Family Photography is one of most common genres of photography for amateurs, professionals, and weekend warriors because of its universal demand.  Virtually everyone in this world wants a nice photo of their family, regardless of their budget, and there are plenty of photographers out there to meet the demand.  In this article, we’ll give you a guide to family photography to help you take better family photos, whether you’re doing it for money or you just want to take better pictures of your own loved ones.  For even more in-depth video tutorials, see our Family Photography 101 Workshop.

What is Family Photography?

Family photography is a type of photography that focuses on capturing the likeness, relationships, and emotions of a family. It typically involves a photo shoot of family members together, either in a studio setting or on location. The goal is to create lasting memories and artistic images that showcase the unique bond and dynamic of the family. Family photography can include posed and candid shots, individual portraits, and group shots, and can be done for special events, mini sessions, smash cake sessions, holidays, or just to document the growth of the family over time.

Family Photography Tips

Here are some essential tips to make your next family photography session a success:

Find the Best Location for Your Session

Nobody wants to stand in the hot sun—or in the freezing cold—for an hour or more. Time your portrait around the season. In summer, always plan on sunrise or sunset to avoid the heat of the day (and to capture the best light). In winter, you may need to shoot on a weekend if it’s getting dark before Mom or Dad will get off work.

Likewise, we can’t control the weather, so include a Plan B when you book, whether that’s an alternate, covered location, a backup day or simply a location that includes both outdoor and indoor or covered options for shooting (like a gazebo or broad front porch).

Of course, remember that an overcast day can often lead to the best images, with even light across faces and nobody squinting into the sun.  Location selection is especially important for mini sessions, where you will be doing many shoots throughout the same day in the same location.  Find shade!

Schedule and Find the Best Times for Photography

thanksgiving photography family portraits photo session

Choose a date that works for everyone with clear start and end times.  For capturing quality family portraits, the most important thing to consider is timing – not only what time of day it is but also the season. The best time of day to take quality photos is, for most outdoor locations, golden hour, which is typically just before sunset or just after sunrise.

During this golden hour, natural light softens as the sun begins to dip below the horizon and its rays are diffused by larger particles in the atmosphere.

When considering what season to shoot, keep in mind that different months offer unique opportunities from gorgeous monochromatic snowscapes in winter to beautiful soft colors surrounded by lush green foliage in springtime.

Advise the Family to Dress Appropriately

traditional family portrait

One of the most important, yet sometimes overlooked details, is the outfits. Most importantly, families should choose clothing that has a unified feel – having everyone in the portrait wearing something in the same or similar color palette to add cohesion and consistency to the overall imagery.

In addition, picking out timeless styles will make the portrait look just as great 20 years down the road as it does today.   Avoid trends or outdated fashion and stick to simple, tasteful choices. Also, making sure everyone feels comfortable and confident with their outfit choices is key, so pick out clothing items that reflect each person’s individual persona! Lastly, consider the location and choose clothes that complement the background and season.

Make It a Comfortable Family Photography Experience

family baking together

Encourage your family to relax and be themselves.   This could mean planning activities and encouraging natural interaction for more a lifestyle family photography feel.  Consider having them play games, tell jokes or just talk to each other to help put everyone at ease.

Of course, be sure to get a few traditional poses too, with everyone looking into the camera, smiling, and looking their best.  Find the right balance of traditional vs lifestyle family photos based on the client preferences that you discover in your planning and talk through calls.

Use Natural light For Most of The Family Photography Session

Nikon Z 24 70mm f2 8 S Nikkor Lens Review 02 family portraits
Taken for our Nikon Z 24 70mm f2 8 S Nikkor Lens Review

For the majority of your photos, shoot in natural light.  This lets you focus on getting the right interactions and expressions without having to adjust flashes or worry about the shadows that your flash might be casting on your subjects.  It also lets you get more photos and more variety of photos since you don’t have to worry as much about set up time, moving the light, or other factors.

Of course, this depends on your overall style and your proficiency with flash.

Prep the Kids

This is the most important tip for shoots with families. As the photographer, let the parents know to prep their kids for the shoot, beginning days in advance. Build it up to be a fun event that they look forward to, followed by a treat, like ice cream or a visit to the bowling alley.

While the anticipation factor is important, the same day buildup is even more crucial. Children should arrive with full bellies! Hungry children are unhappy children. If they still nap, make sure they get their full nap on the day of the shoot.

You can’t do enough to impart to parents the importance of bringing their kids to the session at their very best. A photo session is not the same as dropping them off at Grandma’s house!

Keep Kids Engaged During the Shoot

beach maternity photos

When you first meet a family for a shoot, spend five to ten minutes getting to know the kids. Run around with them. Consider bringing a small toy as a gift, or a stuffed animal you can introduce to them and let them play with. If they’re comfortable around you, they’re more likely to smile and behave during the shoot.

Bring a treat or snack for the kids (or prep the parents to do this). Photo shoots are the rare case where it’s okay to offer children a small bribe! Finally, be ready to work fast. Often, the best pictures of children occur in the first 20 to 30 minutes of a shoot.

Consider All Possible Family Combinations

natural light family portraits framing with backgroundInclude a variety of poses and groupings, such as individual portraits, family portraits and fun candids.  Split up the groups into different organic pairings, such as kids only, parents only, kids and dad, kids and mom, etc.

However, as you work through your combinations, remember to start with the groupings that involve the children first, as they are less predictable and generally have less patience for photos than the adults.

Stay On the Move

Even adults can quickly tire of having their photo taken, but the more images you capture, in the most scenes and locations, the more variety and options you’ll have to offer your clients.

Every few minutes in one location, switch up your subjects’ stances. Have Dad hold Junior, or have Sister stand with her hand on Mom’s shoulder. Then immediately mix it up by having them casually walk toward you, looking at each other, to capture a candid moment.

Don’t stay in any one location for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Plan to move around your site. The time between spots is a chance to chat and get more comfortable with your subjects, and to let the kids have a break and run around before asking them to sit still again. It’s also a chance to capture great candid moments.

Prepare the Right Family Photography Gear and Other Items

Be sure to pack the right gear for your style and the scene.  This will vary from photographer to photographer.  However, here are a few items to consider:

  • Camera
  • Medium Zoom Lens
  • Off Camera Flash, Flash Stand and Trigger
  • On Camera Flash
  • Camera Bag
  • Extra Battery
  • Plenty of Memory (at least 32GB)
  • Reflector
  • Props
  • Snacks

Edit the Family Photography Photos

After taking pictures, photo editing can bring out colors, correct mistakes, or add an overall tone or style to the photos. Editing also helps to rid memories of flaws like red-eye, overexposed areas, or distracting objects in the background. Consider using Lightroom to correct your photos from scratch or start with a Lightroom preset.   To turn around and deliver your photos even faster, even consider AI Photo Editing, such as Impossible Things.


Family photography is a special way to capture memories and relationships with the people your subjects love most. Professional photographers should know just how to make a family session filled with fun, laughter and warmth.  The photos should be artfully crafted to provide an end result that perfectly captures the essence of each family member and their special bond together as a unit. By following these tips, you can ensure that your family photography session results in beautiful, timeless images that capture the love and bond of the family. For even more in-depth video tutorials, see our Family Photography 101 Workshop.