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5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

Asked: How do you find and choose the photographers that you work with and how do you end up with images that you are ultimately happy with?

Answered: I honestly get asked some version of this question a ton - especially from my close friends! I'm afraid the answer is going to be frustratingly simple: I've found every single photographer that I have worked with through social media.

I think it might be easiest to just run you through my process of working with a new photog and if I miss a piece of info that you were looking for, feel free to shoot me an email or comment below.

The very first step is to know what type of image style you are drawn to. 

Do you like soft and bright? Moody and dark? 
Are you hoping for a studio location or do you want to swim in a pond with your photographer in tow? Do you like a lifestyle session or are you hoping for props and a theme?

You need to know what it is that you envision in that sweet little noggin of yours and ultimately find a photographer whose style matches your vision and style. My absolute, number one must do when searching for a photographer is to spend some time flipping through the archives on their site. Once I find a photographer whose style I relate to, I find my absolute favorite session of theirs and make a note of it so that I can reference it in future planning convos. 

Having an example of the photographers own work that you love means that your styles are a match and that you'll be able to articulate the look you are hoping for when you are planning your session. As I'm typing this, I can literally still see my absolute favorite shoot of my Maine photog, Danielle Brady. She took a family of three romping through a Christmas Tree farm during a snow storm (not that weird in Maine) and the images were just perfection. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that I never got that shoot set up for my family before we moved! Clearly, her work made an impression on me and I knew her style was a perfect fit for my aesthetic. 

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

  I found Danielle Brady Photography by searching "photographers in Bangor, Maine". She was my honest to goodness complete wild card. I had no idea that I would find such a talented photog in such a remote and small city. Her business blog popped up in my search results along with quite a few talented photographers in the next biggest city (Portland, about a 2 hour drive).

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

Pro Tip: be flexible on shoot day! The first black and white shot is while I'm passing the baby to Justin and we are First Time Parenting so hard - look at our faces! don't drop the baby! In the second shot he was fussing and I literally stopped to rock him and give him his giant orange tiger Wub - and Danielle created magic- and in the shot below, Justin was holding the baby while I snagged some head shots - Danielle turned around and grabbed that shot of the two of them that I just love. 

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

That same web search lead me to our Maternity Photographer, Darling Photography, who is insanely talented and based out of said big city. I will say that my husband really didn't see the appeal of maternity photos and therefor didn't want to shell out big bucks to document the bump (no judgement, babe). I loved Jenn's work so I followed all of her social media accounts and wouldn't you know it, she happened to have a mini session special around my 25 week mark. 

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

By booking a mini session, I spent considerably less money and still have quite a few images that continue to take my breath away.

Pro Tip: booking a mini session is a great way to get to know a photog and their style while saving a few pennies but make sure to read the fine print - you will be told exactly how many images to expect and you're going to want to ensure that the words "edited images" are mentioned in there somewhere. No one needs 20 raw images that feature their yet to be photoshopped double chin, trust me.

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

Pro Tip: Discuss the location ahead of time and be realistic about the shots you can snag. A mini session will have a set location determined by the photog - our maternity shoot was in a huge, old house on the beach. I knew there would be a bed and even asked Jenn if I should bring plain white bedding. She had it covered and I envisioned a soft, relaxed shoot in a big bed. Vision accomplished! 

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

My newest photographer on the roster, Christa Rene Photography, popped up on either a friend's Facebook feed or Insta feed. I saw a sweet, bright, crisp image of a family and popped over to Christa's blog. Her work is lifestyle based, which is how I want to document our family, and I immediately reached out to her to see if she had any interest in a super small scale shoot for my Facebook header image. She was on board (and super flexible, which is now a must for me) and her work was insanely gorgeous. 

