October 17, 2012

101 Family Picture Tips & Ideas


It happens about this time every year.  The anxiety.  The stress.  The dread.  Yep – it’s time for Fall family pictures.  The pressure’s on for every woman to wrangle the kids and hubby together into trendy, coordinating (but not too matchy) outfits – in an attempt to capture (ever elusive) natural smiles for a “picture perfect” holiday card.  What’s a girl to do?

Well, never you fear – the Divas are here!  And you are gonna LOVE us after this post!  Just go ahead and pin it right now- trust me on this.

We’ve racked our brains and searched all over Pinterest and Blog Land, and gathered over one hundred of the best tips and ideas for this year’s family photos.  Yep, just for you, we’ve compiled…

“The Ultimate Family Picture Planning Guide”

From choosing your photographer, location, props, poses, and clothes… all the way to tips for looking good in front of the camera and getting your kids (and husband) to cooperate – we’ve got you covered!

And if that isn’t enough, to keep you super organized and ahead of the game, we’ve even hooked you up with a…

FREE “Family Picture Planner” Printable

So say goodbye to all that stress.  This year’s pictures are gonna be a breeze.  We’ve done most of the work for you.  Just sit back, relax, and prepare for some serious photo inspiration…

The Photographer

Consider these tips when choosing and working with a photographer for your family photos…

1.  Ask for recommendations!

2.  Look at their portfolio/ website.  Usually, what you see is what you get.

3.  Check their work to see if they are used to working with kids, a large group, etc.

4.  You don’t have to pick the  most expensive photographer in town, but remember that this is an investment of your memories.  And I’ve never heard anyone say, “I wish I would have spent the least amount of money possible on our photos.”

5.  Schedule in advance!  Talented photographers usually fill up fast in the Fall.  And you may have to reschedule if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

6.  Know what you want and communicate it to your photographer ahead of time.  A discussion about the style, location, props, and poses you’re planning on can work wonders to get you on the same page.

7.  Rely on your photographer for suggestions, and value their opinion.  While you don’t want to be completely at their mercy- they are, after all, the professional.

The Location

You’re not restricted to a portrait studio these days!  Outdoor photography offers natural lighting for beautiful pictures and endless options.   Check out these tips to narrow them down…

8. Drive around and pay attention to different areas near you that would make beautiful and creative backgrounds.

9.  Pick a location that matches your family’s personality.  You’ll want these pictures to reflect this time in your lives.  So while railroad tracks can look cool, Blissfully Domestic recommends that you ask yourself, “Would our family really spend time here?”

10.  Before getting too attached to a location, run it by your photographer.  They should know if there are any issues with your choice (such as a required permit or difficult lighting) or if there are better choices available.

11.  Browse family pictures online for location inspiration.  (Our “Family Picture Ideas” Pinterest Board is full of ideas!)

Here are some of our favorite locations…

Sources:  {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6} {7}

Sources: {8} {9} {10} {11} {12} {13}

Sources: {14} {15} {16} {17} {18} {19} {20} {21}

The Props

The difference between a good picture and a great picture is in the details.  So don’t forget to add in some fun props for that little something extra…

12.  Sarah Wert of Modern Kids Photography suggests including items from the natural environment in family photos.  “Keeping the props as minimal and realistic as possible helps keep the focus on the connection between the family.”  So try a bouquet of wild flowers or a picnic blanket.

13.  Incorporate items that have meaning to your family to really personalize the picture.  Photographer Wendy Laurel recommends using props to highlight your family’s hobbies.  So if you love biking together- why not throw in a bike or two?

14.  Props such as a couch, chairs, stools, or a ladder can help add different posing options to the same location.

15.  Bringing along your child’s favorite toy or blanket will not only capture the special memory in the photograph, but will also help keep your child happy and cooperative.

16.  Props such as chalkboards, signs, wooden letters, or scrabble tiles can help you spell out and convey a specific message.

17.  Choose props that will help your family interact for natural, candid photos.  So bring along a book to read to the baby, a game to lay out and play with the kids, or a picnic to enjoy together.

18.  When choosing props, consider the color of your clothing and location background as well.  You may want to choose neutral props that will go with anything, or props with a pop of color for added interest.

