How to prepare for your Family & Kids Photography session

with Nicole Maria Photography

Thank you so much for inviting me to capture your family! I am so excited to begin this journey with you. As the oldest of four kids, family has been so important to me my entire life. I am so lucky to be able to share in the joy that my clients experience when spending time with their loved ones! My passion is to capture the beauty that can be found in everyone and in every day, even amidst the monotony and chaos of everyday life, so that families have memories to treasure forever. I don't ever aim for Instagram perfection, because to me, that's not real life! I despise traditional beauty standards and how they can make families feel like they aren't beautiful enough. Your family deserves to be celebrated. Your family deserves to be able to tell their story for generations to come through gorgeous photographs, wall art, and heirloom photo albums. You and your family deserve to feel and KNOW that you are beautiful!

Thank you so so much for giving me the honor of capturing these memories for you! In this Client Experience Guide you’ll find everything you need to know about a session with me. I’ve included some helpful tips to hopefully make this process as smooth as possible for you. If there is anything I can do for you along the way, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’m here to serve you the best that I can. I can’t wait for our session together!

Collage of photos focusing on small details of newborn baby's body. Lips, fist, eyes, wisps of hair, yawn, belly button

Without a doubt, I think the one thing that most families experience at one point or another is absolute, utter chaos! Everyone loves the traditional posed portraits where the kids are smiling at the camera, of course-- but we all know that instagram perfection isn't real life most of the time. What drew me to Lifestyle Family Photography is the love and connection you feel when looking at photos of families not taking each other too seriously and having a great time together. All the feelings come out when you see a photo of sisters giggling together because of a secret one whispered into the other's ear, of teenagers snickering with embarrassment when dad pulls out his infamous dance moves, of the fits of laughter from toddlers as they try to escape their parents' tickles, of the nostaligic gaze from mom as she watches her babies growing up right before her eyes-- I could go on and on. It reflects real life and makes the images you receive all the more special! My goal with every family portrait session is to capture your family just how you are at this time, so you can always look back on your photos, and those feelings will be as fresh as the day of the session.

Rather than posing you in unnatural and awkward positions, I provide you with light guidance and let life unfold from there. What happens when I tell your family to sit together on a blanket outside ? Your little ones might snuggle in, hold each other's hands, while you and your partner laugh and look lovingly at your beautiful children. Or maybe that's a pipe dream (like my own family) and they get so excited that they start using you as a jungle gym, climbing all over dad and running circles around mom. Maybe your older kiddos will start to tell me an in-depth story of something funny that happened at school, or teenagers will talk about the latest prank they played on their siblings. If your babes are slow to warm up or cranky, that’s ok! I'm most likely a complete stranger and kids cry... I'm prepared for it! Maybe mom, dad, grandma, or even big brother or sister will start to sing their favorite song or play a game to cheer them up. My job is to capture all of that! There is so much beauty (and fun!) in the chaos and I am SO here for it!

Before your Session

What can I expect leading up to my Family Photography Session?

After signing your contract and paying your session fee to secure your date, the real fun begins! My goal is to give you the best experience possible leading up to and during your family portrait session, and to do that, we need to make it fun! If I haven't already, I will send you a pre-session questionnaire so I can get to know your family a little bit better. I want to know your interests, your family dynamic, and what makes you laugh! This is also a place for you to list any concerns you have about the session, or to let me know the best way to connect with your kiddos and other family members who might be a bit, ahem... hesitant to get in front of the camera ;)

About a week before your session, I will send you an email with directions for how to get to your session location and where we will meet. You’ll also receive a reminder to make your final payment. If you have any questions leading up to your session, feel free to reach out! 

When should we schedule our Family Photography Session?

The best time to schedule your family photography session depends on the look and feel you are envisioning. The beauty of living in New England is that we have so many beautiful back drops to choose from! Do you want dreamy beach portraits in the summer? Warm and cozy portraits taken during the peak of autumn foliage? Snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes and rosy red cheeks in the winter? Or the rainbow of beautiful blooms in the spring? What story are you looking to capture at this moment in your families lives? Think about what your family likes to do together and what you plan to do with your final images, and decide what season is the best fit!

What is the best time of day for our Family Photography Session?

