My Best Tips for Stress-Free Family Photos That You'll Love


Yay! I'm so excited to work with you! Family photos are one of the most treasured possessions you'll ever have and I want to make your experience as relaxed and stress-free as possible. This guide contains my best tips on what to wear and how to prepare to help us make the most of our time together.

First...


Determine a location.

If we haven't already, we'll discuss options for location and what will work best for your family.

Next...


Assemble your wardrobe.

Determine the color palette and style you want and start shopping in store and online or from your closet or mine. I'm here to help with all of this!

Then...


Plan ahead.

The more you prepare BEFORE the day of your session, the happier you'll be the day OF your session. (See my best tips below!)


Finally...


Roll with it.

We can't predict the behavior of our family or the weather. Whatever the day brings, embrace it. I love to capture beauty amidst chaos.

Determining a Location


I love to tie location into the story I'm capturing for you. Not only is it the backdrop for the memories I'm documenting, it can affect the mood of your photos as well. Do you prefer to feel relaxed in a place that's familiar to you or do you enjoy the excitement of discovering some place new? Are you up for an adventure or do you prefer a location that's easily accessible? We'll work together to determine a location perfect for you!

Assembling Your Wardrobe


It's important that your photos are a reflection of YOU. Of course, I know firsthand that it can be overwhelming to style your entire family head-to-toe. If you're feeling stuck or need some inspiration, here are some tips and examples to get you started.


  • Choose your vibe. Considering the season and your location, what vibe do you want your photos to evoke? Timeless, bohemian, beachy, adventurous, earthy, retro, rock & roll, casual cool, etc.


  • Style yourself first, Mama. Most likely you're styling the whole family anyway, so why shouldn't YOU be the starting point? Find a dress or an outfit that makes you feel absolutely FABULOUS, then coordinate everyone else around you. (You won't regret it.)
  • Pregnant Mamas, check out some inspiration here: What to Wear for Maternity Photos.


  • Choose a color palette. Pick 3-5 colors that complement each other, while also considering your location. See my examples of Coordinating Color Palettes. I'm happy to recommend what will photograph best in your location. For example, if we'll be amongst a lot of trees, I'd avoid wearing green so you don't blend in.


  • Coordinate, don’t match. When selecting outfits for the rest of the fam, it’s important to "coordinate" rather than "match." Gone are the days of everyone dressing in the same outfit or color which can leave photos feeling dated and flat. See my examples of Family Clothing Styles & Coordination.


  • Flatter yourself. Not all clothes photograph equally. You will be moving a LOT during your session. Try sticking to cottons and linens. Stay away from clingy fabrics (which inevitably show undergarment lines,) stiff fabrics (which restrict movement,) and boxy, oversized anything (which makes bodies appear larger than they are IRL.)
  • Women typically look most flattering in long dresses fitted at waist or top/bottom combos that define your shape (flowy skirt paired with fitted top, belted jumpsuit, etc.)
  • Men typically look most flattering in fitted pants, colored denim, dark jeans, button down shirts, sweaters, henleys or even a simple, solid t-shirt.
  • Kids look most flattering in clothes that fit them. If something is too big or too small, no matter how much you love it, it can be distracting if it doesn't fit properly.


  • Add texture. Create interest and depth by adding texture through patterns, knits, layers, buttons or even a pop of color. Avoid pinstripes, gingham or any other small repeating pattern as it can create a moire effect on digital images. Also avoid logos, lettering and characters as they draw attention away from subjects’ faces and can leave photos looking dated instead of timeless.


  • Choose shoes wisely. Location will likely determine your shoe choices. Wear shoes that you can easily (and safely) move around in as we'll be moving a lot. Bare feet are fine for beach sessions, backyard sessions or in-home sessions. For other locations, boots, sandals or dress shoes are recommended for a more polished look. No tennis shoes, even on kids. If you prefer more casual street shoes (Vans, Converse, etc.) make sure they look new as worn shoes will stand out. I recommend the same for your kiddos as well!


I hope this is helpful in getting you started! I'm here to provide feedback on any ideas you pull together. And please know these aren’t rules, they are just guidelines to consider. Don't overthink it. When in doubt, go with what feels natural, timeless and comfortable.

