Here's Your Complete Family Photo Session Checklist!

Family photography is simply incredible! It's fun! It's easy (really!). Every session is as unique as all of you. I'm here to make sure everything runs smoothly. Below is the definitive checklist that will take you through every step of our time together. I promise you'll feel ready and excited for your family portrait session.

family of five holds hands and walk in Bonneville Salt Flats

PART 1: Before We Meet:

Rule number one of family photography is comfort leads to confidence and it shows in the photos. Below is a list of things to think about which some families love to do... others don't. None of these are required, but are here for you to consider.

  1. Let your kids know what's coming, but keep it relaxed and welcoming. In my experience, young children can be a little overwhelmed by a stranger with big cameras standing in front of them. Teenagers, on the other hand, are either really into the whole thing... or feel like they're at the dentist. For a few days leading up to our photo session, tell them that we're just going to "hang out at the park and have some fun photos taken." or "going to that cool trail down by the river to play with our friend, Tom." Keep it lighthearted and laid back. This is a great tip for those of you who may have a shy child.
  2. But what do we wear?!? I'd recommend you plan out your outfits a week before our time together. You'll want to feel relaxed and ready, so having this checked off your list well in advance will feel great. You can always text or email me some photos of your wardrobe ideas if you're not entirely sure. I'll be more than happy to help. I also do a deeper dive on this further below.
  3. Makeup / Nails / Hail: Before our session, you may want to book an appointment with your favorite stylist. The photographs I'll capture will range from wide open scenery shots to closeups... I'll be documenting all the details.
  4. Props or planned photos can always be fun. This is entirely up to you and your family's style. I'd say 9 out of 10 families I photograph just show up without anything specific in mind and have a blast wherever we meet. On the other hand, some just love to plan (and practice) a specific photo: be sure to let me know beforehand. There are also families who like to bring a quilt, a special toy like a stuffed animal, props (umbrellas / hats / bikes) or a family heirloom.
  5. If you ever have questions, just reach out to me. Whether this is your first or fifth family photo session, you might want to know more about what we'll do, how we'll photograph, or what specific shots we'll get. You can always reach out. Give me a call / shoot me a text / fire off an email... I'm here to help out.
  6. Last, but not least, a good nights sleep (or midday nap) before we meet is always a great idea.

a mother embraces her daughter with a hug around the shoulder

PART 2: How to Dress

  1. I'm an outdoor photographer so we need to dress for the weather. As our session date approaches, keep an eye on what the temps will be doing... no sense in having the children shiver on a cold day or sweat because those family sweaters are a bit too warm under the sun.
  2. Gone are the days of having everyone match. Instead of everyone wearing a pair of jeans and an identical shirt, wear complimenting colors. Think country-chic. Rural-rustic. Relaxed and real. Earth tones and neutrals go a long way today. Blue jeans with a solid color (or simple plaid) are always great!
  3. If there's recommendations on what to wear, there are definitely recommendations on what NOT to wear. I highly recommend to stay away from tennis shoes, t-shirts, or any garment with writing on them. And even though you might just LOVE that "stylish/trendy" piece of clothing with the crazy print, I'd suggest it stays at home: you may like it right now, but who knows 5-10-15 years from now.
  4. Be careful about undergarments. I'm amazing at Photoshop, but editing out bra straps or underwear lines is difficult and takes a considerable amount of time. Select clothes that cover what you don't want captured in time whether you're standing still or chasing the kids around.
  5. For the ladies...
  6. Pants, shorts, and dresses are great! That being said, I always recommend medium-to-long dresses because they capture movement and most often look flattering. I would refrain from any short skirts simply because it's likely we'll be walking through tall grasses, jumping on someone's back, or sitting down here-and-there.
  7. If possible, wear flat shoes for safety – we will be doing a bit of off-road walking, climbing on trees, etc. I always recommend not wearing heals since the terrain we will be on may not be suitable.
  8. Gentlemen...
  9. Pants or shorts are just fine. Try not to wear anything overly formal (especially shoes) as we will be out in nature and may go off the pavement or jump across rocks. Be prepared to move... clothing shouldn't feel constrictive.
  10. Accessories are awesome! Suspenders, hats, watches, bowties, and scarves always add to a great family photo session. Flowing dresses come alive! A timeless leather jacket looks so, so good. All of these items create visual interest and movement, and will set your family photography apart from the rest.
a mother laughs while daughter makes a funny face

PART 3: What to Bring (and Avoid)


Pack a small backpack with the items below if you feel like they'll be needed. I'm fine wearing the backpack while we photograph so that way we don't need to set it down somewhere. That way everything is always close at hand too.