Generally the best time of day for outdoor family photography is during "Golden Hour," which is typically within the hour or two before sunset or the hour or two after sunrise. Beautiful, soft, golden light will be drenching your family from top to bottom, making for the most dreamy, flattering images, instead of harsh direct sunlight that casts unflattering shadows and hot spots on you. If you have younger children or toddlers who have a strict schedule, we can decide on a time that best fits your family’s needs and find a location that has flattering light any time of day. More on this below.

How do we decide on a location for our Family Photography Session?

At this point in the process, you may or may not have already chosen your location. If you haven’t picked the perfect spot yet, I’d love to help you choose the perfect backdrop for your photos! If you do have a location selected, I want to give you an idea of some things I look for during your session when we get there. Here’s a little sneak peek into the things I think through when positioning you at your location:


My first priority during your session is finding a place with nice, open shade. This open shade ensures that your family won’t be squinting, and the light hitting you will be soft and beautiful.


The next thing I look at is keeping you in beautiful, even light. If there are any trees around that are casting spotty light over the shaded area, I’ll work to get your family away from those hot spots and into complete shade with even light. Those pesky spots can be quite distracting in photos, so I’ll do my best to eliminate that to keep the focus on you.


The last thing I look for is a clear area where lots of light is able to come through behind you. I’ll watch for people or cars passing by behind you while we’re shooting, and I may pause and wait for them to move so we won’t have them cluttering up your photos. Ideally the location for your family photography session will be in a spot where we can avoid lots of crowds, but we can always make it work!

What should we wear for our Family Photography Session?

The most important style tip I can give you is to dress comfortably and wear something that reflects you and your family's style! My family sessions are generally very relaxed-- I want to capture the best version of you, not something from the cover of Vogue (unless that's you, of course)! The best thing to wear is something that you can easily move around in, with shoes that you can easily walk in (bare feet totally welcome if that's your jam), and in clothing appropriate for the weather.

When deciding what to wear you’ll want to narrow down your selection to colors that complement the environment—think about where you will be displaying your photos and how the outfits you’ve chosen will blend in or stand out. Hanging your final photos on a gallery wall in your living room? Look around and see what colors you have decorated with! Designing a beautiful album to tell your family's story? Then choose whatever colors you want!

When styling each family member, it’s best to coordinate your outfits, but not match. Softer muted neutral tones tend to photograph best rather than darker colors or clothing with words, or graphics; they don’t take away from the connection we feel in the image and help to avoid “color casting” to achieve accurate skin tones. Although it may be tempting to dress everyone up in the same plaid print or in that white tee and jeans, photos really look stunning when there is nice coordination without overly matching. I typically suggest dressing no more than two people up in the same print or color. This helps to balance out your photos so the attention is drawn to YOU! Instead of having everyone wear the same color, try picking two or three colors that blend well together and coordinate that way! Experiment with different shades of colors, or add different prints or fabrics to the mix (like the blue dresses pictured below!). Adding layers and accessories creates a lot of visual interest, so have fun with items like jackets, cardigans, kimonos, scarves, hats, and jewelry. For wardrobe inspiration, check out my Pinterest board here: I am also always available to bounce ideas off of!

A few things to be aware of when selecting your wardrobe: be careful about undergarments! While I will do my best, editing out bra straps, hanger straps attached to the insides of dresses and tops, or panty lines is difficult and time-consuming. Choose clothing that properly covers your undergarments, in all types of movement scenarios. If you wear a dress, medium to long dresses will be easier to move around in, and won't be a challenge for seated photos as some short dresses can be! If you are wearing pants or shorts with pockets, make sure you take out your cell phone, wallet, and keys, and place them somewhere safe before we start (I can put them in my camera bag for safe-keeping!). I always try to catch these things beforehand, but sometimes I get caught up in the fun of the session that I miss it! Oh and another thing-- make sure those clothes are ironed! Believe me, my iron is collecting dust in our closet, but crinkly clothes can really put a wrinkle (I COULDN'T RESIST) in the final image ;) Some creases will appear on the way to the session and that's totally fine, just do the best you can!

Day of your session

How should I prepare on the day of the session?

THE most important thing you can do to prepare for your family photo session is to make sure everyone gets a good night sleep and is well fed the day of! I don't know about you, but when my kids and I are HANGRY, a fun time can turn into a whine-fest real quick ;) Plan to bring some water and quick, mess-free snacks if someone needs a break. Nothing that will make a mess on hands and face or that will stain teeth or clothing. Some good options include fruit snacks, apple slices, mini marshmallows, cheerios or other dry cereal, beef jerky, or dried fruit. No chocolate or sticky candy allowed! And here's the important part: ONLY bring the snacks out as a last resort and don't tell the kids ahead of time that you brought snacks, or (if they're anything like my kids) they'll be begging for them from the time you arrive!

