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Navigating the Challenges of Planning a Family Portrait Session

By 25/09/2023November 26th, 2023No Comments

Whether you have 5 or 20 people in your session, it can feel daunting to bring your family together for a portrait session. It can look like a giant mountain you need to scale. Firstly, you have to convince the photophobic members of the family to even show up! Then you need to get everyone’s wardrobe in place, organise a time that fits everyone’s schedule (including working around the baby’s nap time), and finally, think of a location that is suitable. Before you even start, you feel tired already!

Trust me, your situation is more common than you think. As a photographer who has been in front of the camera too, I have personally faced every single challenge listed here. So here are some strategies to help you make this planning process smoother.

1. Convincing your photophobic family member to show up

Remind your family members that they are taking part in a family moment that will eventually be a visual heirloom for years to come. The years will just go by so quickly, and before you know it, the kids will have grown up, and it will be a different season altogether. As a photographer, I have personally invested time and energy to photograph my family every year. It’s my way of seeing how the kids are growing and how our family is ageing as the years go by. It is much better to have these images than to regret never doing it at all. Here’s Michelle and Kishore’s way of documenting their child’s 1st year as a baby, through a 10 month project with us!

2. Scheduling Conflicts

One of the biggest challenges in planning a family portrait session is finding a date and time that work for everyone involved. With busy lives and conflicting schedules, coordinating everyone can be a daunting task. Start by planning well in advance. You can create a shared calendar or use scheduling apps to find a suitable date that accommodates everyone. Be flexible and consider weekends or holidays when family members are more likely to be available. We have had clients organise a family portrait session for 40 people. It was difficult, but they made it happen!

3. Location Dilemmas

Choosing the right location is crucial for setting the tone and style of your family portraits. However, different family members may have varying preferences, making it challenging to decide on the perfect backdrop. You would also have to consider older family members, like grandparents in wheelchairs, etc. A strategy to work this through would be to openly discuss location options as a family and consider everyone’s input. If possible, select a location with sentimental value, such as a favourite park, family home, or vacation spot. Alternatively, you can opt for our professional studio, where we can control the environment.

4. Wardrobe Coordination

With everyone’s personal colour choices, style preferences, and budget, this can be a source of stress. However, the downside to coordinating the wardrobe would be a non-cohesive family portrait that looks a little haphazard. Try creating a colour palette or theme for the outfits that everyone can agree on. This doesn’t mean everyone has to match exactly, but choosing complementary colours or styles can help achieve a harmonious look. Start planning outfits well in advance to allow time for shopping and alterations. Not sure about how to get started? Check out our wardrobe styling article.

5. Managing Expectations

Each family member may have different expectations for the photo session, leading to potential conflicts. Some may prefer posed shots, while others may prefer candid moments. As photographers, we usually cover a variety of images in a session, which includes posed and candid portraits. But before you come for the session, do communicate openly about your goals for the session (with your family and the photographer!). Discuss the style of photography you want and any specific shots or poses you’d like to include. Be willing to compromise and accommodate different preferences to ensure everyone is happy with the results. Here are some tips on planning a multi-generational photo shoot.

6. Working with Children or Pets

If your family includes young children or pets, you’ll face the challenge of keeping them engaged and cooperative during the session. Firstly, keep in mind that in order to set the session up for success, you should schedule the shoot when your child is happiest. Plan the session around their natural routines, such as nap times or playtime. Bring snacks, their favourite toys, or treats to keep them entertained and motivated. If your child is still not in the best of moods during the session, don’t allow it to affect your mood too! Just flow with it, and try to focus on play instead of ‘forcing’ an action to happen during the session. Have a look at our post on dealing with challenging children during shoots or this other post on handling pets.

7. Weather and lighting

Since we live in Malaysia, outdoor portrait sessions are often at the mercy of weather conditions and natural lighting, which can be unpredictable. Have a backup plan or alternative location in case of bad weather. Schedule outdoor sessions during the “golden hours” of early morning or late afternoon, when natural lighting is most flattering. You can discuss potential weather-related issues with us and trust our expertise in adjusting to changing conditions. Usually, if the rain is not torrential, we can wait it out for a while and then carry on with the photo session. Alternatively, you can move indoors to our studio as a backup location.

8. Mindsets you need to adopt

Finally, the most important part of planning a family portrait session is the mindset you need to adopt. Instead of being stressed about getting everything perfect, adopt a flexible mindset of creativity that will help you navigate through any challenge you might face that day. Outfit suddenly had a tear? Baby fell asleep halfway through the shoot. A traffic jam makes someone arrive half an hour late to the session. It’s ok; you have what it takes to face these challenges in a creative way. Take a deep breath to calm down, and together, we will work out a solution. It is hard to smile for a session when you are all flustered and angry inside. So just release those emotions and remind yourself that you are here to have a good time, and nothing will rob you of this experience you are creating for your family.

Hopefully you feel more prepared now on how to navigate the challenges you face in scheduling a family portrait session. Contact us to make that thought a reality!

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