8 Tips for families before their photo session

  • advice for your photography clients before a photo session by Krista Campbell

Let’s face it… family photo sessions can be challenging… for not only the family, but sometimes the photographer as well.

By educating your photography clients and giving them the following tips BEFORE their session, you can help them get the most out of their photography experience.

1.  Ask your client to choose their clothing carefully.

Advice for your clients:

Have your clothing chosen way in advance and make sure that your outfit choices are comfortable and attractive.  What do your dream family photos look like?  If they are soft and elegant?  Chose neutral colors with soft, flowing fabrics…. think creams, very soft pastels, oatmeals, light browns, tans, grays, and slate blues.  Want to showcase the fun and spunky side of your family?  Choose coordinating colors (but not matchy, matchy) with bold accent colors, such as hues of gray with yellow or bright red accents.  Adding fun accessories like scarves, headbands, hats, etc. can add a modern twist and sassy flair to your images.

2.  Recommend that your clients be well rested and well fed.

Advice for your clients:

Be certain not to schedule your photo session around your child’s nap or bedtime.  The best time for lighting is the two hours before sunset and after sunrise.  If this is a bad time for your children, talk with your photographer.  Good photographers will be able to shoot at any time of day by utilizing areas of open shade that will give your skin a beautiful hue and put a sparkle in your eyes.  Don’t show up to a photo shoot on an empty stomach.  I meet many families who come to a photo session with dinner scheduled at the end.  If this is your plan, be sure to give everyone a healthy snack before the photo shoot.

donating your photography services by Arkansas photographer Krista Campbell

3. Be sure to leave plenty of time to get ready.

Advice for your clients:

Moms are often rushing around before a photo shoot, making sure that their family is dressed and ready. I always encourage mothers to have their hair and makeup professionally done. This will prepare mom for her pictures and when mom is feeling pretty and confident, this will reflect on the rest of the family as well. Leave plenty of time for showers, baths, dressing, and grooming. When a family shows up to a family photo session rushed and disorganized, it sets the tone for a rushed and disorganized session. Give yourself extra time so that you are ready before it’s time to head out that door.

4. Ask the dads to be cheerful participants.

Advice for your clients:

Dads, please cheerfully participate. I know that many dads dread the family photo session, but fathers, please understand how important capturing your family is. These images will be left as a legacy, when your children are grown, with families of their own some day. Family photos are treasured forever and they are so important. Please, please, dads… cheerfully participate in your family photo session. Once you see your happy wife and amazing photographs, you will be so glad that you gave this time to your family.

5. Cheese is for crackers.

Advice for your clients:

Please, parents… leave the “cheese” at home. Cheese is for crackers. So many times I have found parents who stand behind the photographer and scream, “Say cheese to the lady kids!” Yelling and demanding young children to look at the camera to smile will only stress your children out (not to mention the photographer) and will result in strained, unnatural and often unflattering photographs. Step back, and allow the photographer to naturally interact and talk with your children. This will result in natural, gorgeous smiles. Help the photographer capture the true essence of your child’s personality by talking with and coaxing out those smiles naturally and easily.

advice for your photography clients before a photo session by Krista Campbell

6. Have fun with your family.

Advice for your clients:

Don’t be afraid to pick up your children and toss them in the air. Give your wife a sweet kiss on the check. Tell your husband how much you love him and appreciate him for being there for your family. Have fun. Laugh. Giggle. Joke. Embrace. Kiss. Snuggle. Play. Doing these things will allow the photographer to capture the emotion and true beauty of your family. Leave the stiff “cheese” faces for Aunt Marge at the next family reunion. Show your photographer who you really are, so that she has the opportunity to capture your love through her lens.

7. Bring an activity that you enjoy doing together as a family.

Advice for your clients:

My most successful family sessions have incorporated an activity that the family loves to do together. This gives you something to do with your hands and feet, engages the little ones, and brings an authentic smile to your face. Do you love to read together? Bring some books. Is your favorite dessert ice cream? Bring some ice cream bars or drumsticks to your session or better yet… hire an ice cream truck to come to your session. Love to play board games or cards? Plan to play a round of Uno or Monopoly during your family photo session. Other ideas include: football, piggy back rides, races, bike riding, hiking, singing, picnics, the ideas are endless. When families are engaged in doing something that they love together, the photographer will have the opportunity to take some beautiful and authentic photographs.

