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What Do I Wear to my Family Portrait Session?

What Do I wear to my Family Portrait Session, a simple guide by Kate Mclean Photography


Of all the questions I get asked, “What Do I Wear to My Family Portrait Session?” is by far the most common – and for good reason. How you and your family dress can seriously change the outcome of your session. It’s hard to get a large family together; It’s even harder to get them together, well dressed/coordinated and on time.  I have realized there are a few very simple rules to follow that can greatly improve your family’s portrait session style. These rules are very simple to follow, and they result in great photos that will reflect your personal style. My many years of experience in family photography – both big and small families – has helped me to tailor these rules down to the most simple version. I know people don’t have stylists on call, or time to go and shop for outfits for an entire family. Sometimes the families I photograph are upwards of 30 people – and even with a group that big, these rules still work and give everyone the ability to show off their personal style while still coordinating and creating a great final result.

Start by One person picking out a Print to wear.

The print can be a floral, plaid– anything. The more colors in the print the better. For larger groups, I recommend the print be on someone who will be in the center of the photo (usually grandma or grandpa) and for smaller groups I recommend the print be on a little kid. With that being said – the print really can be on anyone in the photo but it is very important that only 1 person be wearing a print pattern. Multiple prints can create a very busy photo that is distracting to the eye and the prints can clash creating a final outcome that is hard to look at. What usually happens with my sessions is the person who contacts me about the shoot wears the print because it involves going to buy a new outfit. This first step is crucial to the way everyone else dresses.

Everyone else draw on colors from that print for their own outfits.

This is where everything comes together. Everyone else in the family can use that one main print to pick out their own colors in their clothes. This allows everyone to have some freedom to express their own individual personalities while still coordinating. This prevents from having everyone matching identically which always results in people looking like a big blob of color. An easy way to do this is just to send a photo of the print you pick to the rest of the family and let them do their own thing! There are a few more rules to follow, but they are very simple.


What do I wear to my family portrait sessionPin

Photo taken at Disney’s Beach Club Resort in Orlando Florida 




Avoid large logos, words, or characters on clothing.

This goes for EVERYONE. The reason for this rule is large logos, words and characters and quickly date an image. It’s hard to make the time to get a family portrait taken, you want that image to last as LONG as it can without becoming dated! Classic is always best – and a big picture of Elmo or some trendy phrase is going to go out of style in 10 minutes. Keep it simple and classic. Now if you’re going for a Disney theme – disregard this! There is always a place for Mickey and Goofy when we are doing photos at Disney properties. But otherwise, words and logos are a big No-no!


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Disney’s Beach Club Resort Orlando 



Shoes matter.

If you don’t usually wear heels, don’t wear stilettos. Consider the environment you will be in and wear appropriate footwear. I have been at many many sessions where people are cranky because of their shoes – including little kids! So consider the environment you will be in, how comfortable your family will be in their shoes, and what the shoes look like. This little detail may not seem huge – but it can seriously effect the expressions on people’s faces during your shoot – which is really more important then anything else anyway! You don’t want to be sinking in grass or sand at your shoot. Also, sometimes people take their shoes completely off for a few shots – so that is also something to consider! I advise people to wear shoes they are comfortable walking in for an hour but also ones that look great with your outfit! And don’t forget to monitor what the boys are wearing – more often then not they are the ones to wear shoes that don’t match their outfits!


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Photo taken at Leu Gardens in Orlando Florida



Coordinate – don’t MATCH perfectly.

These simple rules are all designed to make sure you don’t perfectly match. Family photos where everyone wears the same exact outfit is a very dated – and it sucks the personality right out of a photo! Letting everyone in the family pick their own clothes means they are going to be comfortable and confident during the session which makes for better facial expressions and a relaxed environment. The best way to go about it is to pick out that initial print and send a photo of it to everyone in the family — letting them know that is the color scheme to stay within. The results are always a fun and fluid style that lets everyone be themselves. Plus it’s so much easier then trying to track down the same exact colors for everyone!


