Photographing families can be hugely exciting, and a very rewarding profession. If you hit the right note, you may be asked back year after year to chart a family’s growth and development. It can be a daunting prospect when you’re starting out though – there are so many elements to photograph, and a lot of unknowns: What mood will the children be in? What will their home or shooting location be like? How will you get young children to co-operate?

As with all photo shoots, preparation is key; Being calm and assured will help your clients to relax and follow your direction, and help you to focus on capturing really special moments. Here is some solid advice:

Preparing yourself

  • Research other family photographers, and think what do you like about their photographs? What don’t you like? What do you think will suit your style of photography?
  • Choose clothes to wear that are comfortable and will allow you to bend and twist, and that you won’t mind getting dirty if you find yourself crouched on muddy ground.
  • Make sure you have something to eat and drink beforehand, which will help maintain your concentration levels.
  • Create a loose shot list of photographs you intend to take; will you take any posed photographs? Or will you have a more documentary approach? Will you take individual portraits as well as photographs of the family spending time together?


Preparing the parents

  • Ask the parents if there’s anything particular that they’d like from their photographs. This will make sure that you’ve covered their essentials, and families can often have quite different priorities (such as more photographs of the children, or more of a focus on the whole family together).
  • Give the parents some guidance on what they should wear. Suggest parents think about the colours across the whole family. Figure out if they want to create a co-ordinated colour palette, or to go for a more natural look.
  • Help parents think through what time of day will suit their children best, so ask when they nap? When do they eat? Plan a time for when the children won’t be tired or hungry.

Preparing your camera

Get the camera as ready as possible beforehand: Shoot in RAW, and pick the settings for the shot you intend to take first (think about the metering mode, aperture, shutter speed, which lens you’d like to start with – all the basics). If your camera’s already set up for your first shots, you can focus on helping the family relax rather than spending a few moments scrolling through camera settings. *It goes without saying to make sure your batteries are fully charged, and that you have spare memory cards.

Preparing the children

  • Ask the parents to tell the children that you’re going to come and take some photographs, as children tend to prefer knowing what lies ahead.
  • Have the parents tell them it’ll be fun, because if the children are looking forward to you coming, they’ll be more relaxed on the day and you’ll get great photographs.

Spend time prepping before photographing a family portrait session and you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of delivering photographs your clients will treasure for a lifetime.

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About the author:

Louise Downham has photographed 1000+ babies and children to date, and her photographs have been exhibited internationally and published in national magazines. She runs an award-winning family portrait business, Louise Rose Photography.