I often get people coming into the studio worried that they won’t look good on camera or parents who are stressed trying to get the kids organized and smiling. Having spent a number of years photographing people I’ve figured out a few tips that might help you out next time you are planning your family photography session – tips that will help you relax and hopefully have a little fun in the process of visiting a photography studio for better family photography.


baby says hello to the cameraObvious, right? Not really. No one wants to see a fake smile. Instead of forcing a smile, just relax, have fun, and let any smiles come naturally. I have had parents standing behind me telling the kids to smile or look at the camera. Would you like it if someone was standing and telling you to smile? So let the photographer do their job. If they are any good (like me) they will engage the children naturally and have fun with them. Then when the photographer and child are having fun together we get those natural smiles from children. If you want to help, smile and have fun yourself. If you are engaged and enjoy being together as a family so will your children and you will be pleasantly surprised when you get your photographs later and everyone looks great.

Let’s say your child really doesn’t want to smile or maybe you don’t either? That’s fine. People often think they have to smile to look good in a picture. I feel that it is more important to engage with one another and let smiles come naturally. If they don’t, I have numerous pictures on the walls of the studios showing children not smiling that look wonderful. In fact sometimes I will tell people not to smile and instead of going for a happy upbeat moment we can get a lovely photograph of you and your family in an intimate moment. On occasion, what happens is that while trying not to smile people will involuntarily laugh or grin and snap, we just got a good picture.

What to Wear

Wear whatever you want! They are your photos and will be hanging on your walls. So you should feel comfortable in what you are wearing. If you would like a suggestion from an experienced pro, I usually recommend colors. Avoid solid blacks or whites unless you want a formal look. Try to avoid having everyone in patterns as this can create really busy images on the eye and distract from your expressions. When it comes to color go with neutrals such as creams and blues. Or if going bold, go reds, yellows, and other bright colors look great. Do you have a favorite hat or other clothing item? Bring that to your session as well and the photographer can incorporate that. Another bit of advice is avoid anything with a logo. For one reason the pictures might look dated later on. Another reason is do you want to advertise for that company in a photograph that could be seen for years? If it isn’t your company, then I’d say avoid it.

Rest Up

Be certain not to schedule your photography session around a young child’s nap or bedtime as they might get cranky. The night before your photography session try to get some decent sleep so that your eyes and skin look good. Also, have something to eat before. You will be standing in the lights for an hour or more and it is a good idea to not be hungry. Feel free bring a snack for the little ones. For the young ones it usually takes them about 10 to 20 minutes to lose complete interest in the session so a break with a snack might be in order for them at some point during the session.

Let Kids Be Kids

Better Family PhotographyI know I said this in the smile section but it is worth reiterating here. I’ve found that often parents will tell their kids “you need to be good” before or during a photography session. For many kids that puts pressure on them and stresses them. On top of being told to perform, keep in mind they are in a new environment with a person they have never seen before and standing in front of a bunch of lights. Parents wanting their cute little monkey to dance for the photographer might find the child isn’t as into dancing as they want them to be.

Something that is a good idea for children is to bring along some favorite toys. These are comfort items for the child and having the ability to bring that and get their favorite teddy’s photograph with them will help them relax. If you forget, don’t worry, in our studio we have a nice big box of toys for the little ones to play with. Often if we can see they are nervous or unsure we might get mom and dad in front of the camera and let the little ones relax a bit and just play for a while to get comfortable in the space. If the kids don’t want to sit and smile don’t try to force them. Let them run around and be kids. Play with them, make it fun. Let your photographer decide when to start taking the photographs and lead the flow of the session.

Have Fun!

How do you have fun in this crazy new environment with a photographer standing before you and a camera in their hand? Play with the toys as well with your kid. During your session give your children, husband, or wife some tickles. Make funny faces at them, give them big hugs, and joke around. Follow the photographers lead. One of the best things about being a photographer is the fun we get to have meeting new people and playing with the kids. So play along and don’t stress about getting the perfect shot.

A professional photography session is an experience that you don’t have regularly. Often this will be your first time in a photography studio so enjoy the experience. Make a day out of it, a photography session, lunch, or a day at the park and photography session.

Best Photography

The best compliment I have received from my clients is how much fun they had at their session. Or how they were stressed at the beginning and ended the session by saying how relaxed I made it. It isn’t just me that makes the session relaxing and fun. Yes, the photographer is in charge but we are partners with you during your photography session so let’s make it a pleasurable one. This goes for family sessions, couples, children, or even your pet. When people are naturally having fun it shows on camera and you will have lovely photographs to remember the good times with.