  1. Lipstick and a hairbrush can go a long way... especially if a breeze picks up.
  2. Does your little one get hungry? Does your better half get hangry? Snacks are ALWAYS WELCOME! Treats always help bribe the little ones too. PRO TIP: don't tell kids about the treats beforehand. Instead, wait until the kids start getting fatigued before you play the candy card! This typically get them to cheer right up! These treats should be small and shouldn't stain fingers, lips, or teeth. Popular options include gummy bears, goldfish crackers, starbursts, raisins, and frozen grapes.
  3. Shoes meant to adventure in. I'm an environmental photographer meaning I like to get into (you guessed it) the environment. We will walk throughout our session... down a dirt path... hop on fences... through a field. Shoes you can walk in will really help out. If you really are set on that beautiful set of wedges, bring them to change into once we start photographing.
  4. If you have a newborn and/or small child, please bring a rag to clean their face. Keep the towel relatively small so it won't bulge in a pocket. We'll use this to wipe off that peanut butter and jelly sandwich they devoured as they jumped out of the car... or the little baby buggers that always show up.
  5. Beer! I'm just fooling, but really it's a good idea... If a beer will relax you or your better half before we start having fun, I'm totally fine with it! PRO TIP: Elysian Space Dust is amazing! :)

Though you don't have to pack them in the bag, you may want to bring a change of clothes in case anyone gets muddy or dirty to use after our photo session.

All kids look good in family photos, but kids who explore their surroundings look GREAT! I love it when they immerse themselves in the scenery. Whether is running through the field or embracing the spray of a waterfall, all of it photographs great! BONUS POINTS if the parents jump right in too. You may not be inclined to let them back in your car when we're all done so a change of clothes and shoes (and a towel) can make a memorable photo session easy once we wrap up.


  1. Please leave phones locked securely in your car. We don’t want them showing up as a bulge in pockets, ringing as a distraction, or being left somewhere along our adventure. If you're not comfortable leaving your phone in the car, feel free to leave them at home.
  2. Sunglasses need to be left behind too. We won’t have them on during the shoot and not wearing them from the moment we meet up ensures the eyes will have plenty of time to adjust before we start photographing together.
  3. Wallets and purses should be left behind and locked up as well. Like phones, we don't want worry about it sneaking into a pocket and creating an awkward bulge. If you're not comfortable leaving theses locked in your car, feel free to put them in the backpack.
a boy holds his little sister's hand as they look at the Deschutes River

PART 4: Posing

If there's anything I want you to remember in this blog post, it's right here!

