Tips for Success: Taking the Stress Out of Family Photos


Tis the season for family pictures! You know, the most stressful hour of your life while you try to get everyone to smile at the camera at the same time. Someone is always hungry, another spilled something on their picturesque outfit, and mama could use a drink.

Last year, I was scrambling around at the last minute trying to figure out what to wear. Everyone had an outfit except for me. Big mistake. I was speeding down the road and praying that Old Navy would save my life because pictures were in an hour and I had nothing that matched my crew. This year was a different story. I learned from my mistakes, got prepared, took snacks, and totally dominated the picture game for 2018. 

So, I bring to you….”Tips for Successful Family Photos”!

(legit was crying one hour before this pic because I didn’t have an outfit picked out (location: Ted Drewe’s))

What to wear?

My biggest piece of advice: don’t plan outfits around the kids, get YOUR look first and then get everyone else squared away. Let’s face it, our kiddos look cute in everything and our other half typically doesn’t care what they will be sporting (at least mine doesn’t!) Do YOU. 

  • Don’t put everyone in “prints.”  Solids are always a safe bet. Last year, I put one of my little guys in flannel shirt and kept the rest of the team in solid colors. Even though it was last minute, they turned out great!
  • Layers! Don’t be afraid of layers. A solid cardigan, a vest, a light jacket. Layers add depth and photograph well!
  • Minimize accessories. You don’t need statement earrings, a giant necklace, a belt, and something in your hair. You don’t want the accessory to steal the show, this is about capturing the people in the photos…not the trendy necklace.
  • Don’t wear something that you wouldn’t typically wear! I remember wanting to rock a tulle skirt and sweater a few years ago…bad move. I felt ridiculous and changed my mind in the 11th hour.
  • Coordinate colors (but don’t over coordinate). If navy and white are your colors, great. But that doesn’t mean everyone has to wear a navy sweater and white pants! Throw in a plaid, a chambray or denim, and different textures.
  • Check out Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration.  I always search “family pics” on Pinterest to get inspired. I also found success searching for certain hashtags on Instagram this year (#familypictureinspo, #familypics, #fallfamilypictures, etc).

Where to go for pictures?

Photographers always have amazing suggestions for where to go to snag the perfect family pic. But…in the past (after much Pinterest browsing), I had some of my own ideas (and I am glad that I spoke up!). Here is a list of spots in STL that provide great backdrops!

  • A Christmas tree lot: We have been to Kirkwood Farmers Market and Ted Drewe’s in the past. We were so pleased with the festive setting (and it was something DIFFERENT!)
  • A smaller downtown area: Kirkwood, Webster, Glendale, Main Street, Kimmswick, etc all have amazing and quaint areas to snap pics!
  • Your favorite park: It doesn’t have to be a HUGE park (like Forest Park). We have gotten some of our best photos at places like Larson Park, Blackburn, and Southwest Park.
  • Laumeier Sculpture Park: It is definitely unique but has some really cool details. This spot also has beautiful trails and changing leaves (so you can snap some traditional pics too!)
  • Your backyard: Keep it simple and keep the stress out of trying to get your family to a set destination on time. And if your own backyard isn’t ideal, ask a friend to use theirs.
  • Busch Wildlife: This place is in a league of its own, what can I say? 

Other Tips and Tricks

We get family photos every year. Not only for the holiday card aspect of it but because things change so much from year to year.  Capturing your current stage of life is so important. Here are some of my tips for photo day!

  • Don’t make it all about the kids. Yes, I know, they are the star of the show, BUT make sure you get in pictures WITH them. They will want to see photos of you one day, too!
  • Take a couple shots with your significant other. I know that while I love and adore my wedding pictures from years ago, they don’t reflect the current stage of life that we are in. 
  • “Perfect” isn’t real life. Kudos to you if everyone is smiling in every single one of your pictures. My 3 year old has this fierce/strained smile right now that is beyond ridiculous (and I love every bit of it). It doesn’t look “natural” but I couldn’t be happier that I have multiple professional photos of him doing this face that I will be able to look back on and remember how funny and adorable it was (picture 3 below).
  • Be candid. Talk to your photographer about getting “real” pictures of the family interacting, laughing, etc. It gives me pure joy to have those sweet memories in print!
  • Remember the snacks. I’m not too proud to say that I bribed my kids through the entire photoshoot this year. I also had a box of raisins down the front of my dress because my 2-year-old wouldn’t set them down (picture 1 & 2 below). That’s life folks. 
  • Don’t drag it out. In the past, we made the mistake of scheduling hour time slots for pictures. Lesson learned. For the past two years, we have shaved that down to about 20-25 minutes. We have just enough time to get great photos…right before the meltdowns start!
  • Schedule something care free and fun after the shoot! Grab dinner (you are all looking fly anyways, show your stuff!), catch a movie, play in the park. Whatever it is, do something to decompress!


Don’t know where to find a photographer? Where to print cards for the holidays? What to do with the pictures once you have them? We got you!

  • Ask for referrals from friends for a photographer.
  • Ask your wedding photographer if he/she does family photos. If not, they likely will have a recommendation.
  • The power of social media. Ask your local mommy group on Facebook or search Instagram for local photographers (#stlphotographers, #stlouisphotographer)
  • Printing cards? Your local Walgreens/CVS or Target/Walmart/Sams/Costco can typically pump these out pretty quick if you are a last minute mama. 
  • Other card printing resources? Try sites like Tiny Prints, Shutterfly, and Minted. Make sure to google “coupon code” for these sites before purchasing. 
  • What to do with ALL of these pictures?! Big fan of things like Groovebook, Chatbooks, and even the simple photo books from Walgreens. They make great gifts for the grandparents and great coffee table additions.

And most of all, have fun! Keep it light. And again, don’t forget the snacks! And to put your beautiful images on display once they’re ready! 

What’s your best tip or trick for successful family photos? Sound off in the comments!