Let’s face it, family photo sessions are not most people’s favorite thing in the world. Especially when it involves dressing up the kids and then trying to get them to smile and behave for an hour or two. Which means that since we do want those memories to hang onto despite the sometimes difficult process involved, we want the photos to be worth our time and look the best that they can possibly look so that they don’t have to be redone. Here are five easy ways to make the most of your family portrait session:

1. Consider the photographer’s day and time preference

Ultimately, it’s the photographer’s job to cater to your needs and wants when it comes to your photo session. After all, they’re your photos. But if you’re able to be flexible when it comes to the day of the week and the time of day that your photo shoot happens, consider or ask for the photographer’s recommendation.

Remember, photographers do this for a living (or at least for part of their living), so the photographer will generally have a sense for what day the location will be least crowded, and more importantly the best time of the day to do the photos there.

The time of day is important, and it’s what can separate amazing photos from “okay” photos. This is because the quality of the photos depends a lot on the lighting, and it’s even more important for an outdoor spot.

our photographer really does want your photos to look great. Not just because your satisfaction is the ultimate goal, but also because the photographer can add your photos to portfolios and social media when they turn out well, not to mention you’ll be more likely to recommend their services. So it’s in the photographer’s best interest to pick a time of day that lighting is optimal and will yield great photos, which means it’s always a great idea to consider their recommendations when scheduling your photo shoot.

For many locations and photographers, that time of day is called golden hour, or the period of about an hour just before the sun goes down. Many of the photos you see where the subject is backlit with a soft, “golden” light are taken during golden hour. My personal preference for my location in central Arizona, is to shoot outdoor photos from about 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

2. Avoid wearing solid white and solid dark colors

Again, your photo session is about you, and that includes your personal style. But wearing solid white or solid dark colors may do you and the photographer a disservice. These color choices can cause problems with the way the camera interprets the amount of light in the scene, which can in turn cause overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark) photos. Most photographers will know how to adjust their cameras to compensate for this issue, but may not be able to guarantee a perfect photo. And to be honest, it puts that much more pressure on the photographer, which can lead to mistakes (because photographers are human), resulting in photos that are less than optimal.

3. Consider lighting availability when selecting a location

photo-shoot-lighting-good-bad

Good lighting vs. not-so-good midday sun.

If you have your heart set on a particular location, be aware that your photographer might not be familiar with it to be able to recommend the perfect time of day for optimal lighting. Since we’ve discussed the importance of lighting already, you want to do your best to pick the right time of day and the right spot. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to know what lighting conditions will produce good photos; you can just use your best common-sense approach. Midday sun in an area with no shade will likely result in washed out photos and ugly shadows on faces. If shadows are on the ground everywhere (such as those from a large tree), the shadows could wind up all over faces and bodies in the portraits. If it’s an area with abundant shade or the location is indoors, is there a source of natural light, such as a window? The more of these details you can consider and share with your photographer, the better the results will be.

4. Bring comfortable shoes

For locations that are large and require walking, and especially for the outdoors – bring comfortable shoes to walk in. If they’re not the ones you want to wear in your photos, bring those shoes with you in a bag and slip them on upon arrival of the spot where the photos will take place. There’s a large park here in Gilbert, AZ that is one of my (and many others’) favorite spots for portraits – but there is a lot of walking on dirt and gravel trails. This all too often results in sore feet when high heels are worn, and dirty shoes when the wind blows dirt over them. Sore feet tend to generate fewer smiles, and dirty shoes don’t look that great on the family Christmas card. So come prepared!

5. Bring props

photo-shoot-props

Most photographers will bring basic props to an outdoor photo shoot, such as a chair, a stool, or a blanket. But you can really make a photo your own by bringing something that’s special to you as a prop – a favorite antique chair, some wooden or metal lettering, a vintage toy, a picnic blanket. The photographer will work them into the photo in a way that looks natural.