September and October are the family photographer’s bread and butter. It seems everybody wants family photos with fall leaves. But fall family pictures are just one option of dozens for wowing clients with fun sessions and beautiful images. We have the mega list of family portrait ideas!
The Classic Portrait
Even if your family picture session is less traditional, take a few minutes to set up at least one classic family portrait. You know the one…everyone is lined up, looking at the camera and smiling their best smiles. At least, that’s the goal.
Ideas for All Seasons
Winter, spring, summer, fall… we’ve got family photo ideas for all seasons! The following ideas work great for combing a few traditional family portrait poses with some opportunity for candid play. But they are seasonal and require favorable outdoor weather!
Play with Leaves
Don’t just stand in front of those yellow, gold, and orange trees. Play in them. Kids and adults will all love throwing leaves, jumping in piles of them or exploring the different shapes and textures.
Take some photos and pick the perfect pumpkin, too! Capture candid moments while the kids play, then gather everyone together to show off their almost jack-o-lanterns.
Speaking of jack-o-lanterns…make a family picture session out of carving pumpkins. An indoor carving session is a great way to capture the mood of fall if the weather outside prevents.
Dress up as someone else in the family pictures? Sounds like fun. These portraits work especially well if the family have complementing costumes that tell a single story. Capture candid moments as they put on makeup or fix hair, or have them act as their character would act for some funny scenes.
Hay Bales and Cornstalks
Create a fall feel during a family photography session using some hay bales, corn stalks and other fall-harvested crops as a backdrop. Old pickup trucks aren’t required, but they really popular right now!
Decorating the Christmas Tree
Any Christmas scene will be popular with clients. But decorating the Christmas tree is perfect for family photos because it creates a sense of fun and gives kids something active to do. Don’t forget to take a few posed shots under the tree in all its final decorated splendor!
There might not be a better opportunity to create beautiful bokeh than shooting with Christmas lights for a family photoshoot. Choose colored or white lights to match your scene. Use the lights to light your subject or use them as beautiful bokeh orbs in the background. Lighting master Gary Fong has a great video tutorial here on family portrait ideas for rocking around the Christmas tree.
Don’t let the winter blues get you down! Gather the family for a good, old-fashioned snowball fight. Encourage your clients to throw snowballs, make a snowman, make snow angels, sled or otherwise just enjoy the white stuff during their family photoshoot. Don’t forget to bring some hot chocolate and some blankets for a cozy portrait of everyone all cuddled up at the end.
Hot Chocolate Stand
Hot chocolate is to winter what lemonade is to summer. Create a hot chocolate stand and watch your clients enjoy a sweet treat together! Don’t forget lots of blankets to add some warmth and coziness to this family photography session.
A kissing (or hugging!) booth is a fun backdrop for Valentine’s Day family photos. Reds, whites, and blacks are great gender neutral options!Easter/Spring Theme
Captuer spring fever with Easter or spring-themed pictures family style. Bunnies, chicks, Easter eggs, flowers, and pastel colors will help set the tone. Be sure to follow your state’s regulations to the letter when it comes to using any live animals in your sessions.
Outdoor flower fields are an amazing location for family photo ideas. Use cultivated fields or naturally occurring wildflowers. Bluebonnets, sunflowers, wild mustard, daisies… use what’s available in your area. Always get permission from the private landowner and stay on designated paths so you don’t disturb the ecosystem if shooting on public land.
Take a basket, a blanket and have some summer themed family photos. Just be sure to leave the ants at home.
Create a cozy, intimate scene with a campfire or cookout. Start with a posed family photo then break out the marshmallows and chocolate for s’more ooey-gooey fun.
Getting Ice Cream
What kid can resist an ice cream cone? For that matter, what adults don’t love ice cream? Instead of bribing kids with ice cream after a session (you know you’ve done it!) make it part of the session. I think these look especially darling in boutique ice cream stores or old fashioned soda shops.
Other Seasonal Family Picture Ideas
- On the beach
- At the fair
- A day at the pool
- Fourth-of-July theme
- Sparklers and smiles
- Farmer’s market fun
- Zombie spooky shoot
- Decorating Christmas cookies
- Wrapping gifts
- Building a Lepruchan Trap
General Lifestyle Family Portrait Ideas
Lifestyle family photos focus on the interaction of the family. These sessions have very little posing if any, instead focusing on capturing candid moments. Many can also be done indoors or out and don’t require an elaborate scene or lots of props. Try one of these ideas with your next client.
The bigger the mess, the better the smiles. One of my favorite family photo ideas is to have everyone bake cookies together. You can always make the dough ahead of time and focus on cutting them out or decorating them instead.
Play a Board Game
Sequence, checkers, Monopoly…any family favorite will do.
Play a Lawn Game
Even older kids and teens enjoy getting a little competitive. Set up a lawn game like croquet, cornhole, yard Yatzhee, or even four-square. The family will get so wrapped up in the game, they’ll forget you are even there!
Tickle Fights and Playing on the Bed
There is something magical about getting to play on mom and dad’s bed! So grab the kids, start a tickle fight, and just let the fun begin! These are photos families across the ages will love.
At Work with Mom or Dad
Family portraits can happen anytime. Capture a family working together, such as on their farm, in the garden, or even in the office. If the family works together, why not photograph them together too!
If baking isn’t your thing, have your family clients cook a meal together. There are lots of opportunities for interactions, like chopping vegetables, stirring the sauce, or joining hands for a pre-meal blessing.
