Top 10 Tips | things to think about for a family photography portrait session

Updated: Apr 28

Taking portraits of people on location is probably one of the most enjoyable things for me.

I often find people are not so relaxed when they have to sit or stand still in a photo studio, or try to follow the guidelines after reading a "how to pose" blog post. I remember having a family photo taken with all the siblings and cousins, it was so forced and uncomfortable I remember as a 16 year old hating every moment. I promised myself I would never put anyone else through that! All my portrait sessions are outdoors, they are relaxed, informal and as creative as you want them to be.


Relax! There are no rules when it comes to photographing people - everyone is different. Not just in looks, but in personality. So no two photoshoots will be the same. The best advice is just to enjoy yourself and don't worry about anything, just enjoy the moment.


Young children often have a short attention span - the idea of a photographer coming to take lots of photos can be made to sound so exciting, but in reality, they might be fed up of sitting still after ten minutes. I think the best images are always snapped at the end of the session when everyone is relaxed and feeling more comfortable. A great way to get your child to smile naturally is to throw them up in the air - safely obviously - and it's that smile when they are back in safe hands that I am trying to capture. Another idea could be to let them hold their favourite toy, it might make them feel slightly more comfortable.

3. POSES...

Unless we are trying to photograph a specific part of your outfit, as with this Viking shot below, the only thing I would advise about portraits is what to do with your hands. They are one of those forgotten things and can sometimes makes the final image look unusual without you actually knowing what's wrong. I myself have an odd quirk in that I tend to bend my fingers and keep my index finger straight - it just looks odd and who knows why I do it! So my best advice is to just shake your hands and relax them, put them somewhere comfortable, maybe in a jeans pocket so that your arms have a bend. This is especially good for group photos when whole hands and indeed arms can disappear amongst a group of people. Creating angles and interesting shapes with your body also work well - I'm not thinking of you all being contortionists - rather bend an arm, or a leg rather than have straight limbs, or turn to a slight angle so that your not flat and 2D on the final photo. The body is a beautiful shape, so have fun with showing off your angles!


Think about the reasons why you are having your portrait taken, hopefully these photos will be lovingly framed and hang on your walls for years to come. If it's a group photo, try and make sure that you have outfits that work well together and work against the background. We recently had a great photo shoot with two young lads who wanted their pictures in their favourite climbing tree - it was a sunny day, but "inside" the tree canopy was quite dark. I suggested the boys wear bright coloured tops so that they would stand out well against the dark branches of the tree. Having a cohesive colour scheme always looks good. Here are two examples where colour and co-ordination really made a positive difference.


You can use as many props as you feel appropriate, just be yourself. For young children, it might be nice if they have their favourite toy or sit In their favourite place. It's more about making them feel relaxed and happy.


Knowing your "best side" is always good. Unless we're blessed at birth with the beauty of a super model, then we all have a good and a bad side. If you don't know what your's is, take a few selfies and see which side you prefer. You probably already pose with your best side showing without actually realising it.


I can't say this enough, relax, relax, relax. Just enjoy it! Jump up and down and shake out all that nervous energy. A photo shoot is meant to be fun, it's showing you in your best light and creating something that can be used professionally or cherished by loved ones. My style is definitely relaxed, as a photographer I just want everyone to feel relaxed and at ease.


Anywhere can be a photo studio. Photography is all about chasing the light - direct bright light is actually not that great as it casts shadows and can make everything too over exposed. However, by changing the positioning and angling of the shot, we can work around all types of light conditions. Choose a location you are familiar with so already, before I'm there, you know where you are and feel relaxed. It could be the beach, or your back garden. Just wherever you want your memories to be captured.


I often hear people saying they can change that or delete that in photoshop. I'm not a big fan of changing so much about the image it looses it's authenticity. However, I am a big fan of Adobe Lightroom so am happy to soften skin or alter the lighting to accentuate a shape or angle. The aim is to get as much right when we take the photo - so if there is something in the background you don't want in the shot, remove it before we get started!


I would suggest either a mini session of half an hour if we are photographing young children or animals, unless we are at a specific location that we have travelled to and then I would recommend a minimum of an hour.

If you want a session that gives you lots of looks or different set ups, then I would book the three hour session that will enable us to shoot in various locations.

Details of packages can be found by viewing our PORTRAITS page.

This example was for a film student wanting creative images for her portfolio, in varying b&w and colour images, with different poses, clothing and hair. in two locations, with two outfit changes. The number of final edited images will depend on the day itself, so if we only shoot for two hours, then I can spend more of my time in the editing room and give you more finished images. Contact me directly at to learn more.

There is always that time when I snap a portrait photo at a totally unexpected moment. When that happens I'm more than happy to send you the image in return for me being able to share it publicly across my social media accounts. A great example of that is when I was taking part in the St Albans 24in24 competition and smallholder Keith was extremely helpful - I took his portrait as a thank you gesture. It is now hanging on the wall of opticians "Eyes on St Albans" - happy days!

If you want to see more of our portraits, please check out our PORTRAIT gallery.

Let me know if I can help you!

Emma x

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