March 6, 2019

Family Photos 101 | St. Louis Family Photographer

You know that it is time for updated family photos, but you feel a little bit of dread (except you’d never admit that to your spouse, since you practically begged them to agree to do a session). I’m a professional photographer – I take photos of people for a living – I should be a pro at having my family’s photos taken, right? Wrong. Even I can relate to the stress of family pictures.

So, I’ve gathered tips from my own personal experience of having our family photos as well as professional advice from shooting well over 100 family portrait sessions in the past 5 years.

1. Check your expectations – Whether you have a dog, toddlers, or teenagers participating in your family photos, there are expectations that need to be checked.

Consider what your goal is – as you know, we can’t make kids eat, sleep, poop, or sit still. Going into your session with the hope of capturing this season of your family’s life (in whatever form that looks like – singing a song together, having a tickle fight, blowing bubbles) will take away SO much pressure from needing every photo to be perfectly posed with the kids looking at the camera.

2. Plan your outfits early – There’s nothing worse than scrambling to find clothing for your entire family under a time crunch.

  • Look at the Portrait Session Style Guide and start thinking about your outfits right after booking – not the week before your session.
  • I like to search right away for one outfit that I absolutely love – usually mine or my girls, and then I build the rest of our clothing around that first piece.
  • Poshmark has been a great place for me to find affordable clothing for things like this.
  • Plan for the weather. Cold kids (or adults!) aren’t happy kids. If it might be chilly, make sure you’ve got cardigans or jackets to throw on.

3. Prepare – This step is for the week/day of your session.

  • If your kids hit a rough spot during the session, it can be hard to think on the fly. Think ahead of time about what makes your kids smile or snaps them out of a bad mood – a certain song? A certain toy? Talking about a certain cartoon character or family member? I can sing songs AND take photos if you tell me what to sing 🙂
  •  Think about if you’d like to have a special reward to offer your child as an incentive (also known as bribery). 🙂  A trip to Chik-fil-a, a toy car, a juice box.

Next, prepare your Mary Poppins bag 🙂

  • Child’s lovie – trust me, it’s far better to have the ratty blanket in the photo than a crying child. Remember – you are wanting family photos capturing your family in this season – which may mean the inseperable blanket joins too.
  • Snacks – not messy is preferable. Crackers, cheerios, fruit snacks, and smarties are all photo favorites.
  • Bubbles – an option of a family activity to do doing your session
  • Flip-flops to wear while we’re walking around the location if you’re wearing heels or uncomfortable shoes.

4. Let loose, have fun, and let me do the work! 

  • Once you’ve arrived, give yourself a pat on the back. You just got your family out the door and you’re not wearing yoga pants and a messy bun!
  • If you’re not in the photo, stand directly behind me, talking to the kids or waving a toy right behind my head. This brings the kids eyes to the camera and keeps them from watching you off to the side.
  • Don’t be afraid to be your real self – tickle, cuddle, sing a song together, tell a story.

Being your family photographer is a gift, and I want you to walk into your session feeling confident and grateful for the chance to preserve your family’s memories!

Check out one of my favorite family sessions from last year!


These beautiful photos of my family are taken by Gretchen Day Photography and styled by me.

Molly Thomas Photography specializes in engagement, wedding, family, and senior photography in St. Louis, MO and central IL.

Love what you see? Contact me for more information and we can start planning your session.

St. Louis Wedding Photographer | St. Louis Family Photographer | St. Louis Engagement Photographer | St. Louis Senior Photographer | St. Louis Wedding Photography | St. Louis Family Photography | Saint Louis Engagement Photographer | Saint Louis Wedding Photographer | Saint Louis Wedding Photography | Best St. Louis Photographer | Molly Thomas Photography

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *