Tips for Great Photographs



Parents holding up a small baby boy and he's laughing. Tips for Making the Best of Family PortraitsPreparation tips to help you make the best of your family portrait experience. Laura is a photojournalist specializing in live action and candid beautiful family moments with minimum posing.


Many things in life are about chance, probability, and planning. If we prepare physically for a strenuous hike, there's a much higher chance we'll finish in a great mood with minimum strain. Great photos are no exception. While there are no guarantees, there are things that can be done to increase the chances of great results. I shoot in a photojournalism style meaning that most things are candid with minimum posing. The goal is to capture the story of a relationship and the interactions, not blank stares and fake smiles. While this means professional posing is not required, there are preparations one can make to encourage natural laughter and a fun time.



Something complimentary to the skin and coloring is always a good place to start! But more importantly, wear something that makes you feel amazing! Great places to get inspiration from are Pinterest Boards, browsing around the website to see what you like, and your own closet. Sometimes the best finds are things we already have.

If one wants to keep it simple, stick to pastels and neutral tones (excluding black and white). Blues, peaches, light browns and tans always photograph beautifully and subtly. If you like to venture more on the bold side with vivid colors, feel free to ask about specifics.

Easy win? For summer, a relaxed sun dresses or long maxi dresses always looks great! Flowing material is always a win.

Dressing the entire family? Choose the women's outfit first. Then, choose coordinating shirts for other adults. Lastly, choose the children's clothes. They can be a little more busy in texture and design.

Chilly Weather?

The secret is to layer and make sure that the outfit you'd like to be photographed in can withstand the weather, without an additional jacket. That last part is SO important. If you're planning, "I'll take off my jacket for photographs." the session will have few good photographs. Good photographs are not a quick event and when one is cold, stink-eye starts to creek out! I laugh, but seriously. We're cranky and no fun when we're cold and the camera can't lie. I suggest long-john, tights, scarves, jean-jackets, and a few simple extra layers of t-shirts, underwear, undershirts, or vests. A wonderful fall outfit can have easy layers added underneath and still look nice, but provide comfort and warmth. This is BY FAR, the most important item on this entire page. Let me repeat that one last time: if you're wearing a jacket to the session, you're under-dressed!

Family Fun

Fun is the most important thing. When a smile is natural, it shows. Make the experience fun. Plan to arrive early so no one is rushed and plan a fun activity afterwards if possible. Ice cream anyone? I can not over-emphasize this point. Relaxed, joyful participants will always photograph wonderfully. Don't go for perfect, go for relaxed and realistic.

I would like to insert here a bit about Murphy's Law. There is no such thing as a perfect session. Many of the family photographs you see captured on my website were not beautiful perfect days where a magazine-worthy family frolicked in the field and let me capture them in their perfection. I've had siblings push each other down and dirty pants, busted lips, children wet themselves ... the list goes on and on. Ironically enough, we always capture amazing photographs because we do the only thing you can with life ... laugh. I've never walked away from a bad session. Sessions are about interactions, not perfection.

Bug Spray 

If the session is outdoors, don't forget to bring your favorite bug spray to keep the critters away. Bug Soothers is my new favorite gnat spray.

Eat! & Snacks

NO ONE, I repeat no one is photogenic when they’re hungry and grumpy. For best results eat before the session. I do not lie about this one. Make sure all participants are well fed and rested. Food in the belly and ice cream on the brain goes a long ways. Seriously. Like for realzzz ... 


Bribe early and bribe often when it comes to photo sessions! This works especially well with individuals that fall between 6 and 65!


If we've already discussed an animal being in the photograph, there are a few things we can do to ensure excellent results. Leashes. Have them on a short leash so we can pull it close for sit-down family photographs. Try to avoid brightly colored leashes if at all possible. Treats and noise. Feel free to bring a favorite bag of treats and a toy that always gets their attention. Also make sure to bring another individual that's not part of the photographs that can watch them if they're feeling frisky and need to take a break.

Small Children

After considering nap time, snacks, feedings, comfort etc., it's sometimes good to bring a small noise-making toy the child likes if they're under the age of 3. Arriving early is also great for letting the child acclimatize. In some case, I'll arrive early just to let the child get used to me before we begin.

Take a Deep Breath

After all is said and done, there's really nothing else to do but take a deep breath. Many sessions (especially if involving small children), can best be described as controlled chaos. They will move, squeal, and display a wide arrange of emotion. Genuine interaction is what we're looking for, not Sear's Portrait Studio posing on the prop chair. We control the things we can (like food, naps etc.), but just let the rest unfold naturally. Usually more beautiful than anything we could have planned.

Smiling Family Family PhotographFamily photograph captured near Springfield, Illinois outdoor in the country. While there are many variables that go into amazing photo sessions, these basic suggestions will go far to capturing some beautiful smiles.