Your Guide to a Stress-Free Family Photo Session

A stress-free family photo session of a Large extended family portrait taken outdoors near an arched bridge


Every parent wants the perfect stress-free family photo session—all of you smiling and comfortably posed in a beautiful natural background with that gentle golden light. But as any photographer—or parent—can tell you, getting that photo definitely isn’t easy. Between meltdowns, tears, and distractions, it can be a challenge to get your kids to sit still, much less smile for the camera.  But it is possible to have a stress-free photo session with a little planning.  We’ve put together a few tips for keeping your family photo session stress-free and keeping Mom and Dad sane at the same time.

Family of four portraits at a park with Janesville family photographer.

Pick a Fun Location—But Not Too Fun

Choosing a location for your family photos means striking a balance. You may want to choose a place that’s new and exciting, but not so exciting that your kids will be distracted. 

  • Consider Comfort and FamiliarityA location where everyone feels comfortable can ease nerves. Think parks, your backyard, or a cozy indoor setting. Familiarity helps children relax and act naturally.
  • Minimize DistractionsWhile playgrounds might seem like a great idea, they can sometimes lead to chaos. Too many distractions can make it difficult for children to focus on the photo session. Instead, aim for locations that are engaging yet manageable, like a quiet section of the park or a scenic lakeside spot.
  • Check the TimingTiming can greatly influence the experience. For your children it is important to work around nap and mealtimes.  For outdoor photos, opt for the “golden hour” – shortly before sunset. The natural light during this time is gentle, making everyone look their best without harsh shadows.


Sisters sitting on a blanket at a family photo session in Janesville

Outfit Choices

Choosing what to wear can sometimes be the most stressful part of the photo session, but it doesn’t have to be.

  • Comfort Over Style: Everyone should feel comfortable in what they are wearing. Avoid itchy fabrics or tight clothes, especially for the kids.
  • Coordinate, Don’t Match: Think about coordinating colors and styles rather than matching exactly. This helps everyone to look unified without appearing too staged.
  • Consider the Background: Take into account the location when picking outfits. Neutral tones generally work well in natural settings, while bright and bold colors might stand out against more muted backgrounds.

The right outfits can enhance the overall aesthetic of the photos, but comfort should always come first.

Fun moment with a mom and her kids during a stress-free family photo session at the park.

Stock Up on Snacks

Happy tummies make for happy photo subjects making your family photo session stress-free.

  • Pack Healthy, Non-Messy SnacksSnacks like fruit slices, crackers, and cheese can keep energy levels up without making a mess. Avoid anything sticky or colored that could impact clothes or faces.
  • Hydration is KeyMake sure to have water bottles on hand, particularly if you’re outdoors. Proper hydration keeps everyone comfortable and focused.
  • Incorporate Snack BreaksPlan for short breaks to allow everyone to recharge. This can work wonders, especially with young children.

Group of five siblings for a family photo session outdoors near a pond.

Let the Kids Be Kids

Children have their own rhythms, and that’s perfectly okay.

  • Encourage Natural BehaviorLet children play and express themselves naturally for a stress-free family photo session. Attempting to force poses can lead to frustration for both kids and parents.
  • Games and Activities

           Introduce small games or activities to keep kids engaged and natural. Asking them to run, jump, or play can produce some genuinely heartwarming photos.

  • Patience Pays OffBe patient and flexible. Understand that tantrums or mood swings might happen, and that’s alright. The essence of a good family photo is capturing the true spirit of the family.

Large family photo at the farm outside a barn in front of the tractor.

Have Fun!

At the end of the day, fun is what it’s all about.

  • Laugh and EnjoyLet loose and enjoy the process. Your positive energy will naturally reflect in the photos insuring a stress-free family photo session. An experience that sticks with me: during one session, we started a tickle fight – the resulting images were full of genuine laughter and connection.
  • Include EveryoneFamily photos mean everyone should be part of the fun. Be inclusive and focus on interactions between family members. Candid shots often turn out to be the best because they show real emotions.
  • Celebrate the MomentsConsider making the photo session an event by itself. Plan a small family picnic before or after, and celebrate the memories made.

A stress-free family photo session of a Large extended family portrait taken outdoors near an arched bridge

With these tips, your family photo session can be a memorable and stress-free occasion, full of joy and genuine smiles. So, plan ahead, pick a great location, pack some snacks, let the kids be themselves, and most importantly, have fun!


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