Mom Organizing

Preparing for your Family Photography Session… {Holidays}

It’s FALL! The most wonderful time of year where we spend the most time with family, snuggled up on couches and being thankful…And as we moms all know that means several things… aside from decorating the house, planning the many grocery store trips and adjusting to colder weather, we are working on our Christmas cards!

If you’re like me you probably try to get your cards out early so they are done and they aren’t forgotten entirely. That means you’ve probably hired an amazing photographer to meet you out in a beautiful location to capture priceless memories of your family to commemorate the passing year. Or you’ve signed up to attend one of their themed mini sessions (Uhmph… Kelsea Joann Photography…) The next train of thought, being a mom, is “How do I prepare for my session? How do I ensure great looking photos from my end?”

Things to consider:

  • What do we wear?
  • How do I prep the kiddos?
  • How should we act when we get there?
  • Do I need to bring anything else?

I am incredibly lucky in that I have an amazing photographer related to me! My sister is the Kelsea in Kelsea Joann Photography, so I have experienced many pleasant family photo sessions with her. Kelsea asked me to put together this post to answer some of the FAQs that come her way from families getting ready for their photo session with her and to give some insight into how you can plan for and then have the best family photo shoot possible!

Follow the Pinterest Board for quick advice

What do we wear?

Whenever you schedule your session, perhaps it is in the spring, or summer, but for me, it is always fall with the intent of Christmas cards as well as utilizing the beautiful scenery, take into consideration what will be “behind you” in the pictures. For fall your options are very broad with colors, but here are a few tips:


There are MANY ways to do it RIGHT

Your family should look like a “unit” or a team, meaning they don’t have to match exactly, but be coordinated. Colors all within the same palette work the best. Then this TEAM look is placed against a background that either forms, a seamless connection and continuity, or makes you pop and stand out boldly. Again consider your background for appropriate colors. So long as the family is coordinated it won’t look like a mess…. Here is what I mean: We did a fall shoot with beautiful oranges, browns and greens behind us. I went for the “blend in” approach and dressed everyone in the same colors.

It would have looked funny if Cash was wearing some bright colored Disney shirt right in the middle of us, or even an Oregon Duck kid shirt that was the same colors, but just a bit obtrusive….I have seen family pictures pull this off by all dressing in the same color but then have an accent color throughout the family, girls matching scarves, boys ties, etc. Or even rubber boots that all match for everyone, not gender specific. I guess the main point is that there are no “wrong” colors to wear so long as the same palette is noticeable throughout the family and you consider your background.

Here are the more important things NOT to do

Mixing patterns: Try to keep all logos, stripes, polka dots, chevrons, etc OUT. They draw attention away from your faces and confuse the eye of the person viewing your photo, ESPECIALLY if they are all different!

How to do it right…

Duck Gear is a huge wardrobe choice of many families in our area, which is great, but maybe not formal enough for your family photos. If you want to incorporate your Duck spirit, maybe try a subtle approach – such as matching rubber boots for all, super cute, any subtle logos on polo shirts or umbrellas. Also, again, try and not choose distracting or large logos. The smaller the logo the better!

OPTION: Everyone wear “duck colors” but not your most obvious, loud Duck GEAR. Then bring a fun prop to hold in pictures.

Matching Subtle Patterns. I am a huge leopard print fan, but that doesn’t mean my whole body should be covered in it for the pictures. I want my personality to show and be reflective of who I am so yes, by all means include pieces of yourself! Your favorite color might be fuchsia or lime green, which doesn’t necessarily “coordinate” well with others and that’s okay. For THIS picture, keep it subtle. Believe me, I have that full body, leopard print, bold trench coat jacket that makes a statement, but this picture isn’t about me showing off my side…. It’s about how well our family TEAM works together. So, I keep my subtle spots to a scarf, earrings, etc which may not even show in the picture, but I know they’re there which gives me the sense of self I need. This goes for stripes, polka dots, neon colors, camouflage, zebra and all other “loud” patterns. Plaids are totally fine, so long as they all coordinate in color and style.