Here are some of our favorite props…

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6} {7}

Sources: {8} {9} {10} {11} {12}

Sources: {13} {14} {15} {16} {17} {18}

Sources: {19} {20} {21} {22} {23} {24}

The Poses

While your photographer is sure to have suggestions and guidance on posing, knowing a couple of pose ideas beforehand that you absolutely LOVE can help you get just the picture you’re looking for.  Here are some of our favorite family picture posing ideas…

19.  Get in Close

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4} {5}

20.  Stack ‘Em Up

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4}

21.  Play it Up

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6}

22.  Lie Down

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6}

23.  Get Silly

Sources: {1} {2}

24.  Jump

Sources: {1} {2} {3}

25.  Hold Hands

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6}

26.  Hug It Out

Sources: {1} {1}  {2} {3} {4} {5} {6}

27.  Pucker Up

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6}

28.  Focus on the Kids

Sources: {1} {2} {3}

29.  Focus on the Parents

Sources: {1} {2}

30.  Just Act Natural

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4}

The Clothes

Don’t know what to wear for family pictures?  Check out these tips for endless outfit and color inspiration…

31.   Coordinate the style and color of your clothing with your location in mind.

32.  When choosing a color palette, consider what will go well with the colors of your home.  After all, most people plan to hang them up!

33.  Try to avoid clothing that is super seasonal.  Unless you’re planning on using them only for Christmas cards, red and green scarfs may not be the best choice.  Pick a style, color, and location that you don’t mind displaying in your home year-round.

34.  Don’t be afraid of color and pattern.  While you may not want everyone to wear a bold color or a busy pattern- a pop or two of color and design adds interest to the picture.  Check out some great examples at Click it Up a Notch and Kristen Duke photography.

35.  Layer!  Adding layers to your outfit not only adds texture to the picture, but also allows you to shed layers later on for different looks in different pictures.

36. For a photo that stands the test of time- opt for clothes that are classic rather than super trendy.

37.  While a little bit of pattern can be a good thing, it’s best to avoid clothing with large graphics and logos.

38.   Gone are the days of identical blue jeans and white shirts!  Instead of matching colors- coordinate them.   Stick to a color palette, but don’t feel like you have to match color values exactly.

39.  For color palette inspiration, try these online tools:  Design Seeds, Big Huge Labs, CSS Drive, and DeGrave.

40.  For more outfit inspiration, do a simple Image Search on Google for “What to Wear Photography” and you will get more outfits and color combinations than you know what to do with!

Here are just a few of our favorites…

Sources: {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6}

How to Look Good in Family Pictures

And now the part we’ve all been waiting for- how to look good in front of the camera.  Who doesn’t want that?!

41.  For a slimmer appearing waistline, hp suggests angling your body towards the camera instead of facing it square on.

42. If you put weight on your back leg, you’ll feel more comfortables and look natural instead of awkward according to Photography Awesomesauce.

43.  To look thinner, leave space between your arms and your body to show your waistline.

44.  Remember to push your shoulders back and don’t slouch.  (After 10 shots we usually forget to sit or stand straight)

45.  Avoid looking down to prevent a double chin says Cosmopolitan.

46.  Ask your photographer to shoot straight on or from above.  They are much more flattering angles than from below.

47.  To avoid the totem pole look, bend whatever can bend.

48.  Don’t leave your arms hanging straight down. Try  touching the person next to you or resting your hand on a nearby object.

49.  Try look places other than directly at the camera for a more natural look.  Maybe look off to the side or past the photographer into the distance.

50.  Schedule your shoot at the “golden hour” near sunrise and sunset.

51.  If you’re worried about wrinkles, shoot with the light in front of you. (Side lightening emphasizes wrinkles according to Stylist.)

52.  Blissfully Domestic says you can minimize a big nose by tilting your head just slightly upward.

53.  Self-conscious of big ears?  Blissfully Domestic has a solution for that too!  Position yourself at an angle so only one ear is showing.

