarily condone such things but for pictures it’s really the best way to do things with children!  This goes even for big kids!  For young children I recommend mini marshmallows/crackers/small treats etc because then they can be given one or 2 as they are good and they’re visible as a tangible treat if they behave.  For older children the promise of ice cream or fun dinner afterwards can sometimes be enough to get them through (that goes for moms and dads too sometimes).
Chairs can be such a great help with large groups!
  • Have fun.  Do fun things.  I want personality and character to shine through your pictures with your family.  They really are so much more meaningful that way!

I hope this helps.  Feel free to contact me with further questions and good luck this year!  May your walls be full of happy pictures and your christmas cards impress!

Real life…Picture life.

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