Top Tips for Your Family Photo Session

Family splashing in water at Salt River in casual clothes with dog

Whether your kids are 1 month or 18 years, family photos are a necessary ordeal that can spark dread into everyone’s hearts. What do we were? Where should we do them? How will we look? How can I make this fun for my family? Sure, parents take photos of life on their phones, photos on vacation, but what about professional photos that document their family’s relationships, personalities and emotion? That photos you love to look back and say “this is how I remember our family at this time” or “remember how goofy Amanda was when she was 3?” Those photos that just capture the essence of that person at that time in their lives. I believe with more access to cameras through our phones, we have taken for granted the actual documentation of our lives and never take the time out to really connect with our family, create memories, then print and enjoy those photos. It’s ultimately about the connection and experience, not even about the photos themselves!

As a Phoenix family photographer of 12+ years, I’ve photographed many families of all age ranges. I love the challenge of getting people to open up to me and really enjoy themselves in front of the camera, crafting an experience, not just “pretty photos in front of a pretty backdrop”. Your family has so much more depth than that and deserves to be documented in an authentic, truthful way, telling all of the nuances of your relationships and dynamicism of each person, personality and relationship. I’m also a mother of a spirited toddler myself, so I know all too well the difficulties getting kids and husbands in front of the camera. I face those same insecurities you may have- “I don’t look the same as I did pre-kids” and can absolutely say that it’s ALWAYS worth the struggle to have those photos.

Here are my best tips for family photos!

  1. Proper expectations Mentally set proper, realistic expectations based around age & developmentally appropriate expectations of your kids. This is not the time to be trolling Pinterest or Instagram for picture perfect photos. These photos are on the internet for a reason- they are the best of the best and get repinned/shared etc because of that and is a compilation of the best of the best throughout the whole world. Think on that for a minute. And as we know, what we see online does not always (rarely) represent reality. Take into account YOUR kids’ personalities, what they are capable of at the age they are at and meet them where they are. That’s not to say we can’t coax smiles out of them, that’s not to say I won’t pull out my bag of tricks, that’s not to say you can’t bribe them (if you do that), but I always find setting realistic expectations helps everyone involved. This also extends to realistic expectations of your child’s (and/or partner) attention span and tolerance level. Most toddlers I know can only tolerate a 30-60 minute photo session. Most people in general get worn out from photos by about 1.5 hours depending on what’s going on.
  2. What do you want to remember? Take some time to think about what you want documented. What do you want to remember about this time? This goes way beyond “get a pretty photo in a pretty place” which is a 100% valid goal to have- but I challenge my clients to think a little more beyond that. What are some of your favorite things about your kids at this stage in life? What do you like doing with them that you want to document? What will you miss about this stage?
  3. Everyone is fed! Make sure everyone- yes everyone! is fed and not hangry during the session! Bring snacks or a picnic if needed. I made this mistake with my own engagement photos and my husband hasn’t let me live it down since.
  4. Bring back up things.  This is especially important the younger your child is, but back up clothes, wipes, etc are a good idea in case of spit up, food getting on clothes, and just baby & toddler shenanigans.
  5. Try to let go of control! This goes into the set proper expectations, but letting go of the pursuit of perfection is important for getting photos you love and having fun. Everyone feeds off mom’s energy, so if mom is stressed to the max and worried about getting particular photos, perfect photos, etc, then everyone will sense that tension and react accordingly. This is said from someone who is perfectionistic, someone who has struggled with issues around control and fear, and from a place of love! The more you relax and BE in the moment, the better the photos will be!
Indian family playing at park Phoenix family photographer

That’s all fine and good Alyssa, but what do I wear? I have a special wardrobe planning app that can help you get inspiration for that and can absolutely help you through that process! Planning is my specialty- I’m a Virgo after all and preparation for your session is key to success. I’ll take you through a detailed process for planning. I’m also growing a client closet with flowy, gorgeous dresses just for mom. I know moms are the hardest to find things that make you feel beautiful.

Interested in booking your Phoenix family photos? I’d love to work with you!


Alyssa Campbell Arizona wedding photographer

Welcome! I’m an Arizona-based wedding & portrait photographer specializing in natural and documentary photos. My blog is where you can see my latest work as well as check out tips & the latest news. Following me on social media is another way to check out my recent work!