Ashley's top 4 / tips for a stress free family session / by Ashley Brown

Family picture day is stressful, there’s no doubt about it, and we know it can be a daunting experience. My own family just had our family portraits taken by Kristen (these images are the results of our session!) and as much as I value them and feel they are of utmost importance, I also find the experience to be a great way to see things through our client’s eyes. So… believe me when I say… we feel the pressure of all of the variables (weather, moods, wardrobe, the list goes on) as much as you do!

If you wait for your busy schedule to clear, the perfect wardrobe inspiration or those last 5 pounds to fall off, you’ll be waiting forever. Contact your favorite family photographer (if you’re local, we hope it’s us!), get something on the calendar, and read on for my tried and true tips on a stress free and successful session.


no 1. / be realistic & strategic

Setting reasonable expectations and going into your session with a plan will help keep stress levels to a minimum and maximize your chances of success. A one year old probably is not going to tolerate 4 outfits changes and a long session, but will likely thrive with an easy going shoot with attention grabbers (a duck pond, bubbles, a wagon ride) and quick, easy wardrobe modifications. A toddler with a 6:30 bedtime isn’t going to be a happy camper during an 8 PM sunset shoot. A shy preschooler who takes a while to come out of their shell would likely do much better with a regular session than a super short mini session. A preteen who would rather be at their baseball practice is going to be much happier with a mini session than an hour long ordeal… you get the idea! Your photographer can help strategize your session, but it’s always a good idea to come armed with a plan of your priority shots and locations so that you can ensure you capture that perfect family shot or image in that heirloom basinet right at the beginning (before moods have a chance to head south!).

At your shoot, try to relax and take hiccups like meltdowns, surprise rain showers, and stained clothes in stride. Chances are, your photographer has seen and experienced it all and will have a backup plan or tools in their arsenal to combat whatever problems arise. Super stressed parents lead to super stressed kids, and that leads to less than stellar results. Trust us on this one! This is another reason why strategy comes in handy. Little things like wearing a dress that you can sit comfortably in or styling your hair in a way that won’t fall flat if its humid, bringing non-staining snacks like smarties or fruit snacks, etc… they make a big difference.

no 2. / be mindful about wardrobe

The right styling can take images from ordinary to extraordinary, and a little care and planning in this department goes a LONG way. Your photographer will be happy to give you guidance based on the season, what you plan on doing with the images, and location of your session. There’s tons of ground to cover when it comes to dressing for portraits, but here are some of our top tips:

  • Consider the location. How you’d ideally dress for a preppy, summery session in the park would vary a ton from a sunset session in a field, or an urban session with graffitied walls and lots of grungy details.

  • You don’t have to drop tons of $$$ on brand new clothing, but make sure to select items that don’t look worn or faded. Polo shirts with rolled up collars or stretched out dresses that droop: no good!

  • Pick a color family or a scheme of 3-5 colors and build from there. One patterned outfit is a great start, as you can then pull coordinating colors from that. The internet is also a great resource when it comes to finding & matching colors. Check out our Pinterest page, blog post on our favorite summer color schemes, 75 of the coolest color combinations of 2019, and Color Hunt for lots of good inspo.

  • Don’t forget accessories as a great way to tie in or add pops of colors (statement earrings, a fun necklace, a bowtie!). During the colder months, a knit scarf or fun hat accomplish the same.

  • Nothing brings down a perfectly coordinated outfit more than a worn out pair of sneakers or similarly non-photogenic shoes. Make sure everyone’s footwear coordinates, and if you can’t pull it together, go barefoot… always a better option vs. only being able to shoot from the waist up! This applies for outerwear during outdoor winter shoots as well.

  • This may sound simple, but we run into this a lot… make sure everyone tries on their outfits and take a quick iPhone shot of them before you show up for your session! Nothing is worse than getting your images back and realizing just how bright your daughter’s dress photographed, or how your son is swimming in his brand new button down, or that you don’t feel super confident in how you looked in your outfit (this is key… mom, you will not love your family photos if you don’t like the way you look. Read this line, and then read it again). The same goes for hair and makeup.

no 3. / trust your photographer

This is a big one. I’m a big believer in hiring experts to do things I can’t do, and the same rings true when you hire a family photographer. You are choosing to do so not just to have someone be a button pusher, but to put their skill and expertise into play to create beautiful images. The images on this post were taken on one of those 95 degree days we had recently. We were all sweating, the kids were crabby, the whole nine yards, but I trusted Kristen’s extensive experience and because of that… these images resulted. When I saw them, all of that was forgotten and all I could see was those perfect, happy moments and none of the in between. Trust. Is. Key!

This, of course, does not mean you shouldn’t openly share your visions and ideas for your session… we rely on our clients to do so to make sure that they are thrilled with their outcome. Instead, it means that you should defer to your photographer when they make suggestions before, during & after your session. We often suggest different locations that we know have great light, or that may be quieter or less distracting during certain times of the day. We may strongly advise rescheduling a session if it looks like we’ll be facing heavy, dark skies or high winds. During a shoot, we may guide our families to stay in one spot to focus on getting a great set of shots, or we might take a little “adventure walk” to get attention spans back on track. After a shoot, you may find that an image you remember taking isn’t in your gallery, but rest assured that we (and pretty much any other photographer) never leaves great images on the table and ensures that every single image presented to you meets our standards of quality. Moral of the story… when you’re hiring a professional, trust them. If you aren’t under the sink handing your plumber the wrench, you should probably let your photographer take the reins as well.

no 4. / print your images!

Once you have marveled over how perfect your images are, and have safely downloaded and backed up your digital versions, do something with them! We don’t just mean sharing them on social media, though we highly suggest doing this as well. :) Life is busy, and we all have the best intentions to print our images, make albums, etc., but it quickly falls to the bottom of our priority lists. The best way to combat this? Check out our blog post about our favorite vendors for prints & products, and print them right away. I designed and ordered an album as soon as I had our images done, which may sound crazy but I knew if I put it on the back burner, it wouldn’t get done. If you have any doubts that you’d be able to get at least a few of those special shots printed and displayed, ask your photographer for their suggestions and order through them. Not only does it get done for you, but you get the extra boost of quality and workmanship that a professional lab or vendor can provide.