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

While she was in our home she got to meet the babe and the way she interacted with him guaranteed that she was going to grab amazing shots of our family. Being a lifestyle family photog, she isn't into posing or waiting for the perfect shot, which, in my opinion, is the only way to genuinely photograph a one year old.  She shoots quickly, isn't afraid to get right in there with us, was willing to try a few of my ideas but was quick to tell us we needed to move on for lighting purposes etc. 

Pro Tip: Don't judge a book by it's cover. Christa is a college senior who is already running her own successful photography business. If a photog is newer, or even at a more reasonable price point, don't count them out! The same can be said for a well known photog whose time is much more of an investment - if their style doesn't match your vision or aesthetic then, by all means, don't book them just because they are well known. They became well known for working their own style and it's simply ok if you don't click with that look.

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

My last suggestion when picking a photographer is to make sure that you ask them ahead of time how long they think a session will last and where it will take place. When shooting a baby or young child, it's basically impossible to take a ton of time or have your heart set on certain poses or expressions. Obviously, no one will be happy if the baby is miserable, stuffed into an outfit, being forced into a bear hug and needs a nap. I think our entire one year photo shoot lasted 20 minutes. I trusted that Christa got some great shots and she trusted that I understood that we were going for real life, personality and candid moments - not a portrait. Had we not discussed all of that prior to our shoot, things might not have gone so smoothly.

5 Tips to Score Amazing Family Photos

Ugh, that was one hell of a ramble, but I am always, always, always happy with the results of my photo shoots and I think it boils down to these key things:

1. knowing the style you like/want/hope for
2. finding a photog who shoots in that style
3. following the photographer on social media to see examples of their style and sessions as they are published and/or to see if you can snag a mini session 
4. clearly articulating your hopes for a session to the photog, using examples of their work 
(and never of someone else )
5. establish shoot logistics to ensure the best outcome for your family - don't schedule during nap time, the witching hour etc. It won't matter how gorgeous the light is if your babe screams the entire time. And try to avoid a two hour photo shoot, that's just a recipe for disaster.

Honestly, did that help or hurt?? 
If you have questions, leave them in the comments below and I'll answer in the comment so that everyone can see.

Stephanie | Olive and Tate |
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  1. This was an amazing post! I'm already thinking about a Christmas card shoot so I'll definitely be keeping some of these tips in mind!

  2. Do you have any photographers in Charlotte you like that won't charge me an arm and a leg for a mini session? :)

    This might be asking too much, but what do you expect to spend? I knowwww that photographers do so much more than snap pics, upload them, and email them. But it's SO pricey, convincing the husband to shell out hundreds of dollars for photos is nearly impossible. And forget having hubby in the pictures...any tips?

    1. Check out Peepsake Photography, I've never used them but I love the style!

      Ok so as far as husbands go, that whole establishing the time commitment with the photographer ahead of time works in your favor - I have actually said to Justin, "we already agreed on 20 minutes and no poses, I'll take you to dinner after". Once they know you don't want them to spend an hour in a faux family embrace, they tend to give in a bit. Also, I don't force outfits on justin. He asks me what to wear and say I'm wearing this, the babe is rocking that, choose what you want! If he asks for specifics, I'm ready to help but otherwise, no one is forced into matching sweaters or anything ;-)

      As far as price goes, I'm not into spending more than $250 of that helps!


  3. And that's $250 for a full session plus all rights to images - a mini session depends on the number of images!

  4. Are those wood printed rubber tiles on your wood tile floor? That looks so nice for little kids. Would you share specifics?

    1. Yes! I'm obsessed with our play mat flooring! It's looks clean and simple (not babyish!) in our open concept play room - here's the link!

  5. great tips! i'm sure i'll reference this post again in a few months when i start looking around for a photographer to take violet's first birthday photos :) xo jillian - cornflake dreams

  6. I love this! I am a professional photographer. I totally agree with all of you advice and I love that you are educating others :) I think it's so important to find someone who already has a style you LOVE. I love the tip of finding a previous session you love, I might start asking my clients to do that! XO.


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