Three Controversial Tips for a Wall-Worthy Family Photo

The most important steps in creating a stunning family photo take place well before the session even begins. From what to wear, to where to go, planning the details in advance will ensure a smooth and enjoyable session, and amazing photos to hang on your wall.

Sometimes when we picture having our family photos taken outside, we think of wearing matching clothes, a sunny day, and our children readily complying when we politely ask them to smile. I think that these are all misconceptions about successful family photography sessions, as you will see below. Here are some of my best tips for planning for a family photo session:

family of four sitting on beach smiling

Wearing clothes that don’t match but look good together is key to natural-looking family photos.

Don’t match.

While it’s important to coordinate what you wear, having everyone try to find something of the exact same colour can produce an unnatural look in your family photos. Do you typically wear the same colours when you’re out in public with your family?

A popular way to dress for a family photo session is to wear different colours within the same palette. For example. you could wear all earth tones, or all pastels. It’s recommended to dress to the same level – whether it’s very casual (ok, maybe not “pajamas” casual) or more formal shirts, ties, and dresses. I also suggest to stay away from wearing pure black or pure white.

Stay out of the sun.

There is nothing like spending a sunny afternoon outdoors as a family…except when it comes to a photography session. Photos taken in direct sunlight look flat, and can result in squinty-eyed smiles. I like to look for shaded areas for family photos, or if a sunny day is preferred, hold the session during the “golden hour” just before sunset. Your photographer will help you to decide on a location and time of the day that works well for you and your family.

family of four sitting on cottage step

Overcast skies produce even light for a flattering family photo.

Bribe your kids.

The word “bribe” has gotten so much negative publicity lately. But when it comes to getting your children excited to have their photos taken, sometimes the best strategy is a classic promise of some post-session ice cream. Include some details in your bribe. Sprinkles? Sauces? As long as your children know that there is an ice cream cone-shaped light at the end of the tunnel, they’ll usually try their best to stick it out for the session.

I call these tips “controversial” because the advice goes against some typical assumptions we make about family photography sessions. This is why I always meet with families prior to their session, so that we can plan every detail of the session in advance. It has made all the difference in the finished artwork!

For more information on family photography sessions, head on over to my website here. For recommendations on some great places to get ice cream, just send me a quick email at

Silhouette of a family of four holding hands jumping

The promise of a post-session treat is worth celebrating.

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