How to Have an Awesome Extended Family Photography Session

large extended family photography at Middle Island in Miramichi

Coordinating what everyone will wear is the most important aspect of preparing for an extended family photography session.

So, you’ve booked a session for your extended family. Although it may not seem like the most daunting task, it can certainly be stressful when the time comes around. With a range of attention spans and variety of ages, extended family photography sessions pose unique challenges. Here I offer some of my best advice so you and your loved ones can make the most of your session.

Did Someone Say Dress Code?

The first piece of advice for large family sessions is also the most critical. In my opinion, the best family photos are those where you don’t really notice what anyone is wearing. This means that you don’t want anyone to stick out. If everyone is wearing earth tones and jeans, and your Aunt Flora shows up in a hot pink dress, the photos just aren’t going to look right, no matter what you do. My favourite colour schemes are pastels for spring and summer, and earth tones for fall. Another mistake is having everyone sport the same colour. Having your family decked out in white t-shirts and jeans might seem like an easy choice, but the photos end up looking too staged and unnatural.

young children on green grass at park

Keeping the youngest family members happy requires patience and sometimes promises of treats and toys.

Manage the Little Ones

If you have young children in your family, I recommend taking the large group photos first, as most children are happiest at the beginning of the session. Some ideas for promoting cooperative children are to bring props, such as toys or a song on your cell phone. If I had a dime for every time I played Baby Shark during a family session…well, I’d have 143 dimes (and counting). Teenagers might be immune to these tactics, but can be bribed with a reward after the session.

Designate a Leader

You know your family better than your photographer will. If you can choose a family member to help herd everyone together, the session will go a lot more smoothly. They can assist with getting everyone in right spot, and maybe even telling a few inside jokes to crack some smiles.

family photo at Middle Island in Miramichi, New Brunswick

Matching the dress code to the location will make a wall-worthy family portrait.

Choose a Location that Suits Everyone

You don’t have to bring the family to an exotic place in order for your pictures to look amazing. Simple backgrounds work best for large family photos. These include a wooded background, beach, or field. Be sure to take the needs of your family members into account. Areas that are easily accessible are better for seniors and children. I like photographing in a place with some shade, to help everyone stay cool and keep those eyes from squinting too much.

A lot of preparation goes into planning an extended family photography session. From coordinating schedules and what to wear, and making sure it’s not too close to nap time (this goes for the kids too), being prepared will take the stress out of the day so that you can have a fun and enjoyable experience.

For inspiration on your extended family photography session, be sure to check out my family gallery here.

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