In past years, I let family photos slide, and you know what? I regret it. Yes, getting a toddler dressed and ready and keeping him happy for an hour while taking pictures is a bit of challenge, but it was 100% worth it.
We shot our family pictures in mid-October in Lincoln Park, right by the pond and farm at the zoo where that cool arched honeycomb archway is located. It’s such a gorgeous spot, and has a nice nature-y feel to it, while still having the city as a backdrop—the best of both worlds in my opinion.
My sweet friend, Regan Baroni, took the photos and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. She specializes in capturing a lot of candid moments, which I adore. She really captured us as a family and Owen’s sweet, curious and sometimes shy personality.
Naturally, I waited until the last second to figure out what all of us were going to wear, but I love how it turned out and I realized, I subconsciously had a formula for our outfits that worked perfectly.
Tips for Dressing for Family Photos
Stop with the Matching
Okay, I realize I might get some backlash here because this is pretty common. My family did it too—we have family photos where we’re all wearing jeans and a white shirt. And, my opinion that matching outfits are uncool might not be a popular camp, but I stand by it! I guess there’s nothing inherently wrong about it, but it doesn’t feel natural either.
Like, when are you and your family all wearing the same damn thing–never! And, if you are, you’d likely go change because no one wants to show up to a party wearing the exact same thing as their husband and children. So, don’t do it for pictures either.
That doesn’t mean everyone should wear whatever the hell they want either. Personally, I think that coordinating your outfits, pulling color from one piece and dressing everyone else in something similar that goes together is key. I mean, these pictures might be around your home a long time, right? You want them to look good. So, no matchy-matchy outfits, but you don’t want them totally contrasting each other either.
Pick a Color Scheme
This could be cool tones—like blues and greys, or warm colors like tans, browns—think fall tones! When everyone is in the same color scheme, everything looks cohesive, but not like a uniform.
For our pictures, I stuck with a black and white theme. Owen and I both wore black and white, and then we pulled in Rob’s grey sweater to balance it out. Owen’s sweater is technically ivory, but I love the mix of shades and hues of the same colors.
Choose Location Based on the Look you Want
We wanted our photos to be relaxed and feel like real life, which is why we chose Lincoln Park. It was outdoors, had lots of plants and greenery, but still has a really relaxed, earthy feel to it. The photos have a happy, carefree vibe to them which is exactly what I wanted—it portrays our life well, IMO.
If you wanted a dressier, fancier shoot, consider the backdrop and how your outfits will look against it. Some cool, old stone architecture could be really cool! Or a dramatic cityscape from Olive Park is always cool too!
Tips for Shooting Photos with Kids
Hire a Photographer That’s Good with Kids
I can’t stress this enough. If you hire a photographer who never shoots kids, it might end up being harder on everyone if your kid is not a willing participant. Regan shoots photos of kids all the time and just naturally followed him around, let him do his thing and snapped shots along the way.
She also let him look at pictures of himself on the camera, which made him a lot more comfortable and by the end, he was high-fiving her (he was so shy at the beginning, he just snuggled his face in my neck).
Trust that your photographer knows what they’re doing and will get plenty of good shots. Staying calm will help keep your kids calm, and totally shows in your face in the photos. I’m obviously very used to having my picture taken, so it’s not a big deal to me, but I know that it doesn’t come as naturally to everyone.
My best tip is to just fake it—pretend like you’re a pro and don’t think about what the strangers next to you are thinking. They probably think your family looks cute anyway!
I was a little surprised that Owen was so shy when we first started! But, after a few minutes, he relaxed and was all smiles and having a blast. Remember that it’s not normal for kids to take posed photos, so give them a chance to loosen up!
I think a lot of people get in front of the camera and they clam up. I get it. It’s not natural for most of us. But, the more you can loosen up, have fun, laugh and just enjoy the process, even if you feel funny, the better your photos will turn out.
Plus, you’ll get great snaps of you and your family in your natural element! Some of my favorites from our pictures were the silly, goofy ones where Owen is laughing hysterically!
I’m not above bribing my child to smile, I mean, it’s one hour of one day for photos you’ll have forever. Do what you need to do to get the shot.
Plus, half the time Owen is in a funk, it’s because he’s hungry! As soon as he’s got food in his little belly, he’s usually a lot more agreeable!
How to Pick a Photographer
I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many talented photographers over the years and each of them have their own unique aesthetic, shooting style and look.
When picking a photographer, look for someone who’s style you LOVE! I’ve had friends tell me they were disappointed with family photos because they were too moody, but then when I looked up the photographer’s Instagram, everything was moody! So, of course they were!
It’s easy to assume all photographers should be able to edit exactly how you like, but this is their art! They’ve grown their own business because of how they shoot and edit their photos, so don’t expect them to change their editing style just for you.
So, the big lesson—do your research and make your choice according to the look you’re going for!
I hope this is super helpful for your next family photo sesh! It can be tough to coordinate, but it’s so worth it to have the photos for a lifetime!