When in doubt – Ask!

If you’re really not sure about any of this — ask! I have people send me photos of outfits while they are shopping all the time! Or if you’re not comfortable utilizing my knowledge on the subject, ask a friend who has great style. They’ll take it as a huge compliment and probably give you outstanding advice on the topic.


What do I wear to my family portrait sessionPin

Photo taken at JW Marriott, Orlando Florida 


Extra resources:

If you’re like me, you probably need some visuals to help you get an idea of what you want. I put together some Pinterest boards of really great family photoshoot stylings to inspire you to style your family just the right way! You can find those links below.



Cheers — and Happy styling!



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  • April 23, 2019 - 1:31 pm

    Family Photography at JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes » Kate Mclean Photography - […] If you’re looking to do a Family Photography session with a large family – take notes off of this one on how to dress! Everyone is dressed nicely without matching perfectly – also their styles are indicative of the time of year; spring! I love the mixture of pastels and whites without too much of any one color. This if you’d like to know more tips about how to dress for a large family shoot, check out my last blog How to Dress for Your Photoshoot. […]ReplyCancel

Family Photography at Margaritaville Resort Orlando

Family Photography at Margaritaville Resort Orlando by Kate McLean Photography

Family Photography is always fun – but when you add a location like Jimmy Buffet’s new Margaritaville Resort Orlando it adds a certain charm! Family vacations to Orlando Florida are undoubtedly fun, but being a Central Florida location means families miss out on the beach. This brand new Orlando Resort includes timeshares, darling cottages packed with all the charm of Key West and a unmistakeable beach vibe my clients are always looking for on their family vacation to Orlando. The property provided a perfectly Floridian backdrop for our Family Photography Session.

My favorite part about this new location wasn’t just the fun colors of the cottages, but the brand new lobby was a great photo backdrop plus it had the all important AIR CONDITIONING which this fun family appreciated just as much as I did. We had perfect weather for the shoot – which means lots of hot Florida sunshine. This fun family and I had fun walking through the lobby finding the many cute signs and fun Florida decor for an extra touch special family photography touch on the shoot. The property’s cottages are still very much under construction, but that did not impede our shoot in the slightest.

One of my favorite parts of this shoot was the special relationship Mom and daughter had – they just lit up anytime I had them both in front of lens, making for some really special moments among the palm trees. The kids had fun picking from the variety of brightly beach-colored cottages for backdrops for their individual photographs. Between that and the perfectly manicured property, it was a perfect beach Floridian vibe for our Family Photography shoot! I hope they look back at these photographs from this Family Vacation in Orlando for years to come with fond memories of the times spent together!




To book your Photography Session today contact 

See my Portfolio here 


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How do I Choose a Family Photographer?

When it comes to choosing a family photographer, there are some basic questions you need to ask yourself to make sure you’re spending your hard earned money the right way. This very simple guide will help to answer the question of How do I choose a family photographer? I’ve put together 5 basic questions to ask yourself when looking for a photographer. Photography, much like any art form, is very subjective. What makes a good photograph? My answer might be completely different then yours. Luckily, we live in a world where research is very possible and answering these 5 questions can ultimately help to choose a family photographer and is a good place to start the process.


Do I Love the Photographer’s Style?

The first step to answering How do I choose a family photographer is falling in love with the photographer’s images. This is absolutely the most important thing when picking out a photographer! There are a million ways to photograph the same thing – and when you’re looking at booking a family photographer, chances are there are photos that stand out to you. Personal style is everything in who you choose. If you’re just kind of in love with a few different styles, a good way to narrow down your choices is to consider where and how you’re going to display your images. Do they match your decor? Are you trendy or traditional? Do you like candid images or posed? When you choose a family photographer, if you truly love the photographer’s style then you won’t be disappointed with the images at the end. At the end of the day, photographers are artists – and art is very subjective. There is no wrong answer, there is only the wrong choice of artist. Know your style and choose someone who has images that you just love uncontrollably.