  1. Saying "Cheeeeeese!" should be avoided at all costs! You're there to have fun and enjoy the surroundings with your wonderful family. I'm looking for genuine and authentic moments in time... not forced (fake) smiles. Let everyone know we'll be relaxed and things will feel natural. I'll give you guidance along our entire journey, but we'll never get cheesy.
  2. Some children may freeze in front of the camera. They'll either stand there straight-faced like a poker player OR go to their "Cheeeeeese" face. If you see either of these happen, jump in and play with them. Tickle! Spin around in circles to get dizzy! Swing them upside down. Make silly faces at each other. THESE are the moments that make memories come alive!
  3. If anyone has a meltdown... don't fight it. Don't tell them to, "grow up." Don't argue. Don't feel embarrassed (this happens all the time; you're not alone). Don't worry. In all my experience, the best thing to do is to give them space to decompress. I'll shift my focus towards other family members and get shots of them instead. Oftentimes they'll see us having fun and will come full circle and want to join in.
  4. I like to prioritize the full family photo right away and then circle back to another one towards the end of our session. I take a family photo at the start because that's when children are typically most engaged and have the best energy. The family photo at the start is our safety net: it ensures we have a shot of everyone together (it's why you want family photos, right?)... the one at the end oftentimes feels more authentic because everyone is usually much more relaxed at that point... but isn't a guarantee (see #3 above). At the end of the session, we'll have plenty of fun group shots as well as breakout and individual photographs to enjoy.
  5. Joke, jump, tickle, kiss, cuddle. Doing things like this is the way you'll get amazing moment. Trust me. Do it. Have fun!
  6. If you ever wonder what to do, smile and look at your family. I'll take care of the rest.
  7. Touching is paramount. Hips should come in contact with the person next to you. Hands are meant to be used: they can be held, wrap around waists, or drape over a shoulder. Make them have purpose. The more you touch one another, the stronger the bond you will feel in your family photography.
  8. Don't force it. Life isn't perfect and that's okay. Enjoy the moment. Don't sweat the small stuff. Don't feel pressured to make everything flawless. I promise that you'll look back on our time together and be thankful that you embraced being present with your family.
  9. Let your family know that we'll be moving around to different spots as we photograph. I'll take care of the pace we move about based off the location, weather, vibe of the group, and so on. Location variety ensured a diverse, well-rounded gallery. But I won't move us for the sake of just having a different background: if we are having a blast at a particular spot, I'll prioritize the genuine, real, engaged time your family is experiencing.
  10. What about the dog?  I'm a dog person. I sure love my dog. While I'm fine if you’d like to bring yours along for family photos, there are a few important things to consider.
  11. Dogs can be quite chaotic especially during a photo shoot. I’m happy to capture shots with your family pet included in the fun, but be prepared to receive less photographs. The reality is that it simply takes longer to get them in the right spot and looking the right way ("Sit. Stay.").
  12. In the event the dog needs to be tied up for whatever reason, it can become more of a distraction than help: kids/parents looking at the dogs tied up instead of each other. Some dogs tend to bark when tied up if not near the family. We will constantly be walking around to new places which means we have to move your dog too, etc…
  13. If you would like to bring your pups along for photographs, I'd strongly recommend...
  14. you vigorously run the dog before the photo session.... like really, really tire them out so they are less-excitable and become more likely to stay put.
  15. Also consider bringing a friend who can hold onto them whenever we need to focus on family photos without the dog.
a brother laughs while tackling his two sisters in a field

PART 5: What Happens Once We're Done?

We got together! We had a blast! Now it's time for you to relax... I'll take it from here.

  1. After our session wraps up, I head home and start the post-production process. Photos are loaded onto my computer, and I begin weeding the photos: blinks, blurs, and duplicates are removed. Galleries are typically turned over to families in 7 to 14 days.
  2. Once the gallery is live, I will email you a Rights Release form (permitting you personal, non-commercial use of the photography), details on how to access your gallery, as well as information on how to print photos.
  3. The online gallery will be watermarked when viewing over the internet, but will be watermark-free once you download the photos. You will receive instructions on how to save two sets of photos:
  4. Low Resolution - perfect for sharing via email or posting on social media.
  5. High Resolution - the best quality for printing (even very, very large).
  6. Look online when you have some time and get ideas on how to print photos so they fit your unique style and home. You will have all photos saved digitally, but your beautiful images truly come alive when they're printed and up on display. There are endless ideas to fit any style and budget. You will have the ability to print directly from the gallery. From metal to canvas and a multitude of other mediums, your opportunities are nearly endless.
a mother kisses her daughter on the cheek

Frequently Asked Questions About Family Photography

Q: How long does a typical family photo session last?

A: Most family photo sessions last between 30 minutes and 2 hours. This ensures , which is enough time to capture a variety of poses and combinations without overwhelming younger family members.

Q: Can we bring pets to our family photo session?

A: Absolutely! Pets are a beloved part of the family and are welcome. Just let me know ahead of time so we can choose a pet-friendly location and prepare accordingly.

Q: What if my children don’t cooperate during the session?

A: Don’t worry! It’s normal for children to be a bit restless. I have plenty of tricks up my sleeve to engage them and capture those fleeting moments of joy and sincerity, even amidst the chaos.

Preparing effectively for your family photography session ensures a smoother experience and results in beautiful, cherished memories of your family. Whether it's your first session or a yearly tradition, these tips will help make your family photos a treasured keepsake for generations.

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