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Family Photography

Get Ready With These Family Photo Session Tips

By: Nellamor King

Your social media feed is full of them – beautifully captured family portraits of everyone’s families. You keep telling yourself, “yes, yes, I’ll schedule that soon.” You’ve dreamed of hiring a family photographer to capture the special fleeting moments of your children’s childhoods and this unique chapter in your family’s life. Yet, it’s all so overwhelming! Our little ones are absolutely magical, but sometimes we feel that some experiences are too difficult for them (and with them) – whether or not that’s necessarily true. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with some family photo session tips to help conquer your anxiety to get those sharable photos that you and your family deserve.

Before we dive into family photo session tips, let’s take a look at some of the best reasons to schedule professional family photos NOW, not later: 

Why Your Family NEEDS Professional Family Photos

As a family photographer in Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland, I’ve had the privilege of becoming a part of the lives of many local families. As a result, I’ve gotten to hear a lot of their stories to understand why they finally shoved their anxiety aside to make professional photos happen: 

  • They wake up one day and realize their little ones are not so little anymore. It’s so true! Time moves faster than we realize. One day, we wake up, and our newborns are suddenly toddlers. 
  • They are experiencing something significant in this chapter of their family life and want to memorialize it. Every stage of life brings special moments, and it’s essential to capture them as they happen – before they’re over and we’ve missed the opportunity.
  • They haven’t updated their family photos in YEARS! New children may have been born, and babies have grown up, but you couldn’t tell by looking at the pictures hanging on the wall. Let’s capture your family as they are today!
  • Love. This is perhaps one of my favorite reasons for family photos. They are simply in love with their family, and they can’t have enough pictures. They want ALL the photos! Who could blame them? Children grow so quickly and fill every day with the magic of their personalities, visions and imaginations. 

Reasons Some Put Off Family Photography Sessions and Why to JUST DO IT

When we are scrolling social media, the comparison monster can get a hold of us. We see all of these seemingly perfectly posed Instagram-worthy photos, and we think, “Oh, I want something like that on my wall.” But, this thought is immediately interrupted by a phase our toddler is going through or thinking that the photographer will not be patient enough for our neurodiverse little one, and our motivation is zapped. You aren’t alone. We are all in the same boat facing the same fears. For example:

  • “My child can only hold it together for 10-minutes, max! It’ll never be worth the money.” No matter how much you’ve tried, you can’t get your little to stop wiggling long enough to get a shot that isn’t blurry, let alone looking AND smiling. Kids are notorious for not sitting still, and there is a misconception that most family photographers seem to need that. (Hint #1: I don’t.) 
  • Doubt and anxiety take over, and soon, it’s the only thing we can even think about. The “worry voice” gets too loud and says things that drain the fun and joy out of the family photography experience. We think things like, “they won’t smile;” “they will lose it;” “they will not even look at the camera;” “they will not focus on our session;” or “they will make it a hassle, and it won’t be fun.” (Hint #2: Letting them play often makes for the most memorable sessions.)

Family Photo Session Tips

The good news is, your family photographer can help. Most photographers choose their niches because it’s something they love, and if someone is a family photographer, they LOVE coaxing smiles out of even the most “uncooperative” children. But, here are my favorite family photo session tips to help prepare you (and your littles) for your session. Together, let’s overcome the anxiety hurdle and focus on what’s truly important – creating lasting memories with your children that the whole family will treasure for years to come. 

Tip #1: Remember What We’re Really Capturing

When my anxiety starts calling the shots, I like to respond to it by saying, “Yes, that could be true, but so could… (insert your ideal outcome here).” The experience could end up being an afternoon of fun that not only ends up in photos that make you smile every time you see them on your wall, but that also reminds you of that fun day you had together. 

That voice has already given you a laundry list of unhelpful worries. Where has that gotten you? You’re still without your dreamy family photos. So let’s “flip the script.” What are the benefits of professional family photos? Think about the everyday spontaneous moments with your children – their laugh, curiosity, mischief and fun. That’s what we want to capture, not simply the posed images.

Every parent has those things that their children do that they love and want to hold onto forever. Documentary family photography captures these candid, authentic moments. Of course, we’ll also grab a few perfectly posed shots to make extended family members happy too. I get that; I want those too. When you start thinking about how sitting still doesn’t even authentically describe your family, that worried voice of your inner self will move along to the next thing. You’ll have a record of that magical and fun picture day forever. 

Tip #2: Trust Your Family Photographer to Take the Lead

No one knows your child like you – just as I’m sure that no one knows my child as I do. The good thing is, children have an open heart that allows the opportunity to build friendship and trust. If given a chance, most kids don’t require too much time to warm up. The right things just have to be in place, and I take time to do this before I even meet your littles! Trust me; it’s a part of my workflow. I love working with children with all sorts of personalities. Some take a little longer to warm up, and others are ready to share their favorite toy with me. Every child is unique, but it’s my goal to create a safe, fun space for them to be their authentic selves in front of the camera. 

Trust me to build a bond with your little one and pull out their authentic personality. That’s basically my job and one of my favorite parts of the job description. It may seem that it’s just to take pictures and infuse those magazine-worthy edits, but that’s just a small part of the big picture. I want you and your children to feel confident and have fun throughout our session. This experience won’t be your typical photo session. 

I do things to prepare myself, you and THEM ahead of time, so by the time we meet in person, I’m no longer a “stranger,” and we can get down to the business of playing. This pre-planning reduces stress for you on the day of our session and helps your child get excited about their photo session. The goal is to have your children start the session feeling confident and happy with what they’re doing, which always shows in the photos. 

Tip #3: Collaborate with Your Photographer

The cardinal rule to remember is that we are partners in this. You are not alone in this endeavor. I’ve got you the whole way, but you’re a big part of the experience, too. I’m the Maverick to your Goose! (If you don’t get this reference, then you have got to watch Top Gun!)

We are creating memorable artworks, unique documentary family photographs that will capture your children’s spirit and authentic nature for you to treasure for a lifetime. 

There will be a good balance of candid moments and guided poses that I will help direct. Each family is different, so the ratio of unposed and posed will be unique to your family’s wants and needs, of course. So let me walk you and your family through it. We’re in this together. 

Ask a Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Don’t let your anxiety stop you from working with a family photographer – especially now that you’re equipped with these family photo session tips. Let’s be honest – if you let this day slip by, you will regret it down the road when they’re older. So, let’s make the most of today and set up a family photography session that is sure to create a treasured, tangible memory. Before we start, we will have several conversations about your concerns, desires, and needs. We will discuss everything your child or children need and begin paving the road to a trusted relationship. I got you. 


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