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What is my Budget?

This one is a biggie when answering the question of “How do I choose a family photographer.” Are you looking for a cheap, quick and easy process where you only need 1 or 2 good images or do you really value the images that the amount of money you spend is less important? The easiest way to narrow down your list of family photographers is to set a budget. This being said, it’s important to understand that in the photography industry, you get what you pay for.  Our pricing is usually based on experience and a professional photographer comes with a professional price tag. Additionally, professionals use price as a way to attract clients who truly value photography. I would rather work with someone willing to communicate and put the time, effort and money into achieving a great set of images then someone who is just bargain hunting. If you’re looking for a cheap and quick photo, consider using a new and budding photographer who is trying to build their portfolio or a set portrait service in a department store studio. If you really do value photography but are low on funds a cheap option is to look for mini-session specials from the photographers you really love. These are usually quick 10-20 minute sessions in a set location that include only a few digital files and photographers of all levels usually do sales on this kind of session at least once a year.



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What Does the Service Include?

This one is a bit harder to understand from a client’s perspective. Understanding the question of “How do I choose a family photographer” means also understanding the difference in the services they offer. The photography industry does not have one set way to do things when it comes to charging for things and it can vary wildly from photographer to photographer. When I was starting my business, even I had a hard time understanding the pricing structure of photography packages (which is why I opted to keep it simple and just treat my clients the way I would expect to be treated). Some photographers charge a sitting fee, require you buy a certain number of prints, then charge a premium for digital downloads. Sometimes editing is not included in the price. Some photographers don’t offer products at all and only deliver digital downloads. There are fees for travel outside of specific areas, outfit changes, multiple locations, weekend shoots and there are usually ALWAYS fees for larger families. Understanding what EXACTLY is included in the fee listed on their website is extremely important to understanding what you are choosing. If digital downloads are important to you, make sure you ask your prospective family photographer if that is part of what you’re paying for. If you are ever unsure about what to expect, always ask – and get the answer in writing so you can refer back to it during the process.



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Do I Communicate well with this Person?

This one is way more important then you might initially think. Portrait and family photography is a collaborative effort. In other words, it takes two to tango! Even a quiet introverted photographer has a communication style. If you’re choosing a family photographer it is important you understand them and they understand you. Essentially you need to vibe with them on a basic level. Simply taking the time to email or talk on the phone is usually enough to have a basic understanding of their ability to communicate with you. If you find yourself having to decode their communication style, or asking them to clarify what they mean multiple times – you might not be a good fit. If you get a photographer who is annoying to you for whatever reason, it will show in the photos. For years to come, you will look at the images you got from the photography session and all you will remember is how annoyed you were with the photographer. So take the time to communicate and get on the same page. It’s free to do, and can save you tons in frustration!


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Does this Photographer come highly recommended?

How do I choose a family photographer? Ask everyone else how they did with theirs! One of the best ways to find a great photographer is by asking someone who has great family photos already! Word of mouth is a great place to start to find your family photographer. If you don’t have anyone to directly refer you, go ahead and reference reviews during your research to see if people had a pleasant experience with this family photographer. ***When you’re looking at reviews it’s important to understand that there are some truly great photographers out there who don’t have a huge pile of reviews merely because they aren’t asking clients to write reviews, so take this one with a grain of salt!*** With that being said, it should absolutely send up a red flag if the photographer has multiple awful reviews written about them – and I’m talking about more then just one or two. I’m talking about loads of reviews saying the same thing over and over about the service provided. We live in a world where people who receive bad service feel compelled to take to the internet and tell the world as a way of preventing other consumers from going through the same pain. So, keep an eye out for this warning sign and if you come across someone who has lots of people saying they had a bad experience or felt swindled. This can be a big problem with those photographers who have a price that seems too good to be true. Heed the warning and move on to someone who has a better stamp of approval.


