Tips for a Successful Family Photography Shoot

I recently had  family photos taken at Coney Island. I was sooo looking forward to the experience as we have never had family photos done. The weather conditions were not as we hoped for at the beginning of April, but that didn’t really matter as our photographer was so good at putting us all at ease. Mr P warmed to her instantly, and his bright personality shone through in his time in front of the camera.
Besides having a professional photographer that is great at setting expectations and keeping everyone relaxed, I asked our photographer Rachel from Rachel Knowles Photography what else a family can do to make their photography session successful.

The most common question I find myself getting asked as a photographer is “What should we wear?” I’ve put together a list of tips and tricks that can help any family getting ready for a family photo shoot.

Be Comfortable!

If you don’t own a dress, chances are there’s probably a good reason.

Perhaps you don’t feel comfortable in them, so don’t go out buying one before your session, thinking it will make you look fabulous for your family pictures. You will just end up looking awkward and uncomfortable and the rest of your family will laugh at you. No, I’m only kidding. Well, actually I can’t speak for the rest of your family…but I certainly won’t laugh at you. However, If you are a dress person, please make sure that your dress or skirt is of appropriate length. I hate to sound like a principal here, but if you place your hands at your side and you feel skin…chances are, it’s too short.

In addition, don’t wear anything too tight. Not only is it uncomfortable, it’s not flattering either. Sorry to say, but it’s the truth. Yes, we photographers are pretty good at photoshop but we’d rather be spending that extra time with our own families. I tell my clients to be dressy casual.

  • For women: Nice fitting jeans and a blouse are the best way to go. 
  • For men: Nice fitting jeans and a dress shirt (note:I didn’t say T-shirt that you wear to work out in).


Layer, layer, layer! I love a layerd look. You can usually get at least 3 different looks with a layered outfit. For example, women: you can always wear a cute jean jacket or cardigan over your blouse for look #1 and remove it for look #2. Believe it or not, they can then be used as a prop. Look #3. Bang! For men: wearing a blazer with a nice shirt and jeans is always a great look. Again, remove the blazer for look #2, throw it over your wife’s shoulders for look #3, or over your son or daughter, look #4…the list can go on. For your children, the same thing applies.The more things you can layer, the more looks you can get out of your session!


Try to match the colors of the clothes of each of your family members. If you have two daughters, there’s no need to by the same dress in two sizes, I simply mean…take the most dominant color that you’d like to base yourselves around (maybe your favorite blue blouse that brings out your eyes…hey, you’re the mom. Let’s be real here: what you say goes!) and then match your husband and children around that.

The key here is that you don’t want to be too matchy matchy. You don’t want to be THAT family. But you also don’t want to look like you all just met for the first time.

Keep it Simple

Please avoid loud and crazy patterns. Any fabric or material that is shiny or has a crazy pattern does not photograph well. Trust me. Yes, it might be your favorite shirt. Yes, it may make you look 10 lbs lighter.

If it has rhinestone, zig-zag stripes…ehh, maybe leave it at home.

It is generally best to stick with simple and solid colors. Bear in mind, you aren’t limited to only solid colors, but they do photograph best. Also, do not dress your children in chartoon graphic tees. No Dora or Mickey Mouse. That gives your photos an extremely casual look, so please also leave those at home. (Sidenote: try shying away from solid whites. Whites tend to not show contrast and won’t make you look your best. However, if you are doing an indoor session with no direct lighting, then whites shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.)

Be Yourself

Photographers know what they’re doing. The most important part, is that you show up. And preferably not naked.

So as long as you wear clothing that you feel represents your family as a whole, just be yourself and let the photographer do all the hard work.

If you’ve got a good photographer, they should be able to capture your family’s personality no matter what you wear.

These are just tips so that you have all of the information you need to get the most out of your session. Remember to relax, have fun and the most essential part of any wardrobe is a smile!

Catch up with Rachel Knowles Photography on Facebook, and look we were featured on her blog! You can also see a few more photos from our session here.

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7 Responses to Tips for a Successful Family Photography Shoot
  1. Maggie C
    May 18, 2013 | 4:26 pm

    We had an excellent photographer at Picture People last month, so I agree, a good photographer will be able to get great candid shots, no matter what. I do like the idea of layers and then discarding/adding to get different looks. My dream is to have a family shoot someday soon.
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  2. Dede
    Twitter: savinginseconds
    May 18, 2013 | 8:31 pm

    We haven’t taken family portraits yet. The closest I got was at our dolphin experience at SeaWorld.
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  3. Michelle
    May 19, 2013 | 11:18 am

    Great tips And our biggest issue is always how to dress, I love layers and the idea of making multiple looks out of one layered look.
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  4. Kelsey Apley
    May 19, 2013 | 12:11 pm

    Great tips, always nice to have little inside tips to capture those perfect moments!
    Kelsey Apley recently posted..Fisher-Price iXL 6-in-1 Learning System $31.99 (reg. $83) With FREE ShippingMy Profile

  5. LisaLisa
    May 19, 2013 | 12:12 pm

    Great tips, we are getting ready to take a family photo in the next few months. I will surely use a few of your tips. Thanks!

  6. Emily
    May 19, 2013 | 1:28 pm

    Great tips. I think finding the “right” photographer for your family can make a huge difference – especially with young kids. It takes some real talent to get kids to stay happy and appear natural in a way that makes good photos. Some photographers just have no idea how to relate to young children and try to pose them over and over in the exact same way when the kid just doesnt want ot sit still after 20 mins of pics. I think photographs of kids tend to turn out cuter if they aren’t forced to pose, anyway.
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  7. Sheila
    May 19, 2013 | 4:31 pm

    We never had professional family portraits done and now that my son is 21 I wish we had done it every couple years.

    Cute pics :)
    Sheila recently posted..Nutrisystem Week 7 #NSNation #AdMy Profile

KiwiCanadian expat adventures with my husband and 2 kids from life in New Zealand to New York and back again. Adventures in inspired family living, travel, health & fitness.Read More »