How To Prepare for A Summer Family Photo Session

Family laughing and hugging at Curt Gowdy State Park.

Every year, I get a ton of questions from clients on how to prepare for a summer family photo session. Thankfully, after several years in this business, I have quite a few tips to pass on!

Clothing and Shoes

Dressing your family might be the trickiest part! Or maybe that’s just my own family…? I do have some tips on what to watch for when choosing outfits:

  • Shoes. If your session location is in the mountains (Curt Gowdy, Vedauwoo) or somewhere with tall grass and trails (Lee Martinez Park), I strongly recommend closed toe shoes. Closed toe sandals count! I would avoid flip flops or anything with a narrow heel. Sneaky cactus is sneaky, and I have stabbed myself with more sticks than I would like to admit. (Note: I tell you this, but I will show up in flip flop Birks. I can’t shoot in anything else in the summer, but I can show you the resulting scars)
  • Diapers. Avoid an uncovered diaper if you have a little one in a dress or no pants. Saggy diaper with the blue line isn’t flattering on anyone. Throw a diaper cover/bloomers on to keep things simple.
  • Dress the most particular or hardest to dress member of your family first. And that isn’t necessarily the toddler! If you found the perfect dress, in the perfect shade of blue, start there and dress the rest of your family to coordinate with you.
  • Try everything on before session day. You might find that someone finds their leggings unbearable itchy (BTDT, my friends).

I’m still (years in) working on putting together a style guide for clients. It’s been really tricky to develop a “one size fits all” guide, as every family has its own style and comfort level. But feel free to ask me questions or send me links to clothes!

(If you’re looking for a much more personalized styling experience, I highly recommend getting in touch with Annie at Aine Styling. Annie can either help you find new outfits, or go through your closets to find exactly what you need (and what you probably didn’t realize you even had!). Not only does she have a seriously killer sense of style, she’s hilarious and kind, and I’m more than happy to recommend her services.)

Baby holding parents fingers and looking up and smiling.

Prepping Your Kids!

As I’m sure all moms know, this is very, very kid-dependent. My own kids do great with a lot of information ahead of time, other kids do better if they’re told what’s happening on the way to the session!

If you have the model of child who does better with more information, you can tell them that we’ll start with about 15 minutes of the easy, boring stuff. The whole family is going to take a couple photos together, the kids will take some photos together, then each kid gets their own photo. Once that’s done, we’re going to have an adventure! Lots of running, hiking, jumping, and laughing. You can let them know that if they do a great job listening for the boring stuff, the fun stuff is going to happen even sooner!

Girl is snuggling with mom.


I am always up for pets (okay, dogs, as I’m still waiting on a cat session) at family sessions!! A couple things to keep in mind:

  • If you don’t want your dog(s) in all the photos, you’ll need to either bring someone to watch them, or have a dog that can be left in the car/truck crate. Let me know if this is the case, and I’ll organize your session so that we get all the photos with the dog done either first or last.
  • Bring a leash you want in photos!
  • Remember that even the best behaved dog can act like a toddler in photos, and may add additional time to each grouping. If you’re hoping for a short, sweet, easy session, you may want to leave the dogs at home for this one!
Snuggly dogs during family session at Lee Martinez Park.

What To Bring

My “Must Have Essentials” when getting ready to prepare for a summer family photo session is somewhat dependent on the ages of the kids involved and the length of the session. Only teenagers for a 30 minute session? Bring just yourselves! This section is more for families who have kids from 3 months through roughly 8 years of age.

  • Small bag. If you have a baby, bring your diaper bag! But even if you have older kids, and you aren’t bringing many supplies, you’ll want somewhere to stash sunglasses, keys and phones where you’ll be able to easily find them.
  • Water. If you have kids who are constantly thirsty, bring at least one water bottle. Avoid juice or other not clear drinks, as they can stain faces and clothes.
  • Snacks. For a 30 minute session with 3+ years old, you can skip the snacks. But I’ve found that having puffs or another simple snack on hand can be really helpful to cheer up sad babies and toddlers!
  • Jacket/Baby Blanket. If it’s early summer and clouds are moving in, it can be nice to have a jacket or small blanket for the little ones.
  • Blanket. This is completely optional! I occasionally have families who want to incorporate a blanket into their photos. If you want to use it in photos, make sure it coordinates with your outfits, is large enough for your entire family, and can be placed on the ground.
  • Kleenex/Wipes. For small ones, it’s a good idea to have a couple tissues at least stashed in a pocket somewhere.
  • Lovey. If your child(ren) have a special lovey, feel free to bring it along! Although remember that once the lovey comes out, it’s probably not going away, so you may want to leave it until the end of the session. Try to avoid brightly colored toys, unless you’re okay having them in photos.

Session Time!

You’re all prepped and ready to go! All I need now is for you to show up and be your adorable, amazing selves. I’ll tell you where to stand, where to look, and when I need you to move. I always start the session off with all the camera aware photos (aka “everyone look at the camera!”) and move on to more movement and candid photos when everyone starts to get a bit restless.

Baby in yellow dress and jean jacket holding dad's fingers while learning to walk during family photo session.

If you’re interested in a family session, you can find more information on my family session info page. Ready to book? Head to my contact page, and I’ll get you my availability!

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