HDYDI: Family Photography 101

I’ve had so many questions about photography lately, namely, “Where do I find a photographer and what the heck do I wear?” I reached out to my sweet friend and A-mazing photographer Shannon. I’m so honored to have her here – she shares my love for sarcasm, Aggie football and great wine. Feel free to ask her questions in the comments below. She’s ready! Take it away, Shannon.


I was asked by your favorite blogger and mine, to write up a post on Family Photography 101. I’ll let you know now, that I LOVE photos of cute families, so there will be many in this post. Turn away now if you have an aversion to adorableness.

I believe that professional portraits of your family are one of the best gifts you can give yourself. I know you’re thinking “of course you would say that, it’s your job’, but it is the absolute truth. Any of you with children already know that kiddos go from squishy newborn to walking to talking to running and going to Kindergarten in a BLINK. I understand that it is an investment, but it’s one that you won’t have regrets making.

Documenting your family as it is RIGHT NOW is a wonderful thing to do at least once a year. You’ll be amazed at what happens in the span of just one year. I’ve been photographing the Whitakers for several years and just look at how they’ve changed.

Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com

One of the biggest stressors for families (i.e. Moms) after they book a session is ‘WHAT DO WE WEAR?! First, I’d like you to take a deep breath. Looking great for your photos is important, but it shouldn’t bring you to tears. I always tell people to ‘coordinate, but don’t match’. The days of wearing white shirts and khakis are OVER people. Many families will choose a color palette – such as navy and brown or red black and gray and then work from there. You also want to consider the location that we’ve chosen. I am a big fan of a cocktail dress and ruffles and bow ties in a field, BUT if you are boots and jeans people, by all means, go with that. The most important thing is that everyone feels great. You want to be yourselves, but bumped up a notch.

As a Mama myself, I also want to let you know that it’s OK for you to worry about how you look too. Wear those amazing high heels, a blingly necklace or an amazing scarf. Get a manicure. Have your makeup done. It’s my job to make you look good, but I REALLY want you to feel good when you show up for the shoot. That’s truly the key to wonderful photos. Oh and you weren’t planning on being in the photos because of those last 5 pounds, nothing to wear, baby weight, a zit on your chin? I recommend you jump in the photo with your babies anyway. Twenty five years from now, you’ll be glad you did. As a child did you EVER think your mom and dad looked awful? Nope.

Here are some GREAT family inspirations for you. You can also find tons of inspiration on the web. I have a Pinterest board called ‘Clients You Should Wear This’. There are a lot of engagement and family inspirations there.

French Country

What to wear for a family portrait session www.photofrolic.com


What to wear for a family portrait session www.photofrolic.com



All about the shoes

Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com


What to wear for a family portrait by Austin family photographer www.photofrolic.com

The other big choice you have is photographic style. I am a fan of what you might consider a traditional portrait (everyone looking at the camera at a pretty or cool or funky background), but I also love a more lifestyle/documentary format (We are all making cookies in the kitchen!). You have a million wonderful choices when it comes to style and what you like should guide you to a photographer.  Check out some blogs and pinterest to give you some ideas.

I am a natural light, on location photographer. I love a field or a backlit window or a funky wall in downtown or your newborn’s nursery. Other photographers can offer you a more ‘studio’ approach or a really abstract approach. Let your instincts guide you when you are choosing a photographer and even if you think you just want a traditional portrait, don’t be afraid to let your photographer be an artist. Sometimes, you don’t know what you like until you see it. This photo is a huge canvas in one of my client’s homes. It reads as art, but is also most definitely of her three girls. Oh! On a related note – print out your photos! Photos are not meant to live on your computer.


Here are some other images to get you thinking.

Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com

Next…locations! I always ask clients what style they are going for and then suggest some locations. Do you want something rustic? Or more funky and urban? At your home? Is there is a place in town that is special to you? Do you like ice cream? Let’s get ice cream! A lot of your style decisions will impact your location choice. Don’t be afraid to try something daring!! One of my favorite photo sessions EVER was at the fair. We rode rides and ate cotton candy. You’ll see the photo below. It doesn’t have to be a pretty green space (although those are great). We are very lucky in Austin to have TONS of cool shooting locations. Your house can be a great source of beautiful photos as well.

Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com

Finally, preparing for your session. You’ve chosen your photographer, your outfits, your location and are ready to have some fun! How do you prepare your children? Kathryn will disagree slightly with me on this (and I will expand in a moment), but I believe in not bribing your kids with “If you are good then we will ….” It makes it seem like the photo session is something that is to be dreaded and survived. If you have young kids, tell them that a crazy fun lady is going to come to play with them and take some photos. Or make a day of it and shoot photos and then go out for brunch or dinner as a family somewhere great afterwards. This is Kathryn’s approach. “After we take photos with Miss Shannon, we’ll go get ice cream!” It’s less of a bribe and more of a continuation of the fun! It doesn’t have to be painful! {for a minute there, I thought Shannon might be throwing me under the bus, but yes, we call it ‘rewards for good choices’}

Mostly, I encourage you to not set up the photo session as something to be feared.  It CAN be fun and should be! Knowing your child is key as well. Do you have a wiggle worm? Then don’t make him sit nicely for 45 minutes – it will end with tears and yelling. My job is to capture YOUR child, not some mythical perfect child. Let’s go to the park, get some great action shots and then grab a few beautiful portraits. You’ll see sweet Rosa below. She constantly has her fingers in her mouth. Instead of fighting it, we captured it. She won’t do that forever. You know your kid best – let your photographer know what works for your family.

Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com Austin Family Photographer www.photofrolic.com

Finally, don’t stress – your kids will feel it and it will worry them. Have as much fun as you can and don’t worry about how the session is going half way through. With little people, a meltdown is inevitable sometimes. A professional photographer will handle it and has seen it all before. To make you feel better, here is a photo from when my child was three and we were trying to capture some golden light. Yeah….not happening. That bit of blue is her writhing around on the ground. It happens to all of us is what I’m saying.


Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any other questions! I’ll try to answer them in the comments.

I’m Shannon Cunningham and I’m the owner and principal photographer at Shannon Cunningham Photography (wedding photography) and Photo Frolic (family photography). I’m an Aggie, a business owner, a lover of red wine, a sorority sister of Kathryn’s, a wife and a Mama. I’ve been photographing weddings and portraits for almost 8 years now. I never tire of the emotion and love I get to see on a daily basis. You can find me at my websites, on Twitter at @scphoto, on Pinterest and on Facebook  HERE and HERE.

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  1. Scott on January 28, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Great post Shannon! Y’all, hire her…she is the greatest!

  2. Bea on January 29, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Agree with capturing who they are. My middle one sucked those same two fingers. It’s documented in every.single.photo. And now she looks at them and says it was before she was all growned up when those were taken. Don’t ever want to forget that!

  3. Antonia Garcia on January 31, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Ahh! I just have to say I love the picture when Luke was 1!! OMG! Its adorable!!, Great tips!

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