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Your Guide to a Stress-Free Family Photo Session

POV: You’ve finally wrangled the whole family (immediate or extended) for family photos and you have a million questions, and maybe even some worries. What location should we choose? What should everyone wear? What if the kids don’t chill? What if it rains? No, really, WHAT DO WE WEAR?! What if, what if, what if… 

Especially if it’s your first family session it can be nerve wracking not knowing what to expect or wanting everything to go “perfectly”. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be great! Let’s walk through some considerations around family photos and hopefully put your mind at ease. 

First and foremost, it’s important to align with your photographer. Explore their work ahead of time and decide if their style and the feelings the photos evoke are right for you. Some photographers approach family photos with a specific set of poses in mind, while others (like me!) take a more documentary or photojournalistic approach and focus on capturing the little moments. Once you have your photographer partner in crime you can start asking specific questions about the day, share your concerns, and design a game plan. 

Now, let’s tackle those other pesky common worries. 

parents make son laugh during Woodland Gardens Family Session
Woodland Gardens Family Session with Angie, Brendan, & Wally


Picking outfits can be so stressful, but thankfully Pinterest is teeming with inspiration! 

Try opting for a general color palette then choose articles that each person is comfortable in. And if the outfit your 4 year old is most comfortable in is her Disney princess dress then HECK YEAH! Honestly I’m smiling just thinking about it. 

mom reads story to daughter during family photos
Lifestyle Family Portraits in Buford, Georgia with Rachel, Matt, & Clara

The Kids

Ok, now hear this and internalize it — the kids don’t have to smile, they don’t have to sit still, they don’t even have to follow the photographer’s directions. Luckily none of the above are required for great photos! Moods happen, and the kids might be shy at first, or need to take breaks during the session and that’s all okay. An experienced photographer will have suggestions on how to keep things moving, when to take a pause, and will know how to draw out wonderful moments regardless.

Happy family posing together by a colorful mural on the Beltline GA Raven Shutley Studios
Beltline Family Portraits at Ponce City Market in Atlanta with Candyce, Jason, Jameson & Jacynthe

Snacks & Small Distractions

Remember to bring snacks! No one is smiling when they’re hangry, you or the kids. Bring things that you all love as a family right now (books, toys, songs you dance to, etc.) And hey, if your son’s blankey or toy truck sneaks in the photos then WELP, I’d say they are all the more genuine and accurate! Try to stay relaxed, flexible, and positive. If you’re having a good time, they will too. And ultimately don’t expect perfection — be open to those candid and spontaneous shots. I bet your kids’ personalities will shine through. 

Two dads smiling and holding their toddler outside on a sunny day in Atlanta Raven Shutley Studios
Atlanta Backyard Family Portraits with Jack, Gary, & Frankie

The Plan, Location & Timeline

Your photographer will take the reins here! If possible, I recommend starting off at home for many reasons, the biggest one being that it’s somewhere familiar so the kids are more apt to warm up more quickly and be more comfortable. Plus you can capture some slice-of-life  and at-home moments, which are so lovely and special to help remember that time in your lives. 

Consult your photographer about when to start the session, they should have thoughts about the best lighting and, if you’re shooting somewhere public, when the fewest people will be there. 

Open communication is key! Fill your photographer in on your family’s schedule, nap times, when everyone needs to eat, etc., so they can help design a successful session. 

Try to be ready early so you’re not racing around stressing out!

Young family laughing in a sunny park in Atlanta Raven Shutley lifestyle family portraits
Jonathan and Marianna’s Family Lifestyle Photos in their Atlanta Backyard


Peek at the weather the week of your session, but try not to start checking too early and stressing out over it! Do you need a change of plans? Or maybe you’re ready to embrace it and stomp around in some puddles?!

At the end of the day, come crummy weather, challenging moods or silly outfits — family photos are about capturing and celebrating where you are right now. I think oftentimes we have such deep expectations that they start to overshadow our joy in the moment. And I can’t help but wonder if a perspective shift would make all the difference in how we experience the moment. Because that’s really what we’re capturing, and what you will remember when you look back on those photos — the moment. 

Get In Touch to Plan Your Family Photo Session

Family sessions are some of my very favorite, so if you are considering having them done I’d love to chat!

Get in touch!

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