Oak Roots Creative


How to Take the Stress Out of Family Photo Sessions

Two children hug in the sunshine by the Tennessee River.

Clients come to me for help preserving their memories. They want their photos to have that special, magical quality that, often, only memories hold.

What gets in the way? Preparing for a family photo session can be stressful, but knowing a few simple steps and planning ahead can alleviate anxiety and help put you at ease. Here are my tips for preparing for your session so you can actually enjoy the time with your family.

Book well in advance.
Make sure you’re able to get on my schedule for the timeframe you want. Typically, this means booking at least six weeks out. It’s rare that I can accommodate last-minute requests. Plus, booking in advance will give you more time for planning.

Plan to arrive early.
Running late is probably the biggest stressor I see for clients. No one intends to be late, but it happens. Be realistic about your habits, and plan to arrive plan to arrive about 15 minutes early. If your session is at 6 p.m., pretend you need to arrive at 5:45 p.m. to give yourself some cushion. Even clients who are normally very punctual can run late due to last-minute wardrobe malfunctions or unhappy toddlers. Please keep in mind that the session starts at a scheduled time and lasts 60 minutes.

A baby boy wraps a blanket around himself.

Decide on clothing at least a week out.
I highly recommend that you dress up and choose outfits that are nicer than everyday wear. This is really a game changer for the aesthetic of the photos! Think about dressing as if you are attending a casual wedding or other semi-formal event. Other wardrobe guidelines include:

  • Don’t match your outfits with the exact same color. Instead, choose a complimentary color palette. This will look more natural and unforced.
  • Avoid logos and graphics on clothing.
  • Choose neutral-colored shoes like leather or suede. Avoid sneakers, as they really stick out like a sore thumb!
  • Avoid busy patterns on more than one person.
  • Bring a change of clothes for the kids, just in case.
  • Review my style guide, and send me photos of your outfits if you want feedback.

Prep any desired appointments.
Do you need to get a haircut or buy new clothes? Are you having your makeup or nails done for the occasion? Put time on your calendar for these activities because they can sneak up on you.

Please note this is all optional! I don’t expect clients to do these things. We will get great photos regardless of the timing of your last hair appointment! These are just reminders in case hair, nail, and makeup appointments are part of your routine. If these ideas don’t resonate with you, please disregard this suggestion.

Plan for energy levels and moods.
Try to ensure the kids have a nap before the session. Right before the kids get dressed, give them a healthy snack. Pack a toy or two, and bring wet wipes and tissues to blow kids’ noses. You should have a snack, too!

A family in the sunflowers at Forks of the River WMA in Knoxville.

Think about how you want to use the photos.
Do you plan to get prints or holiday cards made? Are the photos only for sharing on Facebook? Do you want to have an album of all the photos designed? A pro tip is to plan ahead, or it likely won’t get done. We’re all busy, and the best of intentions, including sending your photos to print, often fall by the wayside.

If you do plan to print photos or holiday cards, I recommend checking out Nations Photo Lab or Artifact Uprising. If you’re just looking for holiday cards, take a look at Minted. I don’t recommend having prints made at a big box store or pharmacy because of the poor quality they typically produce. Photos from these places usually have a shorter life span, and you can expect them to lose color and quality over time.

Relax, and let your kids be kids!
It’s absolutely fine (and expected) if your kids are wiggly or want to run around and play. This could happen even if they have a nap, and even if they are well-behaved on the ride to the session. Kids aren’t adults, and I try to not treat them like adults. It will probably stress you out if you try to control their behavior throughout the session. Trust me, I’ve seen this happen many times.

Please don’t worry! I have a lot of experience working with children, and I find that some of the most special photos come from when children are allowed to let loose, daydream, and not worry about the camera.

Remember that I’ll take care of all the details during the session.
This is your personal invitation to relax and enjoy the hour with your family. I’ll give everyone cues, such as when to look at the camera or look away. Please don’t feel like you need to tell your family how to pose, what to do, or where to go. After all, you’ve hired me, and it’s my job. I promise, I’ll take care of you!

A toddler with his pacifier being held by his parents.

These are the tips I’ve collected after photographing families for years. I really believe that if you implement these suggestions, it will make your life, and the day of your session, much easier! My goal is to help you have fun and relax, because this will produce better photos in the end.

If you have any questions about this list or want to talk about scheduling a session, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at I’d love to hear from you and help preserve your memories!

Family Photography




How to Take the Stress Out of Family Photo Sessions

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