Plan to have a relaxing, stress-free day if you can, and try not to get into any arguments the day of the session. It will be hard to look lovingly into your partner's eyes if you were just contemplating divorce after trying to get yourselves and the kids out the door (not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything... ;) ) We don't want the kids (or grownups) to be tired and cranky-- we want relaxed, fun photos with zero tension! Do everything you can to keep kids awake in the car on the way to the session, unless it's a super long drive and you have time for a full nap or leave enough time for the kids to "wake up" and get used to their surroundings before we start. If you know your child is a little slow to warm up, try to arrive as early as you can to let them get acclimated and comfortable so they'll be ready to go by the time we start shooting!

This one may seem counterintuitive, but try not to OVER prepare your kids for the session! Giving them too much info about how they should act or telling them they have to "be good" can create a lot of stress and anxiety in kiddos, and sets expectations way too high. Instead, tell them you're going to have a fun family day and play together while someone takes your photos! You also don't need to coach them that they need to "smile for the camera." Sure we all love the everyone-cheeseing-at-the-camera-family-portrait, but that's not the ultimate goal of your family photography session. We're looking to capture the authentic smiles, joyful laughs, and meaningful connection between family members. I will direct you to look at me when needed, but the word "cheese" will be completely off limits for the majority of the session!!

What will my Family Photography session look like?

When I arrive for your session I will greet all members of the family, especially young children. I want to make sure they know I’m not scary! If I am unfamiliar with the location (which I try to not be and almost always scope out the location ahead of time!), I will take a walk around to scope out the best light.

After we’ve determined the best area(s) for the photos, we’ll start the process of capturing your family! First thing's first-- I want you to Relax! Breathe. Everyone can sense if someone is feeling stressed or anxious or nervous and will feed off that energy. I will give you light guidance and posing prompts, placing you in the best light and guiding you with what to do with your hands and body so you don’t have to worry. During our time together, you can expect high energy, lots of funny noises, and probably some squeels as I snap photos! I take LOTS of photos to make sure I get the great shots we need, so you’ll hear my shutter snapping pretty rapidly. I love to capture candid moments as life happens naturally rather than stiff posing! You'll find me running around, laying on the ground, climbing on anything I can find (the struggles of being short!)-- capturing all of the best angles to be sure I give you a beautifully diverse gallery of images.

How long will my Family Photography Session last?

Your Family Photography Session will last 60-90 minutes. I don’t want you to feel rushed or anxious. Kids can be unpredictable, and I try to build in time for breaks for drinks, snacks, or anything they might need! Even grown ups need a break sometimes too ;)

What about younger children? What if they don't cooperate? What if my partner and/or teens are grumpy and don't want to be there?

Modeling and being in front of the camera can be hard on any kid, no matter their age! My goal is to try to make them feel important, but I keep my expectations low, especially for young children. It can be hard for toddlers and young children to pay attention for long periods of time, so I will try to get all the traditional sibling shots and full family shots at the beginning of the session before they start to lose interest. Then they can have fun and play around while I capture it all! I won’t ever force them to do anything they don’t want to do or aren’t comfortable with.

After your session

When will I receive my photos?

You can expect your photos to be sent to you in an online gallery via email about four weeks after your session. You’ll be able to download your high-resolution images straight from your gallery. Then the best part begins - sharing your beautiful images with friends and family! Your gallery will be active for viewing your images, downloading, sharing, and ordering prints and products for two months after delivery. After that the gallery will be archived and there will be a small fee to reactivate it. So download those images as soon as possible!

What other services do you offer?

I know how hard it can be to get around to finding a quality printer and printing the beautiful images you’ve invested so much time, energy and money in. So leave the print orders to me! You can select your favorites and place an order directly through your gallery and your prints and products will be delivered right to your home. Because images need to be edited differently for different types of media and calibrated against certain printers, I can only guarantee quality in colors when printed through this method.

I can’t wait for our session together! Hopefully you found this information helpful. If you have any questions or concerns leading up to your session, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. My goal is to serve you the best that I can! This is going to be a fun session, so don’t stress. Relax and enjoy making these memories with your family that you’ll get to treasure forever. See you soon!