Hats: When a member of the family wears a hat, it makes it very difficult for a photographer to make his or her face light enough in the pictures and, as such, the hat wearer will look be much harder to see in the final photos. Additionally, it limits posing with a large hat bill obstructing someone’s face. Obviously, a lot of people find comfort and familiarity in wearing a hat, but keep in mind that if someone insists on wearing one how it may impact your final photos.

Dressing your BODY
: It’s Fall people, it’s cold, so it is appropriate to keep the miniskirts, revealing top shirts, and tube tops at home.  Also, consider comfort. This means, it’s important to get your outfits together at least a week before – make sure that everyone’s clothes fit properly, are washed, and ironed. There is nothing more frantic than the morning of a photo shoot realizing that your youngest child has outgrown the perfect matching outfit you had planned for her. Keep that in mind as you prep your outfits – as is often the case, someone is ALWAYS fidgeting  with their clothing…

This can be aggravating to both you and the photographer especially when you’ve paid for a mini session and there hasn’t been a single shot where a kid isn’t itching his collar or a girl is adjusting her tank top spaghetti strap or mom’s bra is showing. The moral of the story here – keep it simple and warm. The younger the kids, the shorter time they last out their “smiling” and posing. Adults can often be the worst! I know I am! I am constantly moving my hair around… many pictures are great except that I have an arm in front of my face moving hair….think about that too! Prepare for wind!

How to do it right….

Clothing that fits: You may think you look AWESOME in this really tight getup that fits you over the summer on your trip to the islands….

But I say again, its fall people! Capitalize and cover yourself up! Don’t expect the photographer to spend extra time in photoshop tucking you in and smoothing you out.  Wear something that is flattering to your figure and it comfortable to wear outside in the cold. Cardigans with a belt around your ribs are trendy right now and they cover a lot of muffin top. Men, blazers are awesome or a tucked in polo can hide a lot!

Beware…. I tried to wear this belt for our photos and I didn’t like how it made my boobs look… so consider all angles when dressing!

Clothing you can move in. You never know which pose is going to be the perfect catch for your Christmas cards, so prepare for anything! You may need to climb a tree, lay on the ground or do hand stands! Accommodate all possibilities by making sure no clothes are too short to be squatting on the ground (miniskirt!), chasing your kids (bending forward with a deep v-neck) or sitting on a bench (low rise jeans). Under garments should not be seen in your Christmas cards! Or hanging on your living room wall!

Choosing a color for Fall: In all of my research, I have noticed that the best approach to fall family photos is wearing neutral colors that you can dress up with coordinating accessories. Think BROWN, IVORY, BEIGE, GREY, GREEN as they work well with most skin colors, grey and green colors being the most risky.

How to prepare the kids?

Depending on the age of your kids you should attempt to schedule the session for their most “happy” and energetic time… for us it is in the morning after nap time. You may not know when the right time is, but I bet you know the WRONG time! Our son “melts” at 6:00pm and turns into this Tasmanian devil whom I often do not recognize 😉 You’re going outside, so you’re going to get dirty… just accept that, let it go… but the thing to prepare for is attitude.

Also, clean your children’s faces! It can be very frustrating to get back photos that are high resolution and see that your little one had oatmeal crusted to his or her face. Don’t depend on the photographer to clean up your toddler’s face in photoshop because sometimes they can’t! If your little one has a bump, scratch, or bruise that you can’t clean up, just make sure to ask the photographer beforehand whether or not it’s something that can be handled in the editing process to ensure everyone is happy with the photos.


Bring SNACKS: All kids are happier with full bellies, especially if you bring something they don’t get often get like goldfish crackers or Auntie’s bunny cookies. Cash will do just about anything for Cheerios!

Remove Temporary Tattoos: You probably don’t want these little gems immortalized in your portraits… even more, I bet you don’t want to pay for the extra hours it will take your photographer to edit them out! Take a little baby oil and rub that kiddos arm or face until it sparkles. Then have a NEW tattoo ready for them when they finish their pictures as a “good job” bonus!

