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4 Easy Ways to Take Natural Family Photos


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It’s that time of year again where families are wanting to get their family pictures taken. Most families want a traditional photo, but most also want natural photos that speak more to them.

We have a family photo that is very outdated – everyone is dressed in their ridiculous “portrait” outfits. I am so young that I am sitting on my mother’s lap. Everyone around me is smiling their toothy grin except me – I have my hand raised in a fist and I am growling at the camera. And guess what? That is the photo that we have hanging up – not the stiff, traditional portrait taken that same day. It’s funny, unexpected, and real, and it feels more personal.

Here are some tips and tricks to capture natural family pictures that your customers will love and cherish for many years to come.

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The first step in getting natural family photos is to get to know the family, which brings me to…

1. Get to know the family… The questionnaire.

People tend to be more comfortable and relaxed around those they know.  While it may not be realistic to become best friends with the family you’re about to photograph, consider sending them a questionnaire.

It could have simple questions like: “what is your families’ favorite activity?” or “what is your families’ favorite snack?”  Simple, easy questions will help you get a handle on what kind of family they are and will give you things to talk about during the actual shoot. Bonus! They will be super impressed when you start asking them about their favorite football team or other personal information you learned from the answers.

Bring their favorite snack to the session, if it is easy to make and transport – double bonus!

Also, make sure you have a really good “About Me” section on your website. It goes both ways- the family wants to get to know you too! Once you have a little background knowledge about the family and they have some too, you are one step closer to getting natural family photos.

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2. Educate the mom (or dad) who arranges the photo shoot.

The mom (or maybe the dad) is super excited for this photo shoot. Good! But let the parents know ahead of time, in a nice way, what you expect of them and the kids.

Parents often like to tell their kids to “say cheese” a lot. While this may work for a couple posed shots, it doesn’t work if you want to get those natural, fun loving pictures. Once a kid “says cheese”, any emotion they had instantly leaves their eyes and you’re left with a dull, stale look. If the kid is doing something really cute, like picking flowers or something, make sure the parents sit back and let them. You want those cute innocent moments too. Ahead of time you could say something simple like “Hey, so if the kids aren’t smiling for the camera the whole time, that’s okay!” or “Can you help me get the kids to smile for a couple pictures? Then they can just have fun after that!”

Here is an example of a candid moment of a little girl smelling some flowers- this beautiful shot might not exist if someone said: “Okay, now stop and say cheese!”

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This is a great father and son photo of letting them have fun and chase each other around. Don’t be afraid to say some easy commands like: “chase each other, tickle each other, kiss your sister, etc”

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3. Let the kids be themselves.

Most kids don’t want to be taking pictures in the first place. It’s worse when someone keeps telling them to stop and smile the whole time. Let the kids be themselves. Don’t force them to be someone they aren’t.

If they want to run around (and if it’s okay with the parents), just let them. Just get some pictures of them running and being kids. If they are making a funny expression don’t wait until they’ve stopped – snap a picture. I bet you when the family gets the pictures they will love them saying over and over again” You captured their personality.”

Tip: Try to get the serious pictures early on in the photo shoot. While some photographers may say different, I’ve found that once the kids warm up to you they are crazy and running around everywhere- it’s pretty much impossible to get the traditional ones after that.

 Here is an example of letting this adorable boy do his own facial expressions.

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This girl was playing with a flower. Instead of taking it away I just asked her to look up at me- and bam! Look at that beauty.

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4. “I think we’re done now.”

You, the photographer, are in charge of the photo shoot. You have the power to end the photo shoot,which could be the greatest asset. If they’re paying for a certain time, obviously you would fulfill it. But if you know you have great pictures and the parents are stressed and the kids are exhausted…don’t be afraid to say “We’re done now.” Some parents might not do anything until they wait for you to end it, and some may make their kids smile for hours and hours when you can tell they’re obviously done.

Make sure to end the photo shoot on a good, light note! Let the parents leave feeling happy, not stressed, and they will refer you to all their friends!

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In summary, remember to get to know the family, educate mom, let the kids be themselves, and be in charge of the photo shoot! If you use all 4 of these tips you will produce images the family will love forever!

Hello, my name is Carolyn. I photograph families, kids, and high school seniors in midwest Iowa. To see more of my families check out my website: To see my updates on Facebook go here:



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