How To Make Your Family Photos Pleasant + Fun

I Understand My Mama Clients So Much More Now…

Last year, we did our first professional family photo session when our son was almost 3 months old. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with getting myself and our family ready, especially with a tiny human! And this tiny human screamed in the car the whole way to our session and was in a stage of spitting up a lot. All I could think of was how much I could instantly relate to all of the mama clients I’d ever had for family sessions in the past.

Getting yourself ready is hard enough, never mind adding your partner and small children into the mix! But what I have seen time after time in my years of shooting clients is that the way you feel about your photos will directly correlate with how you feel before and during your session! To help you LOVE yours, I’ve put together my top 5 tips for making the most out of your family photos.

In this blog, I’ve included our family photos from this year. Even though much of this season is easier than it was last year, it’s also more challenging in other ways. When you have a baby entering toddlerhood it presents some new obstacles to navigate! Regardless, I am beyond obsessed with the outcome and will cherish these forever.

Image Credit For Our Family Session

I’d love to say a huge thank you to my dear friend, Jenna Corley, for shooting these images for us! Having a photographer bestie is wonderful because we often get to trade sessions for each other. We will exchange memory cards, shoot images of one another, and we will each edit our own images in our style. It is such a fun tradition I hope we get to continue for years to come!

And a big thank you to Danielle Forte for doing my makeup and making me feel beautiful for our family session. She is so talented and amazing to work with!

1. Treat Yourself!

If you’re anything like me and love any excuse to get glammed up, then a photo session can be exactly that! Why not schedule a manicure, blowout, and/or professional makeup?!  It’s probably not too often you get to dress up for professional photos,  so it’s totally justifiable to go big for them. You will cherish these memories for years to come, and you won’t regret treating mama to a day of pampering.

If you have daughters it can be fun to get them in on it, too! This is totally not to say you won’t look AMAZING if you do these things on your own either. It’s just a fun idea to enhance the overall experience!

Getting professional glam will also help you to feel less stressed since you’ll have one less thing to do yourself. No one likes to feel pressured and rushed when trying to apply symmetrical eyeliner!

Plus, professional makeup artists will know how to best apply your makeup in a way that will photograph well. For example, many of the artists I refer my clients to know me and my style of shooting well. Therefore they are able to give my clients a makeup look that they know will look amazing in their photos (especially with my editing style)!

Makeup in these family photos of ours was by Danielle Forte of Wilmington, NC!

2. Give Yourself More Time Than You Think You’ll Need

It’s stressful enough planning a photo session for yourself, never mind adding small children to the mix! You will want to show up to your session not only looking great but FEELING great too. When you arrive refreshed and ready to enjoy the experience, you will be much more likely to love your images!

With that, I suggest factoring in plenty of time on the day of your session in case of traffic, need for feeding, wiping faces, etc. Having flexibility with time will help everyone will feel much more relaxed prior to taking photos. I know this is all easier said than done, but our little ones can sense our energy. If we are calm and relaxed it will help them feel more comfortable with the photoshoot too!

3. Plan Your Outfits Well In Advance

Don’t wait until the last minute to decide on your outfits! Start planning this a few weeks prior to your session so you have plenty of time to shop if necessary. If you’re having a hard time deciding on outfits and your photographer offers style consulting, you can reach out and I am sure she or he will be able to advise you on what will look most aesthetically pleasing. Your photographer will also have expertise in what will look best given their style of photography and editing. I offer this option to all of my clients so they can feel confident in all of their outfit choices! I will be honest and help you pick the perfect garments for the best photos that fit my style, the location we’ll be shooting at, etc.

I also have a client closet collection of dresses that my clients can rent for their sessions! This is a collection full of pieces with styles that are flattering to many bodies and look beautiful in photographs too. If your photographer offers a client closet, I would highly recommend using that perk to take one less thing off your plate and guarantee a photo-worthy outfit for you!

4. Prep For Your Kiddos


Bringing one of your child’s special items may be helpful, whether it’s a favorite stuffed animal, lovie, or toy. Your photographer may be able to use it to entice some smiles and laughs out of them. And, it may help them feel more comfortable in general to have something familiar with them that they get to show off! You may end up with a few photos with the toy in them, but that’s perfectly fine as long as you are okay with compromising that for smiles. 🙂


Is it bribery? Maybe. But sometimes we do what we need to, right? 🙂 Having some snacks on hand that your little(s) can get excited about could help you get them through the session! Quick and easy foods like fruit snacks or goldfish are ideal. I would avoid things that have chocolate or anything that can melt so it doesn’t get all over their face + clothes during the session. Having wipes on hand will be helpful in case of any runny noses or other messes!


If your little one is old enough to understand future plans, let them know about photos a few days leading up to your session. Tell them why the photos are important to your family, and explain that you will get to have some fun playing together! Give them details like where you will be shooting, your photographer’s name. etc. Maybe even consider planning something fun afterward as a treat such as ice cream, a trip to the park, etc. It could help give them something to look forward to once you get through the photos!

5. Embrace What You Are Given/This Season!

Listen, I am a mama too so I completely understand how important family photos are to you; especially when you are investing money and time into making them happen. It is not an easy feat! However, as we know, children are unpredictable. Sometimes there is only so much we can control when it comes to their behavior and how they handle certain situations. 

As a photographer, I do my absolute best to allow the kiddos to warm up to take photos and to make my sessions fun and enjoyable for everyone. But there’s also only so much we can do, right? When you are doing something out of routine, with someone your child may or may not be previously familiar with, in an environment that may be different, it can throw our little ones off! And that’s totally okay.

Like I mentioned above, our babes can feed off of our energy. If mom and dad are tense and stressed, they will be much more likely to feel that too! So, my best advice is to just EMBRACE what you are given during your session. Giving your children some time and space will allow them to just be kids and have fun during the shoot. Sometimes those candid moments end up being the most beautiful images because they show the real YOU and who you truly are as a family!

Real Life Example Shown Here!

The photos in this post are a great example of rolling with the punches. Even though I am a photographer myself who values getting great family photos, I ended up LOVING these so much even though we only got a few that were “posed” out of the whole gallery. Our son, Sylas, is 15 months now and is much more independent these days!  He just wanted to do what he wanted to do despite what we were asking of him. Everything we tried wasn’t really working, so we had to make do with whatever kept him happy.

So, we let him play in the sand, and Jordan and I either got down with him or danced together in the background. We had Jordan run at him making silly noises (as you can see in some of these photos) until it made him giggle and smile. We threw him upside down and spun in circles to get him interested. And in some of these family shots, Jordan had to run at us screaming and then quickly stand beside me holding Sylas to get one or two of him smiling with all 3 of us in the frame.

Regardless of how physically tiring it might have been (ha!) I think I love these so much because I have such fond memories of the night AND they are the perfect depiction of what life is like in this season with our little boy.

Choosing Your Photographer

If you are looking for a gallery of perfectly posed, everyone looking at the camera smiling type of images, then it might be best to consider a photographer who dedicates themselves to that type of work. I would describe my style as candid and true to life and I love making my sessions all about the realness and emotion of the season you are in! Sure, we will definitely try to snap a couple of photos of everyone looking my way. But the rest of the session we will just totally embrace your kiddos being little and capture you simply having fun together as a family. In my opinion, and as many of my past clients will agree, those real moments make some of the best images!


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