8. Let your clients know that NOT everyone has to be looking and smiling at the camera at the same time.

Advice for your clients:

The best photographs are often the ones where everyone is engaged or interacting with each other. Understand that not every picture needs to have everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. If you are engaged as a family and loving on each other, your eyes will be on your family members and your smile with be natural. These are the photographs that you will cherish most because they depict your family connection and your love.

advice for your photography clients before a photo session by Krista Campbell

When you educate your clients, they know what to expect during their family photo session. If you prepare your clients ahead of time, it will result in a successful photo shoot and ultimately gorgeous, timeless family images that your clients will treasure for a lifetime.

About the Author:

Krista is natural light portrait, senior, and wedding photographer in Northwest Arkansas. A lover of golden fields, buttery backlight, and authentic emotion, she strives to transform the mundane into the magical by showcasing amazing light and interaction in her photography. She is a devoted wife and mother of a spirited daughter, who also serves as her muse. Krista loves spicy Mexican food, reality TV, the ocean, and connecting with nature. She is the author of Transforming the Mundane Into Magical.


  1. Michelle Kersey Oct 07 2013 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Great pieces of advice! I’ll be sharing this on my page for sure!

  2. Kristin Dokoza Oct 07 2013 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Wonderful advice!

  3. Sarah Oct 07 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    I love the advice here. In particular, bring an activity- I’ve really started to emphasize this recently, and it has been so helpful to clients in getting those “in between the pose” shots that we all LOVE! Thanks for sharing such great tips.

  4. Kimberly Oct 07 2013 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Love this! Definitely will be sharing this as well, thank you!!!

  5. Krista Campbell Oct 07 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much everyone! Hope this was helpful! 🙂

  6. Rachel Oct 07 2013 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    This has such great advice! Awesome article Krista!!!

  7. Tina Oct 07 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    So helpful! Thanks so much for putting this together Krista. My gosh, I hate it when the families are behind me yelling, “CHEESE” at their kids!

  8. Summer Oct 07 2013 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Great tips, Krista!

  9. Jerri Oct 08 2013 at 12:54 am - Reply

    great tips and well put!

  10. Krista Campbell Oct 08 2013 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks, girls! 🙂

  11. Cortney Oct 09 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

    Love this! Thank you for sharing!

  12. Jodi Oct 10 2013 at 8:29 am - Reply

    great tips, krista! thanks so much for sharing!

  13. Cristina Feb 10 2014 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Very clear and simple. Thank you for sharing. Very helpful.

  14. Dorota Apr 01 2014 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Very good your tips. Thank you
    I like the last photo. Which lens did you use? Telephoto? I loooooove the bacground.

  15. Dorota Apr 01 2014 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Very good tips 🙂 I wanted to say ha ha

  16. Caryl Anne Apr 11 2014 at 10:07 am - Reply

    These are great advice tips to provide any family before their photo shoot. I believe this will help the photo shoot be more enjoyable and fun for everyone. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Wendy Jul 25 2014 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    This is an awesome list, I think I may link to it for my clients!

  18. Katy Sewell Feb 05 2015 at 11:52 am - Reply

    I have found that my kids stress out about photos when they see that I am stressed. These are some great tips that I would like to use this upcoming spring for our family session. I still need to find a photo studio that can take our pictures that are within our price range. http://starrstreetstudios.com/photos/

  19. Joanne Rodriguez May 05 2015 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this!

  20. Eve Hobgood Aug 12 2015 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Thank You! Great advice

  21. Melissa G Nov 10 2015 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Wonderful advice!

  22. Nikki Jun 01 2016 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    These are great tips! We start talking about styling, what our session will look like and how to prepare from the first conversation. Making sure everyone is on the same page from the beginning really makes everything go smoothly! http://www.lightinmyhands.com/blog/photo-session-styling-tips

  23. Lillian Schaeffer Jan 25 2017 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Thanks for bringing to my attention the importance of leaving plenty of time to get ready before a family photo shoot. It’s been many years since our last family picture, so I want to have another one taken soon. I imagine that trying to get ready last minute would only lead to stress and unhappy parents and kids, so I’ll make sure to give us lots of time beforehand.

  24. Great tips. #4 is soooo true. While not always true I do get the odd Dad who just doesn’t want to crack a smile or get involved no matter how much I try.

  25. Bobby Saint Nov 15 2017 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    You made a good point to advise your client to choose the best clothing they feel comfortable wearing in a photo session. It is recommended to use neutral colors and soft fabric especially if there are children included. Also, you may want to suggest adding some additional accessories such as sunglasses, cowboy hats or even headbands. This should make the photo session very interesting and light. I would make sure to keep this in mind if we ever have one in our family. Thanks.

  26. Michelle Liz May 13 2018 at 4:51 am - Reply

    This article was very helpful. Thank you.

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