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Hopefully this post has helped you answer the question of How do I choose a family photographer. Still want to learn more about choosing a family photographer for your shoot? Here is another great blog about choosing the right photographer which covers some of the same tips as well as additional information on the topic. I love to include other people’s writing on the same topic just because I myself am kind of a research addict for big purchases! Remember, Proper prior planning is everything and research is where it all starts!

How to Choose Your Family Photographer


Happy researching!




Here is a link to my family photography portfolio if you’d like to take a peek!




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How to Display Your Photos

This is a quick, easy and CHEAP guide to displaying your photos. It’s long over due that I talk about how to display your photos. I talk about how to get the most out of your time in front of the lens – but I never seem to discuss what happens after the session is over and you get your photos, which is easily the most important part of the whole process. First and foremost it is totally and completely imperative that you PRINT OUT YOUR PHOTOS. It is so heartbreaking to hear the stories from people about how they lost their beloved memories to a hard drive crash or a malfunctioning disc or USB drive. This happens all the time to people! I know because I hear about it. Do yourself a favor and make a hard copy of all those photos that are important to you – don’t trust Facebook or instagram to keep them for you, because you never know. Not to mention there is something so much more touching about having a tangible photograph then just looking at a screen. I could not imagine going to my grandmothers and flipping through a Facebook photo album to see old photos of my family growing up and making memories. It just would not be as real.


1. Invest in simple frames WITH white matte and skip the canvas prints! 

My first tip for how to display your photos is to invest in a set of nice matching frames with white matte board framing the image. A white matte on a photo turns it from a snap shot into a piece of art.  It’s a totally classic way to frame a photo – meaning it’s never going to go out of style. I personally really hate the look of photos printed onto canvas. I know, I know, this is like everyone’s favorite thing for the past few years – but to me it’s just a fad that is going to look very dated in the future. Although canvas prints are a big money maker in my industry, I always try to talk clients out of buying them. I make less money off selling prints over canvas, but I honestly believe a print is just a better investment in your imagery. Your money would be better spent on a beautiful frame and nice matte that will never go out of style. Additionally, the print in a frame can be replaced while a canvas print is something you cannot ever change.

The other reason I love the look of a white matte on a photo in a frame is because it maximizes the size of the image. You can easily turn a 5 x 7 print into an 8 x 10 by adding a white matte – meaning it takes up more space on your wall, making it look that much more important. And again, it’s just a big money saver. The bigger the print, the more it’s going to cost, so if you spend less money on a smaller print, you can put more into the frame or buy more prints.

Below is my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. It was in Tel Aviv on the Port of Jaffa in Israel early in the morning. I walked up as the sun was rising to see an old man fishing off the port and a small cat curled up waiting for a snack. Putting this photo into a frame like this makes it feel more important and causes people to stop and really look at it. I have 9 frames just like this one, which I bought from Target for a very reasonable price. I have them hanging in a 3 x 3 square on the wall and they are from my travels all over the world.

Frame available at Target here.



2. Magnets on the Fridge

This tradition came from two different experiences: growing up my Mom collected magnets from where ever we traveled, so naturally I continued the tradition. Anytime I go anywhere, I buy a kitschy little souvenir magnet and proudly stick it on my fridge. The second reason I started putting my photos on my fridge was because one time I was at a friend’s house and she was telling me all these stories about people I had never met and didn’t know. She would just point to the person in the photos that were covering her refrigerator. It was like a little reference book of her friends – and I just fell in love with the idea. I constantly take polaroids of my friends (as you can see in the photo below) and they make the perfect little images to display on my fridge!

As a photographer, I take it as the ultimate compliment when someone sticks a photo I took on their fridge. I think it’s because I know that they’re going to look at that image every single day. It will be a reference for stories they tell family and friends. To me, it totally fills me with joy to see not only my travels proudly displayed with my magnet collection, but also the faces and memories that I will forever cherish. It makes me grateful every time I open my fridge.

