Portrait Photography Tips

Getting a great family portrait can sometimes feel like a tricky endeavor. There are so many things to consider and you have to get your family to participate. You’ve started by doing your search for the best professional photographer in San Diego and come up with seemingly endless results. After your research, you find your photographer, book your session and now what? You think: what should I wear? What should I bring? How can I prepare? From what I have learned after over 10 years of photographing families and children in California, Florida and internationally, I put together my top 10 Portrait Photography Tips on how to prepare to have a successful photo sessions with children and families.

Portrait Photography Tips

1. Find a photographer that matches your style and your budget

Your family portraits will be hanging on your wall for a lifetime. So, you’ll want to make sure you love looking at them! There are hundreds of photographers out there to choose from. When you’re looking for a professional photographer, consider these questions. Do you love the photographer’s work? Are their services within your budget? Does their portfolio of images match the style of what you want your family photos to look like? Taking family photos can be an enjoyable event. Starting the process confident in your photographer’s work and being within your budget will help to ensure its’ success!

Portrait Photography Tips

2. Choose a time of that day that is best for your family

We photographers love the golden hour, that magical time when the sun is close to setting on the horizon. It’s truly a beautiful time. For the early birds, first light can have a similar glow, when the sun bursts onto the horizon. If you are game for an early morning portrait session, I am game! But honestly, it’s a rare occurrence.

Families, and especially children, have sleeping patterns and schedules for nap time and feeding times. For the best results, I’ve found it’s vital to ask my clients what time(s) of day their child is the happiest. A lot of undo stress can fall on parents when a tired child doesn’t feel good and won’t cooperate. So, if the best time for your kids is at noon, when the sun is at its’ brightest, no problem! We’ll find a shady area to photograph your family or be sure to choose a photographer who can work within your children and family’s schedule.

3. Be sure everyone has a full tummy

Every family member should have a meal prior to the photo session, even Mom and Dad. When I am hungry, the last thing I want to do is smile for the camera. Having everyone arrive to the photo session with a full belly will make it so much easier to relax and enjoy the process. Without a doubt, that happiness will show in your photos!

4. It’s a big day, so be prepared!

Treat your photo session as if it was your wedding day. You are spending a lot of time, energy and money for custom photography. Let’s set you up for success! Choose your outfits and try them on way in advance so there are no last minute problems. I’ve had Moms who’ve gone to their closet the morning of and find that their favorite outfit doesn’t fit, is in need of repair or should have made it to the dry cleaners the week before! I recommend my families try on outfits the week prior to their portrait session to avoid these potential breakdowns.

5. Pick outfits that complement each other

I’m a Mom, so I feel like I can say this. Choose Mom’s outfit first! Pick an outfit that you feel beautiful wearing. When you feel good, it will help everyone else feel good, too. From there, select Dad’s outfit and then outfits for the kids. Choosing outfits that are similar in color or tone will help create a feeling of togetherness in your images.

6. Choose a location that is safe and not super crowded

When toddlers are involved, location is a key factor. They can run away and jump in the ocean or hop into a puddle in the split of second. During a recent photo session in La Jolla, the tide was coming in quickly and we were loosing shoreline. All the toddler wanted to do was run toward the ocean and play. I recommend selecting a quiet beach if your toddler is already walking. On the weekends, I’ll avoid Balboa Park and other crowded areas, especially when families are four or more in size. Photographing one child or a couple may be more manageable in crowded locations. If a more crowded location is important to your family story, booking a weekday for your portrait session can be a great alternative option.

Portrait Photography Tips
Portrait Photography Tips

7. Bring these important items to your photo shoot

As Mom’s know, when it comes to kids, accidents can happen! There’s a drink that spills, a puddle that can’t be missed, or a sticky something-or-other that makes it’s way onto a shirt. Here’s a quick list of essentials to bring with you to a photo session:

Portrait Photography Tips

8. No shame in bribing

Let’s be honest, Moms are usually the only ones who love photo sessions! We love to have beautiful images to decorate our homes with or to gift to the grandparents and extended family. Children, on the other hand, would rather be running around and playing. Dads might rather be watching TV or playing a favorite sport. Sometimes, a little incentive will make all the difference, especially if the kids are a little older. I pay my daughter $1 for every 10 minutes of picture taking or I promise to go get some ice cream when we are done. It works wonders and everyone wins!

9. Be open minded

Sometimes the best images are captured when families and kids are not looking directly at the camera. Some of the most authentic images come from children just being interested in their surroundings. I love capturing images when children look inquisitive and curious. More serious or candid images can look just as beautiful as smiling ones. Being open to all of it will create a variety of image keepsakes to choose from!

Portrait Photography Tips

10. Plan to arrive early

Again, plan like it’s your wedding day. Why not have everything ready to go at least one day in advance?! Take stress out of the equation and allow enough time to get there a little early. I’ve found that rushing can drastically change everyone’s energy and mood. Arriving a little early will give you the chance to handle that last minute hair fix or toy dispute.

Portrait Photography Tips
Portrait Photography Tips

I want your professional family portrait session to turn into a great family memory. I hope my tried and true, top 10 tips will help your family as much as they’ve helped so many of my clients. With a little research and preparation, your photo session will result in the beautiful family photographs you’ve always dreamed of. I’m so happy you came across our top 10 Portrait Photography Tips – professional photographer San Diego.” Feel free to check out our gallery and other great blog posts!

18 Responses

  1. What a great assortment of helpful hints to get a session kicked off right, and have the best time. Thanks for sharing these!

  2. Love the bribing advice!! I am so there! What a great resource to get families ready for sessions. It’s so important to be prepared!

    1. Amy I agree! I hope these photographic tips will help families make the best out of their photo shoot experience!

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