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How to Prepare for Your Next Family Photoshoot

family of four by the beach

We love a good photo shoot. True, there’s nothing off the cuff photography to take you back in time – but, when it comes to creating beautiful and unique records of your family (how it expands and changes over time) you can’t replace a professional shoot. Over the years, you’ll amass the perfect collection of shots that catalogue changing hairstyles, fashion sense, heights, and new additions to the family – from the furry, four-legged kind to the ones still in diapers. 

But, when it comes to family photo shoots, it’s almost always the case that the process itself is very different to the finished product. Behind almost every smiley, happy group shot of the kids, the parents, the grandparents and the Labrador is a long and frustrating struggle to get everyone ready all at once – to stop tears flowing, rearrange collars, wipe sticky mouths, arrange and rearrange, bribe with treats, and resolve familial disputes. 

So, how do you ensure you get through all that with the least resistance, and wind up with an excellent set of snaps to elevate your next photo book? Here are our favourite tips. 

Two weeks before the shoot: Try on those outfits

You don’t need us to tell you to plan out the clothing options carefully before a photo shoot. Whether you’re keen to get a definitive colour palette going, or want to eliminate the risk of busy or clashing prints and patterns, it pays to make sure the outfits are in keeping with one another. That’s not to say you have to quash anyone’s unique sense of style – or erase any teenage all-black rebellion with a flouncy dress – but that it’s worth knowing what the wardrobe entails before the camera is pointing your way. 

A note to the wise – many people consider matching outfits to be a little dated these days, so don’t feel compelled to buy-up 20 matching shirts. 

But planning isn’t enough – particularly if you’ve got any impending growth spurts, or that ‘Sunday best’ hasn’t left the wardrobe for six months. Even if you don’t need to rethink the wardrobe entirely, you’ll leave yourself time and space to get alterations done – to replace t-shirts that have shrunk in the wash, or iron a shirt that hasn’t been worn since your aunt’s, cousin’s, son’s wedding last spring. 

Also, use this run-up as an opportunity to squeeze in a quick hair trim, a manicure – or release your inner diva and get a facial.

One week before the shoot: pack your bag of necessities 

You’ll need a fair few things on-hand to keep the mood buoyant on the big day itself. If you’re shooting outside, then plenty of sunscreen, bottled water, and blotting paper for glossy cheeks and foreheads will do the trick. 

Whether you’re inside or outside, snacks and dog treats (if applicable) will be very useful on the day, and a few attention-grabbing toys for any toddlers or four legged friends could make or break the shoot. 

Then, there are the ‘touch ups’ – spare lipstick, powder, a comb, some hairpins and ties, a pack of tissues and a compact mirror will all be called upon at some point during the shoot. That way, when you’re running your prints through the photo book maker later, you won’t feel like each one gets progressively more dishevelled.

One day before the shoot: brief the family

We’re not saying you shouldn’t mention the shoot ahead of time – after all, practical arrangements need to be made – but that, on the eve of the session, it’s a good idea to get everyone together for a casual, light-hearted discussion of what to expect. 

Whether you want them to bring along props (old-school, but still a great way to avoid arms hanging awkwardly at their sides) or just be made aware of how the day will go (which is great for diffusing any tension or nerves the camera-shy may be feeling), don’t just let everyone rock up on the day-of with no idea of what to expect. Getting in front of the camera more can feel like a trial by fire for some people, so go easy on the expectations.  

The day itself: let it be fun

Sometimes, we can get caught-up in the pressure to produce great photos – so much so that we’re too tense or lost in our own trains of thought to actually look like we’re having fun. From worrying about figuring out which is your good side to fretting over grouping everyone together and making sure no photos are spoiled by sudden tantrums, there are a lot of mental hurdles to overcome if you want to look happy, relaxed, and photogenic. 

Think about doing some quick, tension-diffusing exercise before the shoot. It’ll also give you a healthy glow which will look great on camera. 

Once you’re at the studio/location, get everyone together to shake out their arms and legs, blow a few raspberries and relax those facial muscles, and find something to laugh about. You’ll look all the better for it. 


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