Family Portraits Resources

How to Prepare for your Family Session and get Portraits You’ll Love

Family portrait in the snow


Are you thinking about booking a portrait session? You’ve realized it’s been a year since your last family portraits, or many years, or you’ve never had one. Where do you start? I’m here to help you through this process so you can have the best experience possible.


Before the session


1. Research and find the right photographer for you.


Not all photographers are meant for every family. You’ll want to look at the quality and style of their work, read their reviews, decide how you’ll want the final portraits.

Do you want to see your portraits on your wall or just digitally shared with family and friends? In an album that will last for generations?  I specialize in providing artwork for my families because I believe digital files have a shelf-life.  Files that are never printed will eventually be lost and never be shared with your grandkids, or their kids, or even your own when they are older. 

How much do you want to spend? Do you want to spend more and get personalized service, or are you on a budget and want to look for more of a high-volume or new photographer with less experience?

Do you want all posed – looking at the camera – portraits, or also include genuine interactions? (look at the photographer’s portfolio). I want to capture your family happy, loving, connected. The way your family plays and looks at each other, even if that means a hair out of place. I do include everyone looking at the camera smiling portraits, but not for the entire gallery. I want to tell your family’s story, more than just what you look like in a pretty setting. 

Do you like the photographer? How would you even know if you like the photographer? When you book a photographer for your family portrait session it needs to be someone you trust and get along with. Why? If you get along with your photographer, both you and your children are more likely to open up and enjoy the session. Find someone you like based on what they post on social media, on their website, and in their communication with you. 

If you’re not even sure where to begin, I’ve developed an e-mail series that can help you choose a photographer, click here to sign up for 7 Steps To Choosing The Right Family Photographer.



2. Decide on a location and time


Is there somewhere local special to your family? For example, do you often take walks through creamers field with your young kids, and want to remember those moments? Do you go fishing at Chena Lakes? Do you have a backyard that you love? Choosing a location that you enjoy as a family will help ensure that you LOVE the images that are taken there.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a place in mind! Your photographer can help you choose somewhere based on where they’ve scouted and love, and often times they’ll know of a beautiful location that you would have never known. Personally, I love capturing families at Chena Lakes, Creamers Field, Murphy and Ester Dome, and various locations off Chena Hot Springs Road. I always scout before your session though, because conditions here in Alaska often change!

Regarding the time of day, most photographers prefer shooting during ‘golden hour,’ the hour generally before sunset or after sunrise (here in Alaska golden hour does last longer :), or as close to as possible. The time for this changes drastically in Alaska! In summer I prefer sessions around 9:30/10pm, and in winter 1-2pm are great.

During this time that I recommend, the light is more flattering and can create a gorgeous dreamy effect. Most photographers are also flexible and can have sessions throughout the day, so if you know your kid becomes a dragon after 8 PM, don’t be afraid to ask for an earlier or more convenient time.

Communication with your photographer is KEY. They will let you know how they can create the gorgeous images you see on their website for you, but you must also tell them about what will work for your family. 


3. Choose your outfits


Eeeek, have no idea what to wear for a family session? Maybe you haven’t even thought about booking a session because you have NO IDEA how to coordinate your entire families outfits? I remember being SO stressed when my husband and I had our engagement session that I stayed up the night before trying on every outfit combination I owned. I picked out two outfits that fit me well and I didn’t feel fat in but weren’t well coordinated with my husbands.  This was 10 years ago, waaaay before I became a portrait photographer, and I’ve learned so much since. 

Choosing outfits can be one of the most stressful parts about scheduling a family session! I created a guide here that can help, but if you book a session with me I go even further and give you personal guidance. I use a tool that can help you choose outfits and contain links to buy the outfits if you don’t already own something similar. All the stress is taken away! Most photographers can help with this if you ask, some more than others.

PLEASE, no characters or logos. Please. That’s all I ask 🙂 


4. Let the photographer get to know you


Many photographers (including myself) send a questionnaire before your session. Be open and honest and try to communicate as much to the photographer as possible! What makes your kids laugh, what makes you laugh, what kinds of playful things do you do together?  It might feel weird opening that much up to your photographer, especially one that you haven’t yet met, but it helps us do our job best! Knowing these things in advance can help your photographer create prompts for your session to help guide those genuine moments. 

Do your kids like games? Games such as hide and seek. chasing monsters, looking for bugs, etc? These a great for natural action shots. Every family has something that brings uniqueness to their photos, what’s yours? 

Also as an example, does your toddler absolutely LOVE a specific song? The photographer can have that song playing when you first show up to your session, both easing the toddler in and getting him/her excited.



5. Prepare the day prior and day of


This includes SLEEP. Make sure you get enough sleep for your session. We all know how easily tired kids become cranky kids, less willing to go with the flow of the session.  Even if that means not staying up searching for the Northern Lights the night prior to your session, as much as you might want to!

Make sure your family is fed well and hydrated. I don’t know about you but I become very haaangry if I don’t eat enough or often, and my son is even worse! Bring your kids favorite snacks too, just in case!

Mom – wear makeup, even if you don’t normally. At the very least, use tinted moisturizer and mascara. That will help even your skin tone and bring attention to your eyes. 

Remember to bring any favorite toys along. 


During the session


6. Relax and have fun!


It’s totally okay and normal to feel stiff and nervous at first, 99.99% of people are uncomfortable in front of the camera (and yes that’s a scientific fact….j/k). That’s just your brain being a butt. Trust your photographer and go with the flow – you’ll gradually get less stiff and it’ll be easier to be yourself. Try to forget the camera as much as you can, even though I know that can be hard. Focus on interacting with your kids while thinking about what you love about your family. Your photographer will guide you. 


7. Let your kids be themselves


This is not the time to be the strict parent – let your kids be themselves. We all know they can be monsters, but if they sense that you’re angry, the session only goes downhill from there.  If you don’t normally let your kid throw rocks into the water, this might be the one time to let them. (wait, I think most parents would let that happen….oh well…you know what I mean 🙂 )

Another hint-  and this might be hard because it doesn’t come naturally – PLEASE don’t tell your kids to look at the camera while looking or making faces at them. I’ve had so many portraits ruined because a Mom (yes, mostly Mom), is making a weird face trying to get her child to smile, but the kid on their own was already giving me the best natural smiles. I will do my best at getting their attention when it’s time.  


8. Lastly, turn your work “off” and be present


Moms and Dads can be guilty of this – Don’t think about your to-do-list, don’t think about what else is worrying you. Keep your phone in the car. Be present with your family, and enjoy them. If you think it might help, on the car ride over, think about what life has given you. Imagine life without your family and how different it would be, and be reminded of the joy they bring you. Your portraits will turn out best if you feel the connection with them at that moment.


I hope these tips have been helpful and if you this post make you think you might like me (I mean common, cheesy weird jokes thrown in there, who wouldn’t?), contact me so we can schedule a consultation!


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