With little ones running around, the tension can run high at family portrait sessions. Here are some tips to help you keep your cool when the camera is on.

With so much pressure to walk away with perfect portraits, it can be difficult for parents to keep things fun and relaxed during their family holiday photo shoot – particularly when the holidays are only a few days away. You’re worried about the kids not paying attention, the outfits getting stained, the weather cooperating, and what you’ll do if you’re not happy with the end result. That’s a lot of worry to manage in just a few hours and my experience as a family photographer in Washington DC has taught me that inner turmoil has an unfortunate way of expressing itself in portraits.

That’s why it’s so important to keep calm and find your “Zen” during family photo shoots. And if you’re thinking that it requires you to run off and do a 15-minute meditation, or pop into the yoga studio, that’s not the case. There are however, some simple tips that can help you take the tension down a few notches and ensure that you wind up with family portraits that you love.

1.  Work with a professional

Professional photographers are made up of 2 parts experience, 1 part artist, and 1 part circus wrangler. Those of us with successful photography businesses have learned the fine art of reading people and managing to steer our subjects away from meltdowns and into the perfect positions. We’ve dealt with screaming babies, rainy days, crabbiness and everything in between. Trust our input and let us support you throughout the shoot.

photo of twin brother and sister outside with white picket fence in Washington DC by Julie Kubal

2.  Have a plan, but hold it with a loose grip.

In the past I have worked with parents who have Pinterest boards laden with every pose they’d like to capture and how they want each family member to sit, stand, dress, and breathe on photo day. I love capturing unique shots and working on specific goals, and I also know that holding onto “the plan” with white-knuckled intensity tends to rob families of candid images and fond memories of spending time together. Focus on how you want to feel when you look at your family portraits – not whether or not they are up to Pinterest’s standards. If you do, I guarantee you’ll be happier with the result.


3.  Give everyone a voice.

To help keep everyone engaged and to replace tension with enjoyment, invite all your family members to make suggestions about poses, props, and outfits. Perhaps your youngest will want to wear his magic converse, suggest a family pyramid, or want to capture a photo of a piggy-back ride on daddy’s shoulders. Give the kids a voice and they’ll feel like they’re a part of the day – rather than feeling like they’re simply along for the ride. And who knows, they may just come up with the day’s winning shot.


4.  Don’t forget to breathe.

During photo shoots we have a tendency to suck in our stomachs, lock our knees, and utterly forget to breathe. Locking your knees reduces blood flow to your brain and in extreme cases can cause you to pass out. Therefore, in between poses and when the photographer changes his or her lens be sure to take in a few deep breaths.


5.  Enjoy the experience.

When you look back on the images that result from your family photo shoot, you’ll not only remember that particular moment in your family’s history, you will also remember the experience you had on the day of the shoot. That’s why it is so important to do everything you can to remain in the present moment and let yourself enjoy the gift of professional photography. Find things to be grateful for – the funny face your daughter made, the way your son grabs onto your hand, the garden that seemed to bloom just in time for the shoot. Keep focused on the positive and let yourself have a wonderful experience and the wonderful memories that result.


Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!