Family Photo Shoot Tips & Outfit Inspiration

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It’s that time of the year again…for family photos. When Perry was born, I started sending out holiday cards to our friends and family. I personally really enjoy receiving holiday cards and love the idea of staying connecting with loved ones in that way. While I love getting new photos taken of our little family, there is a lot of planning involved, from picking outfits to keeping the kids from having a meltdown. I am always so happy when it’s over and I can peacefully wait for the photos to come in!

I’ve learned a few tricks for keeping everyone in the family happy and making sure you get the coveted photo that makes it to your holiday card. Professional photos with a great photographer are expensive. The last thing you want is to schedule a photo shoot and have it be a complete disaster or not get the photos you were looking for. Below are some ‘do’s and don’ts’ for family portraits that will help you get that money shot and decrease the chance of family members turning on one another.


♥ Location, location, location! Scout your location in advance or ask your photographer to suggest some ideas. If you can, keep it outdoors! I personally don’t like studio photos because they come out looking too forced. Find a nearby location that doesn’t require a long drive. Driving far away wears everyone out (husband included) and will increase the likelihood of tantrums so I try to be creative with what is around us. Parks usually provide a great background! Natural light is key and makes the photos more bright and airy.

♥ Rather than every member of the family wearing the exact same thing, choose a color scheme and go for an overall cohesive look. In the photos above, we’re wearing neutral colors, mostly shades of grey and beige. Although each person is wearing something different, the photos look great because we have a similar color theme and style. Also, the different textures, such as Dylan’s faux fur winter suit add some interest and variety to the photos.

♥ Speaking of outfits, plan everything in advance. I would lay everything out and see how each look flows with the next. Taking some time to do this ahead of time will make everything easier the day of the shoot. Plus, you will have a sense of how everything looks together and if anything needs to be adjusted before the photo shoot.

♥ Create a Pinterest mood board for inspiration so you and your photographer are on the same page. Go to Pinterest and search for family photo inspiration so you can get ideas on which color tones, landscapes, and poses you’re interested in. Here is the one I created for our family photo session. Our photographer, Joe, knew what I was looking for based on the inspiration images I sent him.

♥ Bring snacks. I repeat, bring snacks. Our kids have a very low threshold for these kind of activities. It also may take some time to get the shots you want. I’m not ashamed to say that we bribe the kids with snacks (cheerios or animal crackers do the trick) and potentially a fun activity after the photos. 🙂 Pizza ALWAYS works. This decreases the chance that we’ll have one or both children refuse to participate or have a complete meltdown.

♥ Ask to see your photos before parting ways with the photographer. I like to see some of the pictures to make sure we got the shots I wanted. Don’t feel like you’re being annoying or a burden. You are investing your time and money so you want to make sure you get the shots you had in mind.

♥ Ease your expectations. It’s okay if some family members are smiling and others aren’t or some are looking at the camera and some are looking at a passing squirrel. The best photos are usually those that arise from candid, happy moments of your family just being themselves.

♥ Schedule the photos in advance. We scheduled our family photo shoot late last year so we ended up taking photos in December. It was cold and we had to wear our winter coats. If possible, aim for October for warmer temperatures and those beautiful fall leaves.

♥ Look at a photographer’s previous work or get recommendations from friends. This is an investment so you want to make sure that his/her style matches up with what you’re looking for.


♥ Wear matching outfits. Dressing everyone in the exact same way will end up looking cheesy and not the look you’re going for. It’s also boring and doesn’t let individual personalities shine through.

♥ Forget about the weather. Bring some layers that go with your color theme in case it’s cold out.

♥ Wear logos. You’re not being paid to advertise for a company and it’s distracting. Keep the focus on your family instead of a company’s brand name.

♥ Forget about shoes. Shoe/sock combinations can really stick out and will take away from the overall feel of the photo.

Lastly, have fun with it! Some of my favorite photos of us are when everyone is having a good time, smiling and being themselves. Those are usually the ones that do not have everyone posing, smiling and looking in one direction. I love the photos of me kissing Perry or Julian simply walking around with Dylan. These photos capture us as a family at this time in our lives. I love looking back on them and holding on to these memories.

Hopefully this helps make family photo shoots a little less daunting. What are you planning for your family shoot this year? xo, Tanya

Outfit details: Grey jeans: J Brand // Shirt: n:philanthropy // Booties: Isabel Marant // Coat: J.Crew// Mother/son matching hats: Amazon

Photos by Joe Mac Photography

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