54.  To avoid shine, use LOTS of powder on your face and neck.

55.  For small eyes, false eye lashes can be a life saver!  (Check Kiirsten’s post for a fabulous How-To)

56.  Check your makeup with a camera, not a mirror.  Remember, you need to apply more than usual for it to show in pictures!  (Check Tara’s post for your guide to a flawless face)

Getting the Kiddos to Cooperate for Family Pictures

This can be one of the most stressful parts of family pictures!  But with a little planning and these quick tips- you’ll be prepared…

57.  When you first tell them about your family picture plans- act excited like it’s going to be SO much fun!  Often attitude is contagious.

58.  Involve the kids in the process from the beginning!  If they get to help pick what they’re going to wear and what props they can bring, they’ll feel included and be more likely to cooperate.

59.  Allow plenty of time!  It’s hard to be patient and positive when you’re rushed.

60.  Bring along an “entertainer” to sand behind or beside the photographer to get the baby or little ones to look and smile.

61.  Simple Mom recommends planning the shoot for when your kids are the happiest, not just the time that is the most convenient.   Work your appointment around the kids’ routines.

62.  Give the kids breaks in between shots to stretch, run, and play.

63.  Even better- let them play during the pictures!  You’ll get great candid shots and capture your little ones the way they really are.

64.  Play peek-a-boo, tickle, and throw the baby into the air for real, genuine smiles.

65.  Bring water and snacks to avoid mid-shoot meltdowns.

66.  Use fun props like suckers, toys, and bubbles to keep them happy.

67.  Promise them a reward when the shoot is over.  I’m so not above bribing. ;)

68.  Beth from Home Stories A 2 Z suggested using a code word (like “ice cream”) to remind them of the reward throughout the shoot.  Genius!

Getting Your Hubby On Board with Family Pictures

Sometimes the kids aren’t the only ones that drag their heels for family pictures.  Here are some helpful hint to get your man on board…

69.  Plan ahead so that he knows it’s coming and has time to mentally prepare for it.  No one likes being surprised with something they don’t love.

70.  Budget for it to avoid the money stress.

71.  Let him know WHY it’s important to you.  If he knows it’s about preserving memories for you, and not just for a cute Christmas card, he’s more likely to value it too.

72.  Give him a say in it!  Most people don’t like to be told what to wear and how to sit and stand and when to do it.  So ask for his opinion and value it.  (Maybe you could even make a little shopping date and pick out new outfits together.)

73.  Compromise!  Find out what is most important to each of you and make it happen.

74.  If he absolutely hates pictures, look together to find poses that he’s okay with.  Usually pictures where the kids are the focus are the best.

75.  Just like the kids- bribe!  Oops, I mean- reward!  If he’s willing to do this just for you, then let him know you appreciate it.

Ordering Pictures

So you followed all of these wonderful tips and had a fabulous shoot.  Now what?

76.  Don’t forget to order prints!  So many people just get the CD- and then it ends up lost in a drawer when they could have a gorgeous print on the living room wall instead.  Remember that sometimes less is more.

77.  Pictures can get pricey.  Remember- you’re not just buying pictures, you’re preserving memories.

78.  Plan ahead and consider how and where you’re going to be displaying your pictures in your home.  It makes ordering so much easier.

79.  If you plan on making a collage or wall gallery out of your pictures, be sure to ask your photographer for their input.  They have lots of ideas about which pictures would look well grouped together and can often help you plan it all out.

 Displaying Pictures

Looking for ways to display those fabulous family pictures?  Look no further…

80.  Want to make a little wall gallery of your pictures?  Ann Beck Photography has some great layout inspiration!

Ann Beck Photography

And if you need some frames, I’m loving this 10-piece Family Picture Photo Hanging Frame set  from Amazon.

81.  How about a collage along the stairs?  Here are some stair layout options from Brenda Knight Photography.

Brenda Knight Photography

 82.  And if you’re looking for the easiest way to hang that wall gallery, Marissa shares the secret on her blog, Roost.  No need to cover the wall in nail holes.


83.  Running out of wall space?  Don’t forget that empty wall at the end of the hallway!

J and A and Company

84.  Check out Laura’s Wall Art Wednesday for some inspiration.  The 9 picture grid using glass frames from IKEA is my favorite-easy and versatile.