Photos taken with I-type Film on a Polaroid One-Step 2 


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3. A Simple Store-Bought Photo Album you Love

I have been taking photos for as long as I can remember – and I didn’t start with a big fancy camera. I started with box cameras when I was in middle and elementary school! Being the nostalgia addict that I am I kept every. single. photo. I think the best way to display these kind of silly photos is with a big photo album where you can just slide the photos into the pages. Find one you think is cute that matches your decor and buy it! They are not very expensive, and if you keep it out on a coffee table or on a book shelf, you’ll be surprised how many of your guests pick it up to look through it — and don’t leave out the embarrassing photos!! It’s like watching someone’s “Behind the Music.” We want to see it all, even the weird phases. It’s all part of your story and memories and we all had those awkward years (See images below for a glimpse at mine!) Not only will a photo album like this one help you to display your old photos from way-back-when, it will also serve as a way to protect the photos. If you leave them out and exposed to light, they begin to fade. So images that came from a box camera 10 years ago are totally irreplaceable (unless you are some sort of super human that also kept the negatives) it’s a good idea to keep them behind plastic and in the dark.

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4. Professionally Designed Photo Album

While I’m a big fan of the easy and cheap ways to display photos, there is a time and place to spend some money – and that is on professional photo albums for big moments! These serve the same purpose as the album above – they invite people to look at them and keep photos safe – but they also are professionally curated to tell your specific story to future generations of your family. Most photographers are photographing your event with a story and layout in mind. We want to tell your unique story from the perspective of a fly on the wall – and we aren’t doing it so that the photos will live in a Facebook Album forever! We are designing your album as we are taking the photos. Good times to invest in a professional photo album are your wedding day, like the one below or a child’s first year (from birth photos to first birthday) a family vacation, or a “Day in the Life” session makes a great photo album because as your kids grow they’ll be able to look back and see what a day in their life was like at that age. Professional photo albums are designed to tell a story, and the quality is far beyond anything you can order yourself. NO, SHUTTERFLY BOOKS AREN’T LIKE THE ONES WE MAKE FOR YOU. The pages are big and thick, and the album as weight to it. Essentially it says to future generations : this was important. It’s not the cheapest thing in the world, but it’s an investment that will tell your story long after you cannot. Plus, they’re really beautiful!

Album designed by Kate McLean

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5. Black and White Prints

There is this magical thing that happens when you make an image black and white. It’s suddenly old. It’s suddenly a very specific moment in time. It’s suddenly very cinematic in nature. This is probably the easiest way to take photos you have of your family and display them. Not sure what photo to hang on what wall because you don’t know if the colors go or if it’ll look ok? Turn it black and white. Now, that photo goes with any room decor. Again, this is a totally classic way to display images. I promise you that black and white photos, especially in a nice frame with a white matte, will look stunning in any room or on a wall or on a side table. I think the most compliments I get are on the black and white photos I have around of my family like the one below. It’s just a regular snapshot of my brother and mom laughing on a couch. But it’s black and white and in a white matte, which makes people take a second to look at it. They linger on the facial expressions a little longer because it’s black and white. They appreciate the image on a different level. It brings a whole new perspective to a rather simple photo. When in doubt, go black and white!


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I hope this spelled out some of the ways you can display your favorite images and inspired you to print out some memories. I honestly believe surrounding yourself with happy memories from your life can make you a better person. It can lift your spirits on a rainy day to look up and see a happy moment from years before. So don’t be afraid to hang up all those photos! Also, If you have a special way you like to display your images – let me know! I am always looking for inspiration and I love to hear everyone’s take on this kind of thing.



To book your session go here.

