How to Nail Your Family Pictures Every Time

Family picture season is right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already stressed about it — I totally understand. So much effort goes in, and there is a high potential for failure when there are spouses and young children involved in the process. Fear not. I’ve been dubbed the family picture queen of Houston Moms Blog and was asked to share some of my secrets and tips with our wonderful readers, so here we go!

How to Nail Your Family Pictures Every Time | Houston Moms Blog

Hire a Professional

I’m a self-admitted “mamarazzi” just like the rest of us. I even have a fancy camera that I pull out for birthday parties and Easter, but I am nowhere near a professional. And I actually like being in the pictures with my family. Thus, I hire a professional for family pictures at least once a year. Just be warned… I’ve learned the hard way that just because someone has a Facebook business page and calls themselves a photographer doesn’t mean they actually have the skills necessary to achieve what you’re expecting from your family photos.  {Not sure where to start? Some of my favorite photographers are detailed in our Ultimate Guide to Houston Photographers!}

Plan Ahead

Schedule your pictures well in advance to ensure you get a day and time that works well for you and your family. Consider nap times, travel time to the location, and anything else that may interfere with everyone’s sanity and ability to focus on getting some great pictures. Shop for outfits well in advance. Start with whoever is most difficult to dress. In my family, that happens to be me. So, I always make sure to find something that works for me and then build my family’s outfits around that. Don’t experiment with new looks unless you’re totally sure you’re going to like them. Look back at photos of yourself and pick outfits based on pictures you like of yourself. Clothes can look perfect and adorable on Pinterest and Instagram, but that doesn’t mean they will be the best fit for you and your body type. For example, I’m pear shaped and tend to hold the majority of my weight in my thighs, hips, and bottom. I look best in dresses that cinch under my chest or at my waist. I still rock skinny jeans as a part of my day-to-day look, but I know that in pictures, dresses are more flattering for my figure. Lastly, be sure to choose something that you feel beautiful AND comfortable in, not something that you have to wear 8 sets of spanx in order to get it in on in the first place. Your pictures will turn out looking as uncomfortable as you felt the whole time you were taking them.

After you decide on an outfit for the most difficult person to dress, move on the easy people. My girls look cute in anything, and my husband is happy to wear whatever in order to tie us all together. {He’s seriously such a good sport that one time he even wore Hanna Andersson long john pajamas for our Christmas pictures, and he never uttered one complaint. Major husband points earned!}

family-picture-tips-1> Exhibit A <
Photo Credit :: Lacy at More Than an Image

Give yourself options; accidents happen, especially with kiddos, so even if you don’t buy two new outfits for everyone, bring an extra set of clothes to all photoshoots just in case. Do all of this weeks, if not months, before your photoshoot. Keep everything together in one area so it’s ready to go. Pack up whatever you may need for the shoot the night before so that you can focus on getting yourself and your family ready and not packing up all of your photoshoot essentials the day of.

Keep it Simple

Props are so fun, but they can also be overwhelming and take away attention from the people in the pictures. If you’re looking for a specific set-up but don’t want to spend the time or money to create it yourself, seek out a photographer who already has the things you’re looking for. More and more photographers are hosting themed mini-sessions throughout the year, and with enough research, I think you could find the look you want without having to put in so much effort on your end. If you’re working with a photographer that doesn’t provide props or themed mini-sessions, then my best advice is to keep it simple. Banners, chairs, blankets, and balloons are my favorite simple props that can go a long way to make your pictures a little more fun and festive.

Bring Distractions

If you have young children, do not attempt a photoshoot without distractions. Pack their favorite snacks or bribe them with a trip to get ice cream after they smile for some pictures. Either way, just be sure you have something ready because we all know a hungry and bored child probably isn’t going to sit and look pretty for anything, much less a family picture. Bring toys, bubbles, noisemakers, and anything that may help get the baby or toddler to look at the camera and hopefully smile. Bring a friend or family member that can stand with the photographer and try to get everyone looking at the camera and smiling. {Yes, I know these tricks may not work. They don’t always work for my kids, but I still try them and just hope for the best.}

family-picture-tips-2> Exhibit B <
Photo Credit :: Lacy at More Than an Image

Set Realistic Expectations

We are not models. Our family members aren’t models. Strangers with big cameras clicking away at the family isn’t an everyday experience for us. Things rarely go as planned once you throw little ones into the mix, and family pictures aren’t an exception to the rule. Prepare yourself for all of these things well in advance of your photoshoot. Set realistic expectations for your family and your photographer. My goal each session is that we get one picture of all of us looking at the camera. Would I prefer that everyone was looking and smiling. Of course I would, but I’ve accepted from the beginning that it just may not happen, which makes the whole process a lot easier. I’ve even found that I’m almost never disappointed with our pictures anymore. I smile, laugh, and tell myself this is the season of life that we’re in right now. I can’t control whether or not my kids smile for the camera anymore than I can control the weather, so there is no reason to get upset about it.

When you do get your images back, look at them once, and if you don’t like what you see right away, close the computer and come back to them later. Usually, the first time I look at our pictures I see all of my “flaws,” and the beauty of the actual image is clouded. When that happens I give myself some time and come back, and I am always able to see all the things I didn’t see the first time I looked at the pictures. We are so critical of ourselves that sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty of the whole picture.

Have Fun with Your Family Pictures!

This is my most important tip. Take a deep breath when you’re on your way to the photoshoot. Prepare yourself to make some memories with your family, and allow yourself to enjoy the process. Start out the session with some silly face pictures and give everyone time to get comfortable in front of the camera. If the baby starts crying, hand her to your husband and let the photographer take some pictures of just you. If the toddler has a meltdown, encourage the photographer to keep shooting because some of those meltdowns can actually be pretty fun to look back on as they grow up. If they’re both going crazy, take some pictures with your spouse. Sneak in some kisses and remind yourselves of how this crazy life all got started.

family-picture-tips-3> Exhibit C <
Photo Credit :: Amanda at Momma’s Gonna Snap

Family pictures can seem daunting with littles ones, but with these tips and a little preparation, you can take a deep breath and enjoy photoshoot time with your family. 

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Mandy is a former Army brat born and raised in the great state of Texas. She has an undergraduate degree in Business Management and a Master’s degree in Business Finance from Texas Tech University; she currently works as a Tax Accountant in Downtown Houston. In 2005 Mandy met her husband Travis while visiting her parents in Virginia. He took her breath away and followed her back to Texas as quickly as he could. Travis and Mandy shared seven adventurous years of married life before bringing their daughters into the world, Amelia {July 2013} and Evelyn {Sept 2015}. Mandy loves Jesus, country music, Instagram, the sunshine and all things water -- the beach is her happy place. She writes about her experiences as a working wife and mother at Letters to Amelia. Follow along in Mandy's daily life on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


    • Thank you! I actually ordered it a few years ago from a shop in England. Very weird, I know. They seem to be more popular now so I bet you could find one closer to you with a quick google search. So sorry I can’t be of more help.


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