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3 Critical Steps to Prepare You for Your Next Family Photo Session!


As an experienced family photographer in Charleston, SC I know the important of preparing for a family photography session and how REALLY stressful this can be. What with

work schedules, appointments, kids athletic events, doctor appointments, what-to-wear, props to bring, getting everyone up early to get ready, straightening up the house if the session is at your home, driving to the location, a brief meal before the session, bribing kids for treats afterwards, your hair, your makeup, wardrobe, your partner’s wardrobe, props, golly and who knows what else, this can be struggle city! Frankly, it’s crazy how much stuff goes into planning a family photography session which might be the reason you aren’t getting your family photographed each year.

Mother and son having their picture taken on a blanket.

This article will help you and your family prepare for your upcoming family photography session and hopefully lessen the associated stress. Keeping your stress levels lower will allow you to have fun and enjoy your session which will be reflected in your pictures.

1. Communicate with your photographer

He or she or he should be an expert at working with people and helping you to manage the stresses that are inherent in any family session. It is common for photographers to send you a questionnaire to complete prior to your scheduled pre-session consultation. The more we know about you and your family the easier it is to plan out your session including the best way to pose you and/or your family, what lighting would be best, and maybe grab information about your interests to help with location and prop selection. Your photographer will probably schedule a pre-session consultation either in-person or virtually. Mine are in large-part virtual. Virtual is convenient and you can get a lot done with minimal distractions. You will have done some preliminary research on your photog (photographer), looked at their gallery, and should already like their portfolio. If the photographer does not ask, make sure you share which photos in their portfolio you like AND why. It makes it a lot easier to get you final images that you will enjoy and fall in love with.

It's important to use this pre-session consultation to cover the basics including, pricing, the process of the session, including, what happens after the consultation, wardrobe (more on this later), date of the session, back-up date if the weather turns ugly, props (again, more on this below), post-session meetings & image selection and leave plenty of time for you to ask questions – AND ASK THEM!! I like to emphasize, pricing, wardrobe, props, and location. I think these are the major pieces that if done well will lead to a GREAT experience and reduce the stress of the entire process. Pricing differs for each photographer. Make sure you know what the cost is going in and how final pricing is managed. I, like many photographers, have a sitting fee and after the session you select your final images, the number of matted prints, any albums, framed artwork or digitals you want. Pricing and pricing models will vary from one photographer to another. Make sure you are educated on pricing before you sign a contract. I don’t generally provide quotes. I try and structure my pricing to fit most situations so that it isn’t necessary to provide a quote. I have found that it is important that all decision makers on are the pre-session consultation call to understand the costs of the session.

Finally, make sure you know when the next contact dates are before you end the consultation. You should feel free to contact the photographer with any questions or concerns as often as necessary.

2. What to Wear and what to Bring

Wardrobes are uber important. While you want to choose outfits that express who you are, please discuss and better yet, take a picture of your proposed outfits and show them during the pre-session consultation. This is important because the tone of your outfits need to make your environment, and ideally, your home’s décor, Your photographer will know the location or have a good idea about what tones/colors would work best at the chosen location. I like dark toned outfits, with minimal to no patterns or prints, on dark background and light-toned outfits when the background will be light toned. I am not a fan of prints, or designs on clothing worn in family pictures unless there is a prevailing reason – heirloom, prom dress, athletic wear, etc. and certainly nothing with words/writing on them. These images will be part of your legacy. Let’s make these timeless and gorgeous. Pick out clothing well before the session. TRY THEM ON! 😊 Make sure they fit, and you feel comfortable in them. If you don’t feel comfortable in your clothing it will show in the final images. Your feelings and attitude show in your images. Most professional photographers know this and take great pains to make sure they establish rapport with you, your kids and partner to lighten the mood, relax everyone and settle into what should be a fun experience. You can grab my “What-to-Wear" guide here!


Props are important. Props add depth to the pictures and most importantly props give insight to who you are, your passions, interests and adds to telling your story. Make sure you bring props you and your kids love and get excited about. This is part of my pre-session consultation and I suspect most of the other photographers as well. Props can be most anything depending on a theme you might be doing or perhaps a special interest of someone in the family. Depending on the age of the child it can range from stuffed animals to sports equipment, musical instruments, toys, a tea party set up, an old-fashioned schoolhouse desk, bicycle, automobile, hat, scarf, etc. The options are virtually limitless. Use your imagination and work with your photographer to make sure it is the perfect prop for your particular situation or theme.

3. Schedule yourself

Some kids and adults just dread the thought of doing the family photograph thing. Getting all dressed up (wearing “good” clothes – ha ha ha) and driving to a park or studio just to have a picture taken sounds like the WORST thing ever. Try bribery. Hey, not sure the ends justify the means but let’s get through the session. With what I suspect is a hectic schedule, make sure you schedule downtime the evening prior to the session. If you can manage to ensure that everyone is well rested and well fed, you just might be able to avoid the dreaded “crankiness”. Try your best to ensure everyone gets as much sleep as possible to arrive rested. Make sure you ask your photographer for a pre-session checklist, like the one I provide my clients, to help you make sure you’ve got your bases covered. Finally, consider prep-time the day of the session including times to get everyone up, breakfast, wardrobe, props (set by door the night before!!) any traffic issues, including parking at the venue, weather, etc.


Choose a photographer that will take the burden off your shoulders and guide you, to not only be prepared, but to ensure that you will fall in love with the final images. As a family photographer in Charleston, SC, I guide my families through each step of the way to make sure we minimize the pre-session stress. Showing families how beautiful, emotional, and loving their relationships are through photographs is the reason I enjoy doing photography. There is nothing more satisfying then to hear a mom squeal, cry, gasp, shout or yell, OMG these are so wonderful!

Please comment below if this has been a helpful blog and please contact me if I can answer any other questions about photography for you! Always happy to help.


Arthur Ellis is a published photographer found in Charleston SC and specializes in photographing women. He is obsessed with revealing the beauty in every woman.

He can be contacted through his website at:

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