Bring a Kid Entertainer: Your photographer may not have an assistant, or that assistant is well, assisting them, so if you need to have someone doing jumping jacks or shaking bells behind the photographer to get a smile and eyes forward from your yearling then you better ask grandma to tag along.

WARNING: Family sessions may be billed by the person/number of people in the photos, so if grandma comes make sure she knows and doesn’t expect any time in front of the lens, or any private pictures with the grandkids! Be respectful to the photographer and ONLY take what you are paying for! If you’re in mini sessions, there are likely families waiting on you too!

How do we act when we get there?

This is perfectly introduced by my “warning” above…. Please, PLEASE be respectful of photographers. Only expect what you are paying for. Trust me, if you do and are a respectful family you’ll get it in return when the pictures are done.

How to do it right….

Be on time! BE AT your session about 10-15 minutes EARLY. This is in case you are caught in traffic obviously, but also to settle into the site. Give kids time to go to the bathroom BEFORE the session, you should walk around and think about scenery you like, and kids can do some mild exploring to get it out of their systems. Plus, the family ahead of you could be done early!

Caution: If it is too cold, kids might freeze up too soon…so ensure the car is warm while you wait.

Family Pep Talk. In the car be sure to explain to all the kids that you’re only going to be getting your pictures taken for a short period of time and it is very important for your family to get them done, so ask that everyone put in a team effort and then offer to bake cookies afterwards! (Oh yeah, schedule a fun activity afterwards as incentive to behave!) Sort of like you would for a babysitter, tell kids that the photographer is in charge and we have to listen to everything he/she says until we get what we need.

KEY TO SUCCESS: Somehow explain to everyone about eye contact…. It does no good for mom to be looking at junior, yelling at him to be looking at the camera! EVERYONE ALWAYS look at the camera! Mom and dad should just not move and let the photographer get all attention for that ONE picture you want. Just get the one over with at the very beginning and then they’re loose… Of course, let the kids be candid too! You’ll want a few fun family shots that are playful to go with that one nice, solid portrait. Parents just play smiling opossum, bring a kid entertainer, and let the photographer catch EVERYONE smiling.

In fact, some photographers (including Kelsea) actually love to capture more candid moments and prefer a more “freestyle” session with young ones who are difficult to pose. Sheesh, between my hair issues and my husband talking our sessions take 30 minutes EXTRA… good thing I have connections to the photographer….

Should I bring anything else?

Payment! If you owe any money upon arrival DON’T forget it! That’s just rude. Write the check or put the cash in an envelope days before and leave it by the door. It is also appropriate to pay as soon as you get there, before the shooting starts to eliminate any potential for forgetting to do so at the end especially if another group has arrived for their session.)

Props: Unless you know this to be a styled family shoot with hay bales, chairs or anything else, assume the photographer isn’t bringing anything. They always have enough to carry with their own equipment (so don’t ask them to hold the diaper bag either!) If you do intend to bring props, shoot the photographer an email first to see whether she has a prop you would like to use as well as alert them to the fact you’re bringing some items. Also, alert the photographer if you will be bringing a pet. If a pet comes along, that can change the lens the photographer uses, so make sure she knows beforehand so she is equipped!

Logical props you should ALWAYS bring:

  1. Blankets- either to wrap up in between shots or to lie on the ground for cuddle poses
  2. Umbrellas- In case it rains or for mom & dad pictures
  3. Good shoes- nobody likes to have cold feet, or to step in poop, so maybe bring two
    pairs for everyone!
  4. Stroller- To carry all your crap…. You may be wandering out into the woods, so even if you think all your kids can walk, you might want it for the shopping cart
    feature to carry all those snacks and blankets.

I have assembled this  Pinterest Board  of great wardrobes, poses and prop ideas. Please feel free to visit it, pin from it and communicate with your photographer about it 😉

** Try to avoid arriving with a stack of printed Pinterest photos you want to replicate -the photographer has her own creative genius – which is why you hired her!

Good luck everyone!!!

Happy Holidays!



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