How to prepare your family for a photo shoot

Hair and makeup artist and Beautycounter Director Emily Barton and her family.

Last year as I was preparing for our annual family photoshoot, my husband looked at me and said, “I feel like this is the worst day of the year.” My thoughts started spiraling. Is this process that chaotic? Is it truly that unbearable? Is this even worth it?

At that moment my outlook changed, and I set out to make our family photo shoot a little more bearable and a little less… “worst day of the year.” (Although I did want to say, wow if this is the worst day of the year, then you are doing pretty good!)

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prep and planning of your family photos because you want them to turn out just perfect, let’s solve that problem. 

After 10 years of family photoshoots and as a professional hair and makeup artist who has prepped women for photo shoots, I have learned a thing or two that will ensure you love the results. 

And yes, you don’t just have to go with the tried and true white shirt khaki situation we’ve all done. 

Here are a few of my tips to have a tear-free, flattering-for-mom photo shoot:

  1. Mama, build the outfits and color scheme around YOU!! 
    • Yeah, we know you’re not usually the center of attention—those cute babies you made are. But let’s face it… they pretty much look great in anything, and they are not old enough to determine what colors look best on them yet. 
    • Go to your closet and grab that fabulous pair of shoes you love (or favorite top, etc.), and start building YOUR outfit. I love to get something new for the photos, but we also don’t need to break the bank on this photoshoot. 
    • Shop Nuuly to pick out a FEW (6 or more to be exact) options for you to wear for your photos and spend no more than $98. (And with this link you get $10 off your first order). You can do a dress, a skirt, a pant or one piece situation. Whatever you feel your best in and accentuates your best features. 
  2. How to pick a color scheme
    • I personally stay away from “statement pieces” and gravitate more toward timeless pieces, colors, and textures. Think neutrals, solids, and simple patterns.
    • Consider what colors you could easily incorporate into your house if you end up wanting to display these family photos in your home. Build the clothing pieces off of what you already know and love!
    • Need some color scheme inspiration? I created this Pinterest board just for you!
  3. Coordinate—not match—your family’s outfits
    • For the rest of your family, do yourself a favor and stick with something solid that coordinates with the items you chose. Notice I said coordinates, not matches. Your family’s outfits can be in the same color family, but not the same exact tone or the same color as what you chose to wear. 
    • Here’s how I organized it for last year’s photo shoot:
      • I went with a black turtle neck, so I picked out a Forest green corduroy button-up for my husband with a pair of dark jeans he already had. Similar but different. My husband also pointed out that I am the one who always gets new clothes for photos and I never get him anything, so I wanted to make him feel special with a new button-up shirt
      • For the kids, I found matching mustard yellow overall dresses for the girls in corduroy fabric because ​​my corduroy felt really warm and cozy and a fun texture. Similar but different. Tripp happened to already own a pair of Carthart overalls in a brown color, so I thought this would compliment the girls overall dresses. Different fabrics, different color, but same “overall” style. I went to their closets, and I picked out shirts they already had. Each one has a different color, pattern, and texture. And, spoiler alert, I turned Tripp’s shirt inside out so it would be a solid black because there was a big logo on the front of it. Ya, talk about creative!! 
      • I didn’t buy new shoes for anyone. But a good rule of thumb is if you are going to buy new pieces for your family to wear for photos, make sure they are items they need and can wear over and over well after the photos are done.
  4. How to organize your time the day of the shoot
    • When laying out the timeline of your day, you get ready first, mama! There is nothing worse than trying to get everyone else ready before you and then running out of time for yourself. You want to look and feel your best for your pictures so go ahead and schedule time for yourself that day. 
    • Consider hiring a hair and makeup artist to help you complete your look. You can never go wrong with professional hair and makeup for pictures! Oh and make sure you don’t forget the lashes!!! 
    • Hair and Makeup not in the budget? Grab some lashes and get ready while your kids are at school or during their nap. It’s easy to touch up your hair or makeup right before you get out of the car for photos if need be.
  5. How to keep your kids clean
    • Yep, one of the biggest stressors on family photo shoot day is how to both get your kids ready AND keep them from getting dirty before the photographer does their work.
    • Get your kids fully dressed and then grab some oversized T-shirts (I use my old cotton shirts) to slide right on top of their outfits. If they spill, or fall, or throw up…. It hits the t-shirt first! You can pull the shirts off at the last second.
  6. How to keep your kids happy during the shoot
    • Grab those fruit snacks and hand them to the photographer. The first time we did this, it was like magic.
    • The kids start working with and for the photographers because they are getting fruit snacks every 30 seconds! You are no longer the one trying to negotiate their smile or attention! The photographer has got it covered

Yes, you want great photos to double as Christmas gifts and wall decor. You can have that…without breathing into a paper bag or putting yourself in timeout just to make it through.

Use the tips I listed above, try out my Pinterest board to choose a color scheme, and try out Nuuly to get an array of options that make YOU look good and feel even better.

Any other tips I missed? Drop ‘em in the comments!

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