What I DON’T want for my families: rushed vibes, hectic feelings, the wrong shoes, cold and hungry kids...so I made a quick guide with 9 ways to prepare for your outdoor family photo session so you’ll feel ready for a relaxed and fun photo shoot everyone in the family will enjoy.

It’s happened to all of us – you’re rushing to get out the door in the chaos of needing to be somewhere on time, you finally get everyone loaded in the car and on your way to school/work/appointment/get tacos when you realize you left the coffee pot on, you forgot to put your earrings in, or little Timmy is wearing two different shoes. Sound familiar?

NOT TODAY, CHAOS! You, my friend, are going to have an EPIC family photoshoot.

(Don’t worry boo, I got you.) 

mom and daughter laughing

1.      Plan your outfits at least a week in advance. Don’t wait till the last day! You want to wake up feeling relaxed and prepared, so plan these details out early and make sure to dress for the weather (overheated or freezing family members don’t make for happy photos) and maybe even consider bringing a change of clothes for little ones in case they get muddy.

Also important is to keep undergarments in mind. While I’m very experienced at Photoshop, editing out bra straps or underwear lines is difficult and so time consuming some photographers will actually charge to do this.

Check out my blog post 10 Tips On What to Wear to Your Outdoor Family Photoshoot for tips and ideas on clothes if you need some inspo! (Hint: it’s all about coordinating!)

2.      Pick a location. I love it when clients decide to choose a place that’s meaningful to them as a family or a couple. The park where you had your first date, the trail you used to hike every weekend before kiddos, your kids' favorite place to visit. If your favorite place is visually appealing, all the better! If in doubt or if you don’t have a clue where to shoot, don’t worry! I do have a few beautiful go to locations I like to use for outdoor sessions. 😊

3.      Make sure everyone has eaten. Ever heard of being hangry? Hangry = grumpy pictures. Have snacks and water on hand just in case (and maybe even treats for bribes). I’ve had families who come to a photo session with dinner scheduled at the end, so if this is your plan just be sure to give everyone a healthy snack before the shoot.

4.      Be well rested and keep child nap times in mind. Be sure not to schedule your photo session around your child’s nap or bedtime. The best time for lighting is the two hours before sunset and after sunrise. If this is a bad time for your children, let me know! A good photographer will be able to shoot at any time of day by utilizing areas of open shade.


5.      Prepare your kids (and husband!) with laid-back, low-key references to let them know what’s happening. Tell the kids you’ll be “hanging out with our friend Andrea on Saturday!” or “going to the park to play!” and keep things fun, lighthearted, and casual.

Dads are sometimes less than enthusiastic about photoshoots, so if he is let him know these images will be left as a legacy when your children are grown with families of their own someday. Family photos are treasured forever and so important! Ask him to cheerfully participate and if it’ll help, I totally support a beer before the shoot! Or just ask me and I’ll be happy to bring one for him! (Bribes work for dads too.) 

two girls and a boy petting a white horse

6.      Leave plenty of time to get ready. I cannot stress this one enough. Moms are often rushing around before a photoshoot making sure their family is dressed and ready, so I actually encourage them to get ready first! Get your hair, nails or makeup professionally done. This will prepare mom for pictures, and when mom is feeling pretty and confident, this will reflect on the rest of the family as well. If mom is stressed and rushing and yelling at the family to hurry and get ready, this is not going to make for a positive photoshoot experience for anyone and can affect the shoot experience!

Leave plenty of time for showers, baths, dressing, snacks, and grooming. When a family shows up to a session rushed and disorganized, it sets the tone for a rushed and disorganized session. Give yourself extra time so that you’re ready before its time to head out the door.

7.      Don’t worry about your kids. Remember the kiddos are just kids. They aren’t professionals or even grown-ups. So often, clients are concerned about their children’s behavior. It’s actually a good idea NOT to prep your kids telling them they have to look at the camera and smile. Sometimes kids show up to the session upset and already dreading it. I promise, your kids’ behavior is fine. I’ve seen it all before, trust me. I have always been able to capture some beautiful images, even with the most troublesome little one! Just snuggle your kiddos and we’ll get some great pictures. As long as I’m getting the shots I need, we’re good! If I’m not, I’ll let you know.

(Not scheduling the session around nap times or on empty stomachs can help too, so remember to keep that in mind. You know your children best!)


8.      Consider bringing an activity that you enjoy doing together as a family. My most successful family sessions have incorporated an activity that the family loves to do together. This gives you something to do with your hands and feet, engages the little ones, and brings an authentic smile to your face. Do you love to read together? Bring a favorite book or two! Is your favorite dessert ice cream? Bring some ice cream bars or drumsticks to your session or better yet – hire an ice cream guy to come to your session. Love to play board games or cards? Play a round of Uno or Go Fish! Other ideas include: football, piggy back rides, races, bike riding, hiking, singing, picnics…the ideas are endless! When families are engaged in doing something that they love together, it gives me the opportunity to capture some beautiful and authentic photographs of your family.

(If you prefer not to bring an activity, that’s no problem! We’ll still get amazing and authentic pictures; this is just a suggestion for capturing more of what makes your family you.)

9.      Relax and just have fun! The best photos are the candid ones of you being a family (but we do get posed ones too!) Try to just relax, play, and be yourselves. Don’t feel pressured to make everything perfect. Just be present with your family and I’ll do the rest. 🤍

two sisters looking at each other and smiling

So there are 9 ways to help you prepare for your outdoor family photo session. The biggest things I want you to take away from this are:

  • Make sure you give yourself enough time to get everyone ready before the shoot so that you’re not rushing or stressed
  • Don’t worry about the kiddos behavior during the shoot
  • Just relax, treat it lightly, have fun, play, and enjoy the experience with your family

Leave the work to me.

Look out for my next blog post that will help you even more with what to expect during a photo session with me! Stay tuned.