Laura Winslow Photography

85.  Check out HowDoesShe’s thrifty tutorial that turns Dollar Store frames into an adorable work of art.


86.  Have lots of pictures and no frames?  Look how the girls at Bits Of Everything used Mod Podge and a board to make a fabulous statement for under $20.

Bits Of Everything

87.  I’m loving these different photo booth display strips from Kathleen at Grosgrain Fabulous and The Tremaynes!  What a fun way to display family pictures.

Life In Motion Photography

Tidbits from the Tremaynes

88.  See how to turn an old frame, scrapbook, paper, and a metal clip into a darling photo display at Shanty 2 Chic.

Shanty 2 Chic

89.  Check out how Becky Higgins displays family photos in her home- my favorite is all of the smaller frames inside one giant frame with the decorative backing.

Becky Higgins

90.  For a fun look, try incorporating lots of different shapes and colors like this display using Organic Bloom Frames.

Polka Dot Umbrella Photography

91.  I love how an old window frame can be repurposed to display a beautiful photo.  Milk and Honey Design has a beautiful example.

Domestic Bliss

92.  Try adding a favorite quote or motto to your family photo wall.   Becky Higgin’s blog has a perfect example.

Becky Higgins

93.  Here’s another display I LOVE from Becky Higgin’s blog!  One photo was cropped into four posters for a creative, high-impact display.

Becky Higgins

A Few Last Tips

94.  You don’t HAVE to do an elaborate photo shoot.  Keep it simple if you want.  Even if it’s just a quick 10-minutes session that your neighbor took in your backyard, make sure you’re capturing these family memories.

95.  Don’t sweat the small stuff!  In 10 years, you’re not going to care that Johnny was playing with the grass instead of striking the perfect pose you wanted him to.  You’ll just be glad you caught him as he was- little.

96.  Let loose and have fun!  If you let “mom mode” take over and you’re constantly snapping “don’t touch that”, “no!”, “hold still”- then it’s going to be hard to get sincere smiles out of everyone.  Including you.  ;)

97.  Family pictures don’t have to break the bank.  Minimize costs by planning around what you already have.  And remember that you’re not trying to get pictures of clothes- just the people you love in them.

98.  Get as creative as you want and make these family pictures your own.  Who says you have to be traditional?

99.  Remember the best family photos don’t show “picture perfect” smiles and poses.  The best family photos shows emotion and affection between family members.  That takes a lot of pressure off.  Love is all you need. ❤

100.  Go with the flow!  No matter how much you prepare and plan, you never know what is going to happen.  The more flexible you are, the better results you’ll have.  (And the happier everyone will be.)

101.  Have a sense of humor.  Laughing makes almost any problem better. (And it looks better in pictures than crying or yelling.)  Remember why you’re doing this in the first place.  It’s not about the pretty card- it’s about the memories.

So… how can you go wrong?  Worst case scenario is that no one cooperates.  Maybe you don’t even have one picture where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling.  Maybe the baby’s even crying.  But at the end of it all – you still have captured memories of the ones that you love most.  The way that they are now.  You still have managed to freeze and save a moment in time.  And one day – you will cherish that.


and go capture some memories!  

Pssst…. if you liked this round-up, don’t forget to check out…

 101 Tips & Ideas for Couples Photography


  101 Camping Tips & Ideas 


and our 101 Date Idea Round-ups!


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Recent Comments

106 Responses to “101 Family Picture Tips & Ideas”

  1. Ann says:

    My family is having a group photo taken tomorrow – by a friend who is a very accomplished photographer doing it as a favour – and this was really helpful: I would like us to use her time effectively and also have fun, and I think all your suggestions are great! There will be my twin brother and his girlfriend, our sister, and me and my husband and our two sons, 9 and 13. This is for my Mom (age 81) for Christmas – she has been wanting an updated photo for a while, so while I know she would be happy with a grainy photo where half of us have our eyes closed, but this will make for a happier shoot and a much better outcome. Thanks. I will be back to your site again for more good advice!