Where to Shop


Pulling together outfits for your whole family can feel overwhelming as there are so many choices of where to shop and the cost can quickly add up. I completely believe that you can style your family by selecting pieces from a range of places - department stores to boutique shops, as well as your closet and mine! Ready to start your online shopping? Here are some of the stores and brands I recommend to clients:

Planning Ahead


More planning = less stress. Here are some things I've learned from years of being on both sides of the camera.


  • Try it all on. Have everyone try on their outfits at least a few days prior to the session - including shoes - and walk around, pick up kids, sit on the ground. Is everyone comfortable? Are tags itchy? Are straps falling down? Are shoes slipping off? Are undergarments showing? Are tan lines exposed? Fix or replace anything that is too fussy, itchy, clingy, sheer, etc. You want to relax and enjoy the moment with your family during the photo session, not deal with wardrobe malfunctions. (I speak from experience here!) 


  • Get groomed. Consider any hair, nail or makeup appointments you’d like to make. And don’t forget the kids. Make sure little fingernails are trimmed and clean as well as they will very likely appear in detail shots. (If you're considering a spray tan, make sure it's subtle and done by a talented professional so that pale skin doesn't risk looking unnatural or having streaks.)


  • Hang it all up. Make sure everything is clean, pressed and ready to go at least 24 hours before your session - including shoes, accessories and undergarments. This will cut down on last minute stress and help you identify anything that might be missing or dirty.


  • Prep the car. If you’re traveling to your session location, make sure your car has plenty of gas, check your estimated travel time and have any necessary parking money on hand. Additionally, if we're planning a beach session, pack a towel and a change of clothes so no one has to ride home wet if we all end up in the water.


  • Give yourself plenty of time to get ready. In addition to getting yourself ready on the day of the shoot, you will probably be assisting the rest of your family as well. Plan ahead and give yourself some extra time so you don’t feel rushed (and sweaty, if you’re like me!) Your calm demeanor will keep your family calm, too. ;)


  • Have a snack. Nobody’s happy when they’re hungry. Regardless of the time of day of your shoot, plan a healthy snack for everyone, including yourself, before you head out the door. (Save the sugar as a reward for after!) 


  • Make it a special occasion. Plan something fun after the session to celebrate, like going out to dinner or stopping for ice cream. Or have a special treat waiting in the car for the ride home. Make it a fun, special occasion that your family looks forward to every year.

Rolling With It


This advice took me the longest to follow myself as a parent. We do so much to prepare for a family photo session, but at the end of the day, kids are unpredictable and can be overwhelmed by the whole experience, especially if a parent is showing signs of stress as well. So whatever happens, just keep calm and go with the flow; laugh if there is chaos, comfort if there is insecurity. I've experienced it all (on both sides of the camera) and the best thing to do is embrace it.


Also, don’t expect your child to just show up and smile for the camera. This is a new situation for a lot of them. I love kids and I love engaging with them. I will encourage them, but I will never force a child to do something they don't want to do. If your child is refusing to cooperate, please don't get frustrated with them. We'll just move on to something else. :)

Additional Tips for Families With Babies or Toddlers


  • Dress little ones when you arrive at the shoot, especially if they are having snacks and drinks in the car on the way.
  • Before the session, be sure to wipe little faces and hands; I'll have tissues on hand if noses tend to run.
  • Pack a back up outfit for accidents or surprises (hello, unfortunate blowout.)
  • Bring water and simple snacks that won't stick to teeth as your toddler might welcome a break mid-session.
  • Breastfeeding or bottle feeding is 100% okay - and encouraged to soothe little ones!
  • Consider having drooling babies wear a stylish bib bandana as a fun (and functional) accessory.
  • Girls wearing dresses or skirts should wear bloomers underneath, especially if they love being held, danced with and lifted in the air.
  • If you have littles that you are frequently carrying in your arms, make sure they don’t wear the same color as mom or dad. A nice contrast will keep them from blending in. 
  • Don’t expect babies to love the camera. This is new and intimidating for them. Just love on them and play with them while I capture your connection.


I'm here for you!


I hire a professional photographer for my family photos, too. So I know what you're going through to prepare your wardrobe AND your family!


I'm here to answer ANY questions you have. Email me at jillneilphotography@gmail.com or text 310-529-2724.


I seriously can't wait to create beautiful images of your family!

Photo of my family by Olesya Photography