9 Tips for your First Family Photo shoot

Would you like to get some great pictures of your family? Are you interested in learning more about professional family photo shoots? Do you want some insider tips before you book a photographer? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then read all about our first experiences with a professional photographer in the Philippines.

Do I really need a professional family photo shoot?

In these days of amazing cell phone cameras, many people think they don’t need to hire a professional photographer. However, many families always have the same person missing in their photo albums: the family member who likes taking photographs. Cellphone selfies and self-timed SLR camera on a tripod help solve the problem, but are far inferior to the results of three hours with an experienced photographer.

A lot of families might hesitate due to cost, but it’s surprisingly affordable across Asia. For our first professional shoot, we contacted a photographer a few weeks before our visit to Davao, Southern Philippines. A friend had recommended Raphael Banta, an experienced destination photographer from the city. He quoted just over US$100 for a morning shoot, which included two photographers. We hired him immediately and felt very happy at the prospect of priceless memories at such a cheap price. The same short of photo shoot in Europe might cost US$500 or more.

Overall our first shoot was an incredible experience. The photographers were extremely patient, professional, full of ideas, and easy to work with. We loved some of the final shots and turned the highlights into an Apple photo book. We framed the best two images and they remain on our wall. However, we felt a sense of disappointment too. We had made a few simple mistakes before the shoot. I brought no change of shirt and noticeably sweated. Also, I wore the wrong colour socks and my hair sucked, while my wife felt her make up and first outfit were a disaster. Our son’s wardrobe was hardly the best either. This meant some of the images were not nearly as good as they could have been. In conclusion, we would definitely recommend hiring a photographer. It’s a lot of fun and you get great pictures, but it’s worth being more prepared than us.

Our Tips

Below is a simple list of nine tips we picked up from the experience of our first shoot. Consider each one before you hire a photographer and book your first shoot. 

1. Book and meet your photographer

Check the portfolio of prospective photographers online or get recommendations from friends and select one accordingly. Try to meet your photographer ahead of time or at least call or email him/her with your expectations. It’s also worth asking the photographer for advice about clothing, accessories, makeup, location and timing. 

2. Choose your wardrobe carefully.

Remember if your clothes don’t look good, the photographs won’t be good either. Try to match the style and colours of your clothes with each other. Slightly more formal clothes (buttoned shirts for men, dresses for women) probably look better. Choose fabrics and colours which are cool and won’t show your sweat, especially if you’re having a shoot in a hot country. Take a few test shots with your cellphone of a few flattering options to help you choose your final clothes. 

3. Watch your posture

Stand up straight, be natural and loose. Hands in your pockets rather than letting them hang down. Try not to slouch or lean. High heels are a good way of balancing out height differences between husband and wife. They also automatically improve a woman’s posture, but only wear heels if you’re comfortable in doing so.

4. Consider professional hair & makeup

Professional pictures look so much better with professional hair & make up (H&MU). If you’re not a H&MU expert, it might be a good idea to hire a make up artist (US$30-US$40 in Asia). Whether you do your own H&MU or hire an expert, you should have a test run and take some pictures to check your look. 

5. Use accessories and props

Accessories and props make pictures better in a variety of ways. A woman holding a stylish bag helps her to look natural. Luggage on a railway station sets the scene. Subtle jewelry enhances beauty. Choose appropriate props and accessories to achieve the look you’re going for. 

6. Location, location, location

Are you looking for close-up portraits or more destination-style pictures? A mixture of both types is probably the best idea. You’ll need some shade to get more flattering close-up portraits. If you want iconic backdrops, then find the locations the day before. Be prepared to move around by taxi if you want multiple backdrops and destination-style shots.

7. Get the timing right

Usually photographers prefer early morning and late afternoon to capture the most flattering shots. However, an angry baby or young child never looks good in a picture, so try to pick their best time of day too. 

8. Make it fun

Kids find extended photo shoots boring so make it fun and engaging for them. As a result, you’ll all be smiling naturally and happy. A good family photographer can capture brilliant photographs of you all playing games, talking, running around or even exploring a city. Use your imagination, search for ideas on Pinterest, and ask your children for suggestions too. And if your child seems a bit fed up, let him or her take a break and pretend you’re on a pre-nuptial shoot instead. You might just get some awesome couple shots thrown in for free!

9. Set your expectations

Don’t expect the photographer to take hundreds of amazing images. A few classic shots are enough to find one for a frame and half a dozen for instagram. Find out what you’re getting for your money. Some might just edit twelve images and send them online, others will provide all the shots unedited, while a few offer complex packages including photo books and printing. 

Best images from our Philippine photo shoot



  1. Hahaha, Omg! Yes, I wonder if my son can still manage to have this photo shoot! Great photos and I love all the detailed tips! Thanks for sharing it will be helpful for us especially we never tried to have a family picture as my son doesn't like his picture taken!

    1. Thanks so much for reading the post. Try to offer your son something in return for his cooperation - even he’ll appreciate the results of a family shoot in the years ahead.

  2. I really appreciate your efforts. You publish good details about Photography Studio Melbourne topic. I really want content like this to increase my knowledge and you provided this. Thank you so much.


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