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5 Steps for Planning a Family Session (and Keeping Your Work Consistent) | TKP Education

By Adrianne Shelton, Beatific Visions Photography

As family photographers, one of the biggest factors curating beautiful, consistent images is definitely all the work that goes into a session before it ever even begins. From the outside looking in, it may seem that the majority of our work time is spent either shooting or editing, but truly it is so worth it to invest time up front in order to save time on the back end of the process.

Whether you are new to family photography or a seasoned professional looking for a refresh on your workflow, we hope you’ll find some helpful takeaways here.

Before you even book your next session, get these things under your belt:

1. Find Your Style

This sounds obvious, but believe it or not, finding your style involves more than editing process. From location types, to wardrobe suggestions, posing styles and beyond, really analyze images that you love (yours or other’s) and see what they have in common. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you enjoy sprawling landscapes, in-home sessions, interesting architecture, or a studio environment?

Do you prefer a more modern wardrobe, more casual, more romantic, classic, or something else?

Do you like to guide your clients through stationary poses or have a more interactive session full of movement or emotion?

Take some time on this step and keep those answers for yourself to refer back to.

2. Scout Locations and Make a List

Your time is valuable (never forget this!), and it’s important to go ahead and determine how far you are willing to travel for a session. Having this parameter makes decisions so much easier when responding to an inquiry. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s definitely something you’ll want to consider in advance.

Once you’ve determined the areas you serve, have fun exploring! Taking your style into consideration, start looking for locations that fit your vision. Contact any private properties in advance to find out about session fees or scheduling requirements, and then find some time to visit your favorites. Map out at least 3-4 locations, grab your camera, and do a little visiting. Try to visit during the same time of day that you would schedule sessions, but if that isn’t doable then visit when you can, taking note of where the sun will rise and set, as well as any tall trees or buildings that may block the light earlier in the day.

Take your favorite locations and make a list, including everything you learned about that location. You’ll be so glad you did when you continue to find new locations and add to the list. Clients love having options laid out for them, and anything that makes the planning process easier for them is always going to be a good selling point.

3. Develop a Style Guide

If you are posting consistent images throughout your marketing venues, your clients will automatically know how to dress, right?


Keep in mind, that while you have gone through the process of really homing in on your style and what makes your images unique to you, your client hasn’t. Ultimately, it is our job to deliver consistent images to the best of our ability, and part of that process is educating your families about the elements that make up the ultimate aesthetic. Developing a style guide based on your recommendations will save you so much time in the planning process, and can really help your clients understand what types of pieces they are looking for.

Depending on where you land on wardrobe styling, it may benefit you to start a client wardrobe with form flattering pieces that are guaranteed to fit your style. Once again, the easier the process is for the client, the better the experience will be.

4. Prepare the Family

Going back to all that fun analysis you did in step one, think about where you landed on posing style. If you decided on more static posing, give them some examples ahead of time to they know what to expect. For more fluid, natural posing, let them know in advance that they can relax, and reassure them that there are no expectations set in stone.

When it comes to shooting family sessions, it’s very common for parents to stress about their children’s behavior. A note to the parents ahead of time about how to act toward the kids can go a long way in helping them relax. Advise them to talk about how fun the session will be in the car ride over to the location. Kids want to have fun, and they will inevitably get bored at some point, so remind mom and dad that it’s natural and totally okay to give them breaks and let them explore. Kindly discourage parents well ahead of time not to make threats of punishment related to having their pictures taken, as it rarely turns out well. Depending on their parenting style, rewarding children for good behavior during a session usually has a better outcome overall for parents willing to make an ice cream trip on the way home.

5. Schedule Session Times Based on Lighting

Another huge key to consistency in good lighting. There’s a reason photographers flock to locations at “golden hour,” and it is so worth it. For outdoor sessions, the times within an hour and a half of sunrise or sunset are going to give the best warm glow, given that the sky is clear. For indoor sessions when you plan to use natural light, mid-day sun will give nice even window light. We all want to accommodate our clients with times that work for them, but keep in mind the quality of your natural light and advise them why lighting is important ahead of time.

All this planning may seem like a lot of work up front, but trust us when we say that it will save you time, stress, and headache in the future. Knowing what to look for and be aware of will not only make your life easier, but will give your clients a better, more professional experience that keeps them coming back year after year,

So you’ve received an inquiry, rocked the initial sale, and you’re ready to schedule a family session with a new client- go create with confidence!

Have more questions about session planning? Feel free to reach out to Adrianne here!



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