Five Things I Have Learned From Having Our Own Family Photographed


I’d like to think that as a family photographer myself, with all of the tips and tricks up my sleeve, my own family sessions would run smoothly—perfect even. What I have learned over the course of the past two years, having over 5 sessions done of our family of four, is that none have gone as planned. I have had my son fall into mud 10 minutes into a session, jump into the ocean right as our session had begun, our kids refuse to stay anywhere near us and subsequently spend most of the session as if they were competing in the Olympic Trials for the 50 yard dash.

Though, through all of the literal running around I have done before and during our sessions, the moment I received the gallery my heart feels as if it’s going to explode. I look back on each session with so much nostalgia, pride and joy for the fact that those beautifully chaotic memories in our lives have been captured. I wanted to share five things I have learned having my own family photographed and how it can help you prep for your own family session.

1. Just Roll With It

As a photographer, I am bombarded daily with images of “picture perfect” families and happy children snuggling with their parents. In the beginning, I used to find myself feeling stressed during our sessions when my children seemed fussy, or more interested in playing than posing for photos. I have slowly learned over time that my energy was fueling their own discomfort. If my children want to play, the best outcomes come from me playing with them. If they’re needing some time to warm up, cuddles and kisses can help soothe their nerves. If they want to run, I can chase them. Rolling with all of the unpredictability during a session has resulted in us having a great time and some of my favorite images. We are not a stagnant family, and I love that our photos reflect us and our energy.

Pro tips:

  • If your children have a smile on their face during the session, make sure you do too. The photographer is still snapping away, so the only person that is not going to look great is the person scowling.
  • Give your children a hall pass during the session (unless safety is involved); scolding them backfires and rarely results in the outcomes you want. If they are being obstinate, maybe it’s time for a tickle fight. Or maybe it’s time to play a game of “I am going to get you…” with a grin on your face.
  • The best container for active kiddos during a session is on top of mom or dad’s shoulders. They love it so much.
  • Not everyone has to be doing the same thing. If one child is active, have one parent fly them around the other parent like an airplane, while the other cuddles with that parent swaying side to side.

2. Prep Your Spouse

My husband is not the biggest fan of taking photos. He has flashbacks to his youth and the stuffy, posed photos he was forced to take each year. I didn’t realize until a few sessions in that I hadn’t taken the time to explain what was expected of him during these sessions. I assumed that because I am a photographer and talk often about my sessions, he would be on the same page. I can only imagine him expecting me to understand the ins and outs of commercial real estate because I’ve heard him share out on his day for the past few years. I would be clueless.

Now, going into the session I give him options for outfits, explain the location, time, what’s expected and how we can both make the session run as smoothly as possible. We book photographers that don’t make us stand and pose for images, so I remind him to just go with the flow and keep that cute smile on his face. To really close the deal, I make sure he has enough time for a beer, (or two) before the session too 😉

3. The Photographer Match

Finding a photographer that fits our family has become so important to me. Not only do I take into consideration their photographic and editing styles, but I also want someone that is calm, thoughtful, organized and communicative with us from start to finish. We are not a stand and pose for the photos kind of family, so finding someone that can run around and capture us from so many different perspectives, get those detail shots, and create a flow for the session is also important to me. If you’re wanting this too, look for someone that considers themselves a “lifestyle” or “story-telling” photographer.

I have also learned how much the entire experience is associated with the images. If leading up to the session, I cannot get in contact with the photographer, or there is little communication surrounding the process or the delivery of my images, as someone that values this, it impacts my experience. Photography is a luxury expense and I have come to understand I very much value the experience. I am entrusting my investment in someone that is also invested in us. Take the time to find someone that will be your best match, you’ll find yourself 100% happier with the final images.

4. Print Your Photos

Prior to becoming a photographer, I rarely printed our photos. Besides having our engagement photos adorning our walls and a wedding album that came with our package, I hadn’t printed recent photos of us or our children in years. Now, I have made an effort to make albums and hang images from our sessions on our walls. I love picking up and flipping through the albums during down time, and my own children do too. I walk by the images on our walls every day and smile. They remind me of those times in our lives and that even on the toughest days, how grateful I am to have them (my husband, children, and the photos!).

As part of my packages moving forward, I am going to be offering a print credit with your collections. This is like a complimentary gift certificate to shop the online store attached to your gallery. Not only do I want you to have prints from your session, I want you to have access to high-quality, professional prints and products you can’t find anywhere else. In this digital age, printing has become so important to me and I wanted all of my collections to reflect this option.

5. Greater Appreciation For You

As a photographer, I sometimes forget what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera. I forget about the nerves, the time spent buying/returning of clothing items, hoping the kids will wear what I pick out and that everyone is in happy moods during the session, etc. Having our own family photos done has instilled in me how much a photographer can help to calm nerves, make the session flow effortlessly and assist in providing feedback and direction on styling, prompting and reassuring you before, during and after the session.

I leave every session of my own family with a greater appreciation for my own clients and how they are feeling up to the minute they see me. It makes me so thankful for you and the time I am able to spend capturing memories of your beautiful family and your investment in me.

Nicole is a Stockton, California based lifestyle, family photographer who specializes in authentically capturing the beautiful connection you share with your family. Nicole harnesses beautiful light in gorgeous locations to create an enjoyable session experience that showcases your family’s natural and joyful connections.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and mother of two young children, Nicole prides herself on building lasting relationships and helping make you and your family feel comfortable in front of the camera. Nicole understands the importance of capturing these precious and fleeting moments as organically as possible to be valued for years to come. If you’re interested in booking your next lifestyle family session, you can do so by completing the form here.

This family photography session was done by the talented Kelsey Hetzler Photography during our recent vacation to Maui. If you’re ever in Maui, I highly recommend Kelsey. She was communicative, kind, and welcomed the crazy that was our family. I am so impressed with the gallery of images she captured from our session!

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