Sports-themed sessions are a great idea for those families who live at the ballfield in the summer or at the football field in the fall. Football, baseball, volleyball, basketball, rodeo, swimming…any sport that is important to the family is great inspiration for family portrait ideas.
Other Lifestyle Ideas
- Bike rides
- Trips to the Museum or Zoo
- Reading Books
- Playing in the Park
- Petting Zoo
- Farmer’s Market
- Road Trip
Themes for Family Portrait Ideas
We promised your a mega list of family portrait ideas and we aren’t done yet! Here are some other ideas for a family photo session. These ideas require a little more planning and coordination by the family. But if they are committed to the idea, the results are spectacular!
Calling all your Supermans! Or is it Supermen? Superpersons? Regardless…choose a superhero and a setting and let your imagination take over from there. Family members can all dress up as the same superhero, different superheroes or have a few superheroes and a few villains!
Your family members might not play the sport, but they probably have a favorite team, either local, college, or professional. Have family members don their colors and cheer on their team!
Inspired by a Decade
Bust out those bell-bottoms or polish up the Doc Martens and grab your flannel shirt. Let your favorite decade be your guide!
If your clients have a great sense of humor, put it to work with a crazy family photo. Let the kids hold the parents captive or use your Photoshop skills to make it look like the parents have taped the kids to the wall. The more zany and outrageous, the more fun it is for everyone!
- Inspired by a favorite movie
- Reniscance Fair styled
- Recreate a childhood shoot
- Inspired by a favorite toy
- Wear each other’s clothes
- Paint Fight or Holli powder
- Kids in Mom and Dad’s wedding attire or other clothes
Family Portrait Clothing Ideas
The question I get asked the most by clients is easily “What Should We Wear?” Be prepared to advise your clients with a few simple wardrobe tips.
- Encourage clients to have coordinating, complementary outfits instead of matching. The whole family dressed in white t-shirts and denim feels a little dated these days. Likewise, matching flannel shirts is also a trend we’ve moved on from.
- Provide clients with visual examples of complementary colors and outfits.
- Clients should also make sure they are comfortable for their session! Encourage them to dress appropriately for the weather, wear comfortable shoes, and feel like themselves in their outfits.
- Create a style guide that walks clients through what to wear for any shoot!
What Equipment Do You Need to Capture Family Portraits
It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to take beautiful family portraits. For candid photos to post on social media, a cell phone works well. But for big prints to post on the wall, you’ll want a mirrorless or DSLR camera and a quality lens.
Look for a camera that produces at least 24 MP. That gives you enough resolution to print in larger sizes like 11×14 or 16×20 prints and canvas. You’ll also want a camera that renders colors well and can be stop the action for crystal-clear portraits. Pair that with a mid-length portrait lens such as a 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8 or 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom, for instance.
If you’ll be taking your own family photos, you’ll want to invest in a sturdy tripod and a remote trigger. The remote lets you shoot from where you’re standing in the family photo instead of running back and forth trying to be a timer.
Other helpful items include a flash, reflector, stools or chairs, blankets, or photography backdrops if you’ll be shooting indoors.
Don’t forget the props. If you’re shooting a themed session, be sure you or your clients are bringing the right props to help set the scene.
Tips for Capturing Family Photos They’ll Love
- Good photography is good photography. Don’t be so focused on creative family photos that you ignore lighting, composition or posing.
- Schedule for when kids are at their best. Make sure your kids (and adults) aren’t hungry, tired, cold, or hot during the photoshoot. Try not to schedule over naptime or meal time and avoid the hottest or coldest parts of the day.
- Stick with simple posing. You’ll lose those cooperative attitudes quickly if you take too long to pose or nitpick the posing. Use a few classic poses instead of trying to cram a bunch of different poses into a single session.
- Use triangles! When you get stuck with your posing, build triangles with people and limbs. That means putting the tallest people in the center and the shorter people on the ends, putting arms on hips, pulling knees up when sitting or otherwise creating triangles.
- Use layering. Try to have a foreground, subject, and background. This creates more visual interest and tells a more complete story.
- Encourage play and interaction. Make your sessions fun and light by building in opportunities for play and connection. Using games like Simon Says, Follow the Leader, or Would You Rather gives clients a chance to focus on each other and not on your camera.
- Shoot During Beautiful Light. Great light is an important part of great family photos. Shoot when the sun is lower on the horizon, such as at sunrise or sunset. As a result, you’ll have beautiful color in your sky and the soft, glowy light is more flattering for portraits.
- Keep a Good Attitude. Families are tough. There are lots of people to manage, lots of personalities to deal with and varying levels of enthusiasm and excitement to balance. If you keep a positive, calm attitude as the photographer, you help set the tone for everyone else at the shoot.
- Involve the pets. Dogs, horses, cats, or even ferrets!
- Scout the family photo location ahead of time. Always check out your location before your session. That helps you know where the best light is, what natural props you have to use, and prevents surprises the day of the session.
Be Prepared for These Frequently Asked Questions About Family Photos
And finally, families change, but their questions don’t. Be prepared to answer these questions for your clients and they’ll know you’re the photographer for you!
- Is there an age requirement for taking baby photos?
- How do you tame unruly kids?
- Will all the photos that were taken be in the final gallery?
- How much is a family portrait?
- Are travel fees included in the session fee?
- Are candid or posed photos better?
- What can we expect in a family session?
As long as there are families, there will be family portraits! Be creative and offer your clients classic sessions or use one of family photo ideas as inspiration for your next session. You’ll dazzle clients, have fun and create art your clients will love well into the future.