Do’s and Don’ts for Family Portraits

posted in: Portraits, Uncategorized | 0

‘Tis the season for family portraits, when the weather is warm and the trees are green and the flowers are blooming.  But you know what it’s not time for?  Stressing out.

Yes, that’s right, family portraits are not easy, especially when you have young children who would much rather be making silly faces than sitting in your lap and smiling.  But when parents stress out, the kids stress out even more, and then everyone starts acting out, no one is happy, and the whole thing falls apart.  So here are my do’s and don’ts for family portrait photography, with the goal of keeping you calm, happy, and prepared for whatever may happen.  Consider these your tips for a great family portrait experience.


  1.  Accept that your session will go as well as it can go based on your children’s moods. I have seen the happiest babies not crack one smile during a whole hour; the shyest kids exuberant and open; and the most well-behaved kids fight with their parents for the better part of a session.
  2. Plan your session for the time of day when your kids are most alert, happy, and agreeable.  I find a good time to be mid-morning, after breakfast and before nap time.
  3. Understand that for a toddler or a baby, portrait sessions are incredibly over stimulating.  The lights, the camera, the strangers, the sitting still, and the smiling are exhausting and foreign.  Be patient.
  4. Plan a break somewhere within the session.  Family portraits are exhausting for all of us and the children may need to run and play to let out some steam during the session.
  5. Have ideas for 4-5 different poses and groupings, but be flexible!  Trust your photographer to get great photos throughout.


  1. Don’t get angry with your toddlers for not cooperating.  They are toddlers!  Their job is to not cooperate.  Just let them be themselves and the photos will reflect what makes them special.
  2.  Don’t force the kids to do more than they are emotionally able to. There comes a time to end every family or baby portrait session, and it may be before you got the shot you were hoping for.
  3.  Don’t expect more than an hour of photography.  45 minutes is the average amount of time before everyone breaks down.
  4.  Don’t expect your proofs to contain more than 2-3 posed photos with the whole family. We’re lucky to get toddlers to sit still for 10 minutes, let alone for a whole hour.
  5.  Don’t apologize for cranky, misbehaving kids – know that they are NORMAL!  As a professional photographer (and a parent), I assure you, your child’s behavior is 100% expected.

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