When you hire a professional family photographer, you’re hoping to capture beautiful family photos, but it’s about more than having images to share on your walls or in a holiday card – you’re looking for a way to document who your family is at this specific moment in time. Because tomorrow brings another phase, new milestones, and fresh challenges.

Change is good, of course, but you want a way to remember this very moment, and a session with a family photographer is your best attempt at freezing time. Professional family photography will capture the physical details, of course – the snaggletooth grin on your first grader or your toddler’s yet-to-be cut shaggy curls – but great family photos also document the subtleties – the adoring way your youngest looks at her older sisters or the gentle touch of your son with his newborn brother.

But how do you ensure your session with a professional family photographer will result in family photos that achieve these big goals? It can be tough to describe exactly what makes a great family photo, but I’ve broken it down into these 6 elements or attributes for you to aspire to (or at least, keep in mind) during your session with a family photographer.

  1. Great family photos are well-coordinated. Everything from the wardrobe (that’s on you) to the location (that’s typically on the professional photographer), should be thought out and planned for ahead of time. This eliminates surprises and increases the odds of getting the family photos you want.
  2. They aren’t fake. Of course you want the images to show the best version of your family – you want clothes to coordinate, hair to be combed, and faces clean. But you should still look like you. Professional family photos should showcase your family in a natural – if slightly elevated – state.
  3. They are full of personality. What do I mean by that? It’s a flash or glint in the eye of your child, a mischievous smile, or a big, belly laugh. It’s a messy curl, an impromptu dance move, or even a great big pout from a tired kid near the end of the session. Family photos that have personality are tough to plan for, however, a fun location and a photographer who is not afraid to be silly with her subjects can certainly help!
  4. They show interactions. As I alluded to in the intro, great family photos capture more than the physical attributes of your family – they hint at the relationships. It’s a sideways glance at a sibling, an adoring look at mom, or a sweet kiss between sisters. Maybe it’s the way your hand unintentionally finds his in nearly every shot, or it’s a candid moment of him doing his best to make the kids giggle. These subtle interactions shine through in the best family photos.
  5. The composition is interesting. You may not immediately (or, at all) notice the composition of your photos, but inevitably, the photos with the best technical compositions are selected as favorites time and time again. Composition refers to the arrangement of visual elements (other than the subject) within the shot. I talk a little more about it in my post on photos that take your breath away, and it’s a topic I plan to cover more here so stay tuned!
  6. The light. Like composition, the way the light impacts a photo may not be immediately obvious, especially to the untrained eye, but gorgeous lighting can significantly impact how you feel about the photo. For me, there is just nothing like photos taken at that golden hour near sunset. Almost all of my favorite images are shot at this time, in a very specific type of light. It’s not always possible to get littles to cooperate at this time of day (also known as the witching hour!) but when a family can make this timeslot work, the images are typically gorgeous.

Of course, it’s not possible to control for each one of these elements, but do keep them in mind as you plan your session with a family photographer, and again, when you review the proofs of your family photos. I’ll bet that the images you love the most check some, if not all, of the boxes on this list.

But what other elements of great family photos am I missing? What do you think makes for great family photos?

Hop over to Facebook to join the conversation.

About the Family Photographer

Jennifer McCarren of Freckled Flower Photography specializes in newborn, child photography and family photography in North Atlanta, Georgia locations such as AlpharettaMiltonRoswell, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta and Canton.

Freckled Flower Photography is a proud member of  Professional Photographers of America.

Freckled Flower Photography has been featured more than once on Beyond the WanderlustMozi MagazineInspire- Digital or Not Fine Art Photography MagazinePhoto ArtistryPretty Forum and many others. I’ve also been published in CHIC Critique Magazine: The Vintage Issue, Young Kids Fashion Magazine and Petite Magnifique Magazine.

Contact me here to request more information about an Atlanta photography session, or you can follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, where I announce special offers and share my favorite images from recent photo sessions. I’d love to send you my newsletter as well – scroll up to enter your email address on the left.

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