  2. Thelma says:

    I find your website very interesting and great ideas but I have something to throw at you. We will have all our family together right after CHRISTmas and I want a family photo and also candid shots ofcourse. There will be 28 people rangeing from 1 mo to 77 yrs. Two parents, five adult kids w/four spouses, Thirteen grandkids, two spouses, three great grand kids (1 mo – 3 yrs) I chosen jeans for all. White tees for parents,adult kids & spouses, dark teal (Jaguar) for grandkids & spouses, vertical blue/blk stripe for great grands. I don’t want the typical straight line grouping. do you have suggestions for this many people?
    Thanks for any help you can give

  3. Isabella says:

    When I have seen the title 101 family picture tips and ideas I though it looks like more tips that will help a starter to become a best photographer. Yes I am right what I though was right your tips are really exciting and it covers all areas of photography to be the best.

  4. vero garza says:

    loved it!!!!!….specially the last comments about enjoying the moment rather than looking for the perfect picture…. =) thank you.. we are having a family photo session next week to celebrate my parents 40 aniversary!!!

  5. Flora Atonio says:

    I am sooooooooooooooo in LOVE with this idea! I can’t wait to build our own picture poses…I love you guys for sharing this! – Blessed Day Divas!

  6. Janet DD Hampton says:

    Wow, this is fantastic and well written. Thank you for taking the time to compile all this information in an easy to understand and fun manner. This is the best summary I have ever seen.

  7. Michelle Pierson says:

    Wow! What a great, all-encompassing resource! Thank you!

  8. Adrienne says:

    I LOVED this post! I do photography as a hobby and shared this with my family and friends because so many of them have so many questions and this answered them all!

  9. Great post!! Love all the ideas. Totally pinning for future use. Thank you!

  10. Heidi Liou says:

    What fantatstic advice! I am so thankful for this wonderful website! It was incredibly helpful and I know for sure I will be using these tips!

  11. Hi every one ! What a nice blog. I like it very much. It is very informative.Carry on.Thanks for giving such a use full information.

  12. Christina says:

    Is there a way to print this post? I’m an inspiring photographer and would love to have this information!

  13. my client actually used this to show me some ideas of what she’d like. i’ve done lot of them but am behind on blogging. i agree with this and thank you for crediting the sources!

  14. hope says:

    Wonderful ideas for family photo shoot. I have 2 days to prepare for a photo shoot that will be published! This is wonderful and helpful! Thanks!

  15. Jody Demoin says:

    Is there a printale version of this?

  16. Tracy Spisak says:

    I LOVE what you have put together. I plan on sharing this with my clients. It’s what I preach for an organized shoot. Thank you for educating everyone on great portraits.

  17. Angela says:

    Wow! What an awesome article!!! Lots of ideas and inspiration! Angela Butler

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Great tips, but your “pin it” buttons are a bit much. Maybe it’s my screen, but they are covering up parts of all the pictures and are really distracting. Just thought I’d share. I had a hard time actually being able to read through everything.

    • Becca Becca says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth. The pin it button will appear when your mouse is hovering over a picture, but it will disappear when you move the mouse off of the picture. That may help when reading future posts! :)

  19. julien says:

    I have been into photography for awhile now and my coworker asked me
    Take some family photos. I have to admit I was super excited
    But at the sametime nerves cause this is my frist paying
    Photoshoot, but after viewing your page I now have the
    Confidence I can pull this off with pure awesomeness lol.
    My friends always tell me I am good at it so its time I start
    Beleving myself. Thank you for giving me a little more confidence.

  20. Kelsey says:

    I found this so helpful and inspiring for our family pictures this year. I also shared it on my blog here: http://organizinglifewithlittles.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/fridays-favorite-finds/ Thanks for putting it together!

  21. Brilliant post! So comprehensive. Thanks for helping elevate my anxiety with the family photo shoot!

  22. Im a professional photographer and I LOVE this!!! So may come to me not knowing anything about what to do for our session. I try and educate them, but youve put everything all here together. Im totally going to share this with my clients. Thank you! :)

  23. Joyce Gustafson says:

    Thank you , thank you, thank you. What a great source of inspiration, ideas and creativity. I am doing an engagement shoot this weekend and this has given me some great inspiration. Keep up the great job.
    I’m hooked!!!! Thank you datingdivas.com!

  24. Zhanar says:


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