May 1, 2024

How to Fully Embrace Candid Family Photos

Let’s be real. When you think of family photos, you may remember growing up in the 90s  and stressing about your bangs not curling right or how awkward it felt to smile at the camera at the Kodak studio. 

Am I speaking from personal experience? Maybe. All I can confirm is I upset my mom when I paired navy blue socks with black pants. Surely it was a mistake, but to be fair, I was eight years old at the time. How was I supposed to know better? 

I distinctly remember my mom running around, trying to get my brother and I dressed in matching outfits while both smiling—a hard thing to do when my brother is known for making many hilarious faces. . 

Looking back at those photos now, I remember more of the fun memories than the stress of the day, but I wish we could have embraced the chaos a little more.

I think our family photos could have been even better if: 

  1. My mom wasn’t so stressed.
  2. The photos weren’t so posed and showed more of our personality (my brother’s funny faces included). 
  3. If my parents were ACTUALLY in the photos. That’s right. The photos were mostly of my brother and I.  I wish more than anything that I had photos of the four of us together. 

This is why I love photographing families in their natural element so their personalities can really shine through. The goal is not to capture glossy, ultra-polished portraits but rather beautifully captured photos that showcase exactly who you are as a family. 

4 steps to a successful candid family photo session

Inspired by my own experience on both sides of the camera, I’ve developed a few strategies for embracing candid family photos, leaving you with lasting memories while having a ton of fun!

Simplify your mindset

Family photos don’t need to be synonymous with stress. There’s no need to force everyone to smile at the camera or make the kids do poses they don’t want to do. 

The BIGGEST thing I encourage my clients to do is to shift their mindset from “My kids must sit still and behave” to “Let’s do what they want to do!.

That means we’re going to embrace the chaos by playing tag, running around, climbing  on your shoulders, whatever they want! Trust me, this will result in more authentic photos. And honestly, if they get a little upset along the way, it’s okay. Those kind of candid family photos are personally my favorite to edit. 

This is also why my family sessions are up to 1.5 hours so we can take snack breaks and move at a pace that feels comfortable for the whole family. 

Choose a location

When selecting the ideal location for your family session, you’ll want to consider the age of your kids along with the type of activities that you like to do as a family.

Every family is different, so I love switching up the locations of our sessions. If you need help picking a location, I’m more than happy to advise or scout new locations for the perfect fit.  

For example, if you have young and rambunctious kids that love to run around, an outdoor session among trees or an open field could be great. I absolutely love when I can let kids loose and watch them tumble and run. This style of candid family photos is so much more fun with all the giggles!

Alternatively, if one of your favorite family activities is eating popcorn and playing board games, then consider an in-home session where we capture the exact moments you cherish. Or maybe you have a special cookie recipe that has been passed down for generations.  Let’s freeze that moment in time and capture photos of your family enjoying these sweets together!

Choose the right time of year

Once you’ve chosen a location, you’ll need to consider the time of the year you want your photos taken in. Minnesota can be a little touch-and-go at certain times of the year due to our ever-changing weather. 

For the winter season, if your kids are too little to manage the cold, I highly recommend having our session either at home or at a studio. 

Studios can be so fun because they provide a different style and vibe than your home while still providing the comfort of an indoor setting. If you’re looking to minimize any pre-session stress, consider renting a studio so you don’t have to worry about tidying up your home. 

 However, there’s absolutely no need to deep clean your house before an in-home session. Rest assured it doesn’t need to look like an interior design magazine!

Instead, I look for the light during in-home sessions, and the best part is most things are moveable if I need to scoot something out of the way. If you’re unsure whether an outdoor, studio, or in-home session is best, we can chat more about the benefits of each one to figure out what fits you and your family.

Select your outfits

Family photographer, reporting for duty! I’m more than happy to help you build out  coordinated outfits if you’re looking for more support. 

Before running to the store, first look through  your current wardrobes and see if you have anything that fits—bonus points if it’s a fan favorite! 

More than anything, you’ll want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and confident in what they’re wearing. If they aren’t, it’ll unfortunately show through the photos. For example, if one of the kiddos is a rough-and-tumble toddler, consider pants and a shirt they can freely be themselves in. 

Once you figure out the type of clothing you’ll all be wearing, think about colors and patterns that coordinate well together. 

I am more than happy to step in and provide guidance here, but as a general rule of thumb:

  • Think coordinating, not matching! You don’t all need to wear the same color, which can sometimes make your photos feel flat and one-dimensional. 
  • Avoid teeny-tiny patterns. If one person is wearing a floral dress, I’d recommend the other family members don’t wear flannel. 
  • Texture, texture, texture! Just because you should limit the amount of patterns that are worn doesn’t mean that your outfits have to be totally boring! Denim jackets, chunky knit sweaters, layered cardigans—we love them all. 
Mom, dad, and son sitting and playing in a field

Above all else, stay true to you. 

I’m all about embracing the chaos and capturing candid family photos that feel authentic while staying tailored to your vision. 

No matter if you’re looking to capture wintery photos around the holidays, celebrate a new chapter for your family (like a recent move, graduation, or change in age), or simply hang frame worthy family portraits for your home, we can make that happen.

If you’re ready to say “heck yes” to fun, candid family photos, then let’s chat! 

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