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Family Portrait Photos: 5 Tips for the best family photography

family photoshoot in dulwich park

How to get the best family photos.

So you have decided you want to have some family portrait photos taken. Great. This is a blog to help you choose the right family portrait photographer. I”m going to answer the questions I get asked the most and help you prepare for your family photoshoot so you get the best results. There were 7 frogs sitting on a rock and 3 decided to jump. How many were left on the rock? ……. That’s right still 7 because although they had made the decision they hadn’t taken the action and jumped. What actions do you need to take to have the best family photography experience and ensure you get the best family photos?

I’ve broken it down into 5 simple steps for you.

1. What is the purpose of the family photography?

Let’s start with the purpose of the photoshoot. Do you have an end in mind?

If you want your family portrait photos of a certain size then you will need pictures of a certain quality but if you just want to share them online with friends and family on social media then the size of the file size is less important. Why is this important? If you want large prints for your wall then you will need a camera of a higher specification than if you are just wanting digital images. Make sure you advise your chosen family portrait photographer of your end purpose. Some family photographers only offer prints and others only provide digital files for you to do with as you wish. Make sure to get this clear right at the start to avoid any confusion later.

family poprtrait photographer

2. What style of family portrait photos are you looking for? Relaxed or formal?

Next what kind of look or style are you wanting? Many of my clients opt for a relaxed informal style of family portrait photography of themselves &/or their loved ones. Others prefer a more formal style of family photography with staged poses. Let’s look at the pros and cons of both.

With posed images, it’s possible to style & position individuals & groups to get the composition correct. The cons are that the photos may look a bit staged and formal. If the subjects are anything like me then they will find it hard to smile naturally on cue.

For those that want a more natural style of family portrait photos then the challenge is letting go of the whole experience and putting your faith in the photographer to capture those beautiful natural moments of your family. It sounds easy but it’s not always so easy in reality. Naturally, parents have the desire to control and direct their (beloved) offspring. They may even have a particular image or style of photography they want to replicate. However, if you want natural images then you have to learn to let go. You cannot stand there and direct the kids like they are circus animals and expect the images to look natural.

Since you are paying for this then you may be concerned about time. Is the photographer going to capture images to your liking? If you have done your homework then hopefully you have chosen a family or children’s photographer who you feel comfortable with and whose work you like. If they could capture those beautiful images in their portfolio then why would they fail to capture equally captivating memories of your clan? Unless of course you get involved and start interfering in the process that is. 😉

More often than not when taking family portraits it’s the parents rather than the kids that interfere and get in the way. I know of some female family photographers who insist on the parents leaving the studio to prevent parental interference. Let things happen naturally and allow the photographer to build rapport with the kids. It only takes a fraction of a second to take a picture with a digital camera. The photographer will take plenty of shots during the photo session.

black and white studio portrait image

3. Where do you want the shoot to take place?

This ties in with the previous point really. Do you want family portrait photos taken in a photography studio or do you want a more natural setting? A photography studio offers consistent lighting and there is no chance that the weather might intervene adversely. On the other hand, studio photoshoots can look rather sterile for some people. They much prefer family portrait photography somewhere more natural. Many have the desired location in mind.

If you want your family portraits taken at home ensure there is enough space & light. Share some simple phone snaps with the photographer prior to the shoot. Check to see whether he can bring his own lighting if required. Once you have settled on the location it’s now time to move on to style.

indoor photoshoot by family portrait photographer

4. Plan your outfits /looks/props well in advance.

Preparation & planning are rarely wasted in family photography so if possible create a mood board

If this sounds like I am parenting the parents then ……. well I am a bit 😉

What’s a mood board I hear you ask? That’s a great question. When I first heard someone use this term I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was too self-conscious to ask. A mood board is a collection of images either on an actual board or a piece of paper or on a digital file. They are common in many genres, not just family portrait photography. Put together they reflect a feel and style of what you are looking for. They can include types of poses, and what kind of grouping you like

This may take a bit of family diplomacy but taking some time to organise this in advance really is worth the effort. It can also be a lot of fun if you make a team effort at this too. Treat this as an exercise involving as many people as possible then everyone will feel they are contributing and are part of the process. That said when I was growing up sitting down with my folks creating a look or a concept would not be too high on my list of priorities. Times have changed.  With the internet, the process can be much easier and simpler. Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, 500px and Google images are great ways to search for images. Look on family portrait photographers websites and ask friends and relatives.

Depending on who is getting their photos taken then it’s best to know well in advance who is wearing what. Ensure outfits and colours complement each other. Be wary of red especially as it can draw the eye to it more than any other colour. Other bright colours like orange and purple can drown out softer ones too. Do you really want to look at family portraits on your wall or on your computer and think to yourself “if only I hadn’t worn that top?” or “It would have been better if X had worn the white shirt and Y had taken their jacket off.”

Remember it’s perfectly ok to make alterations to the outfits on location but it pays to know in advance the general style that is desired. Make a point of saving these mood boards either in digital format.  If you tear the photography images out from magazines then share them with your chosen family photographer prior to the shoot. Ensure you bring them with you to the shoot as well. What is the point of being at the shoot and wanting to show the photographer what you think would look good and not have the mood board available to show them?

Feel free to bring along props and accessories to add to the experience and make it more personal.

If you have chosen a studio photoshoot & want to include some props then always check with the photographer what props are & aren’t available. Those balloons or bubbles that might be on the website could have been brought by the client. Always check everything in advance to avoid disappointment.

childrens photographeer

5. Arrive early and get on with each other & enjoy the photoshoot

Families are well …….families…which means that there are always lots of dynamics within them. As much as possible let’s all be nice to each other AND allow your chosen family portrait photographer to direct ALL of the family. Some family photoshoots go like a dream, everyone is happy and the whole experience is fun. However, it is possible for “unresolved issues” to rear their ugly head. That’s not going to be the most fun experience and is more than likely to show on people’s faces too. Take a little time at the start of the portrait photo shoot to make a little plan for the shoot so everyone is singing from the same hymnsheet.

black and white family photos

You can find out more about my work as a family portrait photographer on my page Family Portrait Photography. Visit my Portrait Photography page or return to the Home page.

Contact me to book a photo session or to ask more questions.

Alternatively read my blogs: How to book a portrait photographer, Professional Headshots: 10 client tips to get the best results or How much are professional headshots in London?


I am a portrait photographer from London UK, who takes professional portrait & headshots of people for business and personal use. I am also a London event photographer covering all types of events from small private gatherings to office work parties, large festivals, and conferences.