top five tips for a successful family photography session

It's that time of year again - fall family photo time. For photographers, this means the 'busy season' for families preparing for their session, this usually means stress, chaos, outfit planning, praying that children (and sometimes spouses) cooperate, and more. As both a photographer and mom, I completely understand both sides of the spectrum. And the good news is that I love both sides - I love being busy with fabulous clients, working with them to try and alleviate stress however possible and planning outfits (I'm always up to talk about what you want to wear - one of the perks of our pre-planning session!) And, as a mom of two with one on the way, I love the chaos of planning my own session, I dislike the stress aspect so I try to help out clients as much as possible to make that stress go away.

To help alleviate some of your stress, here are my top 5 tips when planning your Fall Family Session.

1. Plan your outfits. And, have a back-up. You never know when someone might spill, or have an accident, on the way to your session. If you have a back-up outfit on-hand, you'll be prepared for whatever comes ahead. 

When you are choosing your outfits, colors mean everything. I've put together some of my favorite color families that work fabulously together for fall sessions. The colors you are wearing are going to set the tone for your session. If you want something rich and vibrant, choose deeper, emerald tones. If you want light and airy, blue and cooler hues are the way to go.


Some of my personal favorite shops for children's clothes for family sessions include: Hanna Andersen, Gap Kids, J. Crew Factory, Best Dressed Kid, Gymboree, Little Trendsetters, Nordstrom and Loola

And add layers!! In these cooler months, layers can add great dimension to your photos, plus they will keep you warm if the weather is on the chilly side! 

Do you need a fun and unique idea for your Holiday photos? What about wearing Pajamas!? This can add fun and personality to your images and make sure your card stands out from the rest!


2. Leave the cheese at home. If there is one piece of advice I can give, it's that when you try to force smiles and are saying, "look here!" "Say Cheese!" the smiles will look just as forced as they feel. So, leave the cheese at home and we'll work together to create authentic smiles and bring out your families true personalities. 

This might seem like a near impossible task if you have kids 4 or under, but I promise you that it can be done. Here are a few ways we'll work together to accomplish those natural smiles, candid moments and overall beautiful memories.

  • For the one and under crowd, bring a favorite stuffed animal or toy that they absolutely love. If they have a lovie - bring it with! We can get some adorable pictures with the lovie and use it to sooth them if they get overwhelmed
  • 1 - 3 year olds, think of their favorite songs or games and we can use those to make them comfortable. Is there a silly phrase you KNOW they will laugh at? I'll have you whisper it int their ear. Hugs, cuddles and snuggles work really well for this age group.
  • For 4 - 6 year olds I love to know more about their personality. What are activities they love? Who are their favorite characters or stories? I'll ask questions about their favorite things and encourage the family to have a lively chat about Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol or whatever their favorites are.
  • For 6+ - More often then not this age group is slightly easier to get to engage in pictures. But I like to use them as my helpers - maybe I'll ask their idea for a photo, or if they'd like to take a picture - but I try to engage them as much as possible. It's also a great idea to talk to them ahead of time about the session, gather their opinion on their outfits and make them feel like they are a big part of the process

3. Do not show up on empty. I don't know about you, but I can get more than a little crabby if I'm hungry. There is no reason to expect your children (or spouse) to behave any differently! Many sessions occur near dinner time due to the beautiful golden hue of the sun, so it's not uncommon to have dinner plans after the session. However, make sure everyone is filled up on snacks, protein, etc. Bring water to the session for little ones, and small treats of bribery are also a good idea - but please don't bring anything messy or color changing. Unless you want a blue mouth in your pictures - best to leave the hardshell candy at home!

4. Arrive well rested. Same as the above, anyone overtired can be a little on the crabby side. I know it's easier said than done, but try to have everyone in the family as well rested as possible. Showing up after a birthday party or very busy, exciting day can be a recipe for disaster. But showing up after a quiet day at home, after a nap, and you'll have a better chance of successful attitudes.

The same applies if you or your children are sick. If someone has a fever, stomach bug or bad cough, please make the decision to reschedule. You will not get the pictures you are looking for and you or your child will be miserable throughout the session which can make the experience miserable for everyone. I'm happy to work with you to find a date when everyone is healthy! 

5. Remember to have fun!! Yes, it's possible to have fun at your session. Remember we're trying to capture YOU - so laugh, snuggle, cuddle, act goofy, give kisses and be yourself! The more authentic you are - the better! 





the w family {family photo session, the morton arboretum, lisle family photographer}

Fall is {almost} here, even if it doesn't feel like it! And that means lots of family photo sessions are taking place. This past weekend I was able to work with the W family for their annual family photos and we had a great time and captured some beautiful memories. The session took place at 5pm, slightly before the peak of Golden Hour, but we were still able to capture some gorgeous golden hues.


Aren't they picture perfect? And such troopers given the insane heat of the day! Excited to share their whole gallery, and I'm really looking forward to working with (and sharing) more family sessions this fall!

On a side note, I'm nearly 30 weeks pregnant and fully booked through the end of October. After that, I'll be taking maternity leave and preparing to welcome baby number 3 into the world! I'll be back to booking sessions in April for the beautiful spring bloom! If you would like to reserve your spot, or learn more about Melissa Zimmer Photography, please shoot me a note! I'd love to hear from you!

the m family {family photography, lombard family photographer, lilacia park}

It's officially summer and the golden hues and warm summer nights are perfect for capturing amazing family pictures. The M Family picked the perfect summer night - the sun was setting, it was nice and warm and the grass was picture-perfect green. We had a lot of fun capturing their families memories on this perfect summer night!

Interested in booking your summer night session with MZ Photography? Contact us today for availability and pricing.

baby j {fresh 48 photography, chicago newborn photographer, clarendon hills, il}

baby j {fresh 48 photography, chicago newborn photographer, clarendon hills, il}

There is nothing sweeter in the world than those first moments you have with your brand new baby. Fresh 48 sessions are such a great way to cherish those special moments and they allow me to get to know your family...

Read More