How to plan a family photo shoot

Recently I was asked for a family photo for a project that a friend was compiling and after scouring my iPhoto for a few hours I realized that the last time we had a picture taken of all of us was the previous Christmas – 12 months ago! What a travesty…. I feel rather sad that we haven’t got any proof of our family unit during the whole of 2012!

Part of the problem is that when you are the photographer of the family, like myself, you never appear in any of the photos. I have plenty of my kids of course, a few less of my husband (who used to be my subject of choice but seems to come lower down the list these days!) and quite a few of my extended family but I just never get around to asking someone to step behind the camera and take a pic of me WITH my family! That is when hiring a photographer who specializes in taking family photos is such a great idea. I’m seriously keen to aim for this at least once a year in the future.

Summer time is the perfect time to consider planning a family photo shoot! I can think of nothing nicer than to capture my beloved family enjoying themselves in the beautiful natural surroundings of Cape Town. We have only ever done something similar in an all-white studio so my next family photo shoot will definitely be somewhere pretty like a greenbelt or forest.

Cape Town Family Photographer-Dee During-4409

As I am keen to do more family photo shoots I thought I would ask for a few tips from photographer Dee During about what to consider. Here are her suggestions… plus a few extras of my own….

1. Planning

The first step is to decide who you want the photo shoot to include – just you and your partner, your kids, your extended family (including grandparents etc), your animals? Where would you prefer your photos to be taken – do you have a particular location in mind or are you happy to follow the photographers suggestions.

When do you want the photos to be taken? Do you need them in time for Christmas cards or is it to mark a special birthday? Remember to plan around your kids in terms of what time of the day suits them best – aim for after they have had a sleep and something to eat, but not immediately after as they might still be lethargic. Good times for photographers are usually early morning and late afternoon as the light is always the best at these times of the day.

Another key element of planning a family photo shoot is deciding what your family members will wear. It’s a good idea to decide on a colour scheme for your outfits BUT don’t match, rather co-ordinate the colours e.g. not everyone wears the same colour (eg. white t’s and blue jeans) rather have 2 of the 4 wear a splash of the same colour. Stick to one or two neutral colours with 2 other co-ordinating colours. Keep costs down by planning around what you already own. Choose one patterned item or very bright item – this will be the focus of the photos e.g. a floral skirt or checkered shirt. And don’t leave this to the night before. Plan ahead in case you need to buy an extra accessory or item.

Tip: It’s a good idea to take a change of clothes for variety or in case of mishaps!


2. Research

There are countless amazing photographers out there but to get a good idea of what style of photographs you are looking for have a look at different websites and blogs. Try to find styles that work for you. Everyone is different. Be aware that each photographer has their own style. Don’t look at one photographers images and expect your photographer to emulate that exactly.

Look at the details and the different scenes the photographer captures. Do they prefer natural light or studio photography? What location are the photos being taken at? Do the people in the photos appear relaxed and natural?

Tip: Head over to Pinterest for an abundance of great ideas of posing suggestions, colour palettes and prop ideas e.g your favourite books or special toys.

Cape Town Family Photographer-Dee During-4247

3. Chemistry

Possibly one of the most important factors is how you relate to your photographer and he/she to you. You need to connect! Your photographer is trying to get the best out of you. You need to feel relaxed in order to enjoy the session AND more importantly, for the photographer to get the kind of shots you’d be not just happy with, but over-the-moon with! Try to get a sense of what they’re about from their blog or website as well as by chatting to them over the phone. If you feel at ease with the person – it will reflect in your photographs.

If you will be including kids in your family photo shoot see how the photographer relates to them prior to booking the session. Do they make the kids laugh and have fun or are they super strict – this will just end in tears (not the look you were going for!) But remember they are just kids, not professional models, and will lose interest after a while – just in case this happens take along some “bribery” in the form of sweets – that always works 😉

Tip: If possible it’s always a good idea to meet with the photographer in person at the photo shoot venue BEFORE the photo shoot to talk through some ideas and see how you connect.

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4. Communication

Discuss upfront what you expect from your photographer. How much will the photo shoot cost is usually the first question but some other questions to ask include:

  • What you will walk away with e.g. prints or just a disc with hi res or low res images etc
  • Do they expect upfront payment or a 50% deposit to make a booking?
  • How long will it take?
  • How long after the shoot do you get your images?
  • What do you need to bring with you?
  • Where will the shoot take place?
  • The kind of feel you’re looking for?


Tip: Suggest what you think might work for your family and what shots you would like to include but also let the photographer have the freedom to mix it up a bit. A variety of candid and more posed shots is lovely. And some “bloopers” will be super cute to have in years to come…


Dee During is a Cape Town based natural light photographer. She prefers shooting outdoors, using natural light and backdrops, but also offers studio shoots with a black backdrop. Besides photography her other passion is travel. Dee is available to shoot Newborns, Weddings, Family, Editorial, Guesthouses and Properties. Dee is currently running a special in time for Valentine’s Day….

30 minute session
10 high res images on a disc
1 x A4 block mounted canva
Available weekday mornings and late afternoons until 12 Feb 2013

Contact Dee During
Cell: 0794969761

Images: Dee During

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

1 Comment
  1. I have the same problem, tons of photos of everyone else’s family, of my family and my son but I never get around to actually having photos taken where I am in them.

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