grandparents sitting with grandchildren

What To Expect At Your Family Photo Session

Family Photos

What To Expect

It’s hard to know what to expect at your family photo session. Often times, we hear stories from family and friends about their experiences with family photos and it’s easy to assume that our own experience will be similar to theirs. I mean, how different can things be between photographers, right?

Well, things can be drastically different from one photographer to another. Some family photographers are used to working with older kids and the little ones can be a bit of a challenge for them. Others might not be used to working with kids at all. And there are some that struggle with adults and multiple family members. Let me tell you, I’ve heard some stories!

Experienced photographers have seen it all and done it all. We’ve found ways to calm a crying child and broken through the barrier of teenage stubbornness. We’ve been around long enough to have tricks up our sleeve for almost every situation. Cranky toddlers (and sometimes dads) are no problem. Self-conscious teenagers who don’t want to smile are a breeze when we get them talking. Dad always love to cuddle with Mom and everyone ends up having a good time. Seasoned photographers know how to do it all and we’re good at what we do.

Since knowing what to expect can make all the difference in your family photos, I’ve put together a little snapshot of what your session might look like. Of course, every family photo session is tailored to your family and the needs of each person in your group, so yours might look a little different that what you see here, but the basics are the same.

Family of six stand together with green hedges behind them

Large groups

The first pictures we get are of the largest group. The toughest scene to capture is the one where the most amount of people need to look and smile at the camera. That’s why I do this one first. At the beginning of the photo session, everyone is fresh and the little ones haven’t had time grow weary of having their picture taken. We’ll start with everyone looking at the camera, then have everyone look at each other.

For those with small children, I’ll have you play with the kids a bit here too. I really love the photos where you are all just having fun with each other and connecting on that simple but priceless human level. You can hang the kids upside down, have a tickle fight or play ring-around-the-rosey. This is just to have fun and get the happy, natural smiles that will be on everyone’s face. We forget how much fun it is to just play.


For smaller family groups (usually 5 or fewer), we’ll have everyone hold hands and walk toward the camera. Walking is something that is really not threatening to anyone, so usually some relaxed smiles can be found in these pictures. For families with older kids, hand holding isn’t really mentioned unless I’m trying to get some smiles out of the kids.


I always like to get lots of pictures of the kids. I’ll get some pictures of all of them together as well as individual pictures of each one (as age allows). Sometimes having a favorite toy or other security item can help the really little ones be comfortable with these pictures.

I’ll get some posed pictures here, but I really like to get more candid ones of the kids just playing. I think the play pictures really showcase their personality and that’s what’s I’m really after…documenting them as they really are, right now.

Mother smiling with her young son


After the individual photos of the kids, I like to have the kids play with the parents. I want each child to have a moment with each parent…just the two of them. This makes your child feel extra special and when they get to have that one-on-one moment with you, it means the world to them.

The connection that you have with your child is amazing and it really shows in these pictures. These are some of my favorites. I’ll have you look at the camera for a few, but you’ll also play with your child and act as though the camera doesn’t exist. Dads really love these because this is where they get to toss the kids in the air and tickle them and just have fun. Cuddles with Mom are always a favorite here as well.


Let’s not forget where this all started! I’ll focus on the two of you for a few shots as well. For most couples, it’s rare that they get any pictures of just the two of them anymore, even at a family photo session believe it or not. This is your time to have a moment together. I’ll have you focus on what you love most about your partner and the love between you will shine through the lens.

This moment doesn’t usually last long before the kids start getting into mischief behind me, so we go fairly quick here. I also love to get individual photos of each parent. These aren’t for you…these are for your kids and grandkids. They will treasure these pictures of you, so don’t skip out on them. You love individual pictures of your kids just as much as they will love individual pictures of you.

Final images

2 year old boy smiling while playing with some wood blocks on the ground in front of the San Miguel Mission

Before we’re done, I’ll ask if there are any more that you would like that we haven’t already done. This is a great time to mention that pose that you did with your dad and he did with his dad…I love to carry on family traditions.

Final thoughts

Any family photo session can be a blast. Almost everyone goes into them dreading the experience, but we always have a good time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “That was actually pretty fun!” or “Wow! That went a lot faster than I thought.”

Bringing small toys for the little ones or a favorite blanket to sit on can sometimes help. An extra change of clothes can be helpful too, in case of spills or an accidentally itchy shirt. Plan to have the kids get a little dirty, depending on the location of your photo session as I like to get them playing and having fun.

Family photo sessions typically take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on the number of people and the location. We schedule an hour for the sessions, just to be safe.

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