ALL Sessions come with a free consult about prints and how to display them after we are done! If you want advice on what to do with your images, all you have to do is ask or email me at


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Florida Summer Photoshoot Tips

Summer in Orlando, Florida is high season for family vacations – which translates to lots of families from all over the country coming together. This creates the perfect situation for getting some fun family photos done – because everyone knows the hardest part of family photography is getting everyone in the same place at the same time! With that being said, Florida’s summers can be absolutely brutal when it comes to the weather. As a life-long Florida native, the summer weather is just a part of life and business for me and I have learned a few tips I thought I should share with anyone looking to do a Summer Photoshoot in Florida.



Schedule Your Shoot Early in the Day

If you’re not from Florida, you might not realize what our summer weather schedule is like. Being that the sunshine state is a tropical climate, we get rained on. Everyday. Every. single. day. Luckily, it’s a pretty safe bet that the rains don’t show up until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon – and they usually only last maybe an hour. Sometimes, it’s raining across the street and the sun is literally shining on your side of the road. But after the rain lets up, the sun comes back out and now the humidity feels like your wrapped in a wet hot blanket. My go-to joke is that Summertime in Florida feels like you’re walking into someone’s mouth. Hands-down the best time for a photoshoot in the summer months is at sunrise. The light is beautiful, the heat has not caught up yet and the rains are hours away. Plus sometimes our sunrises are stunningly beautiful. Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer to wake up at the crack of dawn – we might not like it when the alarm goes off, but as soon as we see that morning light it’s totally worth it!

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Photo taken at Sunrise at Cocoa Beach Pier 



Have a Rain Plan

Rain in Florida Summers is inevitable. Every summer, since I was a little kid, I have seen the “wall of rain” phenomenon. It’s just what you think it is – a huge, unrelenting wall of rain. It’s not a cute light mist or sprinkle, it’s what Forrest Gump would call “Big ol’ Fat Rain.” And you will get soaked. That means when you’re planning a photoshoot – if you can’t convince your family to get up early and you’re forced to schedule your shoot later in the day, pick a location that has indoor and outdoor options for photoshoots. These types of locations are hotels with large windows, or a readily available covered porch. I recently did a photoshoot in the rain at Leu Gardens, and their huge covered porch proved to be a stunning backdrop for the large family.


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Photo taken at Leu Gardens in Downtown, Orlando


Dress Comfortably

As much as I love it when families dress up for family photos, summer is not the season for your best ballgown or a tuxedo. The best way to beat the heat is to be comfortable and stick to the Florida way of dressing! There is a reason why every native is wearing a Columbia shirt and boat shoes, it’s comfortable and practical. Girls – stick to skirts or dresses. They’re comfortable, stylish and look great if you twirl! Guys – colorful shorts and a nice loose fitting linen shirt looks great and will keep you cool. This time of year it’s a great idea to do bright and playful colors. Also, make your shoe choices based on your location choice. Don’t wear sneakers and heels on the beach, or flip flops at a fancy hotel. Stay practical in your choices. It’s ok to look like you’re dressed for summer in Florida – because you’re making memories at summertime in Florida!


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Photo taken at Omni Resort at Championsgate in Orlando, Florida 


Invest in matching umbrellas

If you’re totally freaked out by the whole possibility of rain or just the weather in Florida – invest in cute umbrellas for your family! I love clear umbrellas because they don’t create crazy lighting colors on people’s faces and they look classic. Umbrellas are even a great idea if there is no rain in the forecast – as photographers in Florida we are always looking to create some nice even shade on people’s faces and an umbrella is a super classic and cute way to do that! They’re a great and practical prop to bring with you on your shoot, so go ahead a shop around till you find something extra cute to bring to your shoot with you.


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Photo taken at Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida. 


Be in touch with your Photographer

This one is important! When you’re booking a photographer for a summer shoot in Florida, make sure you clearly understand how the rain plan will go. Ask questions. I personally love to be available for my clients via text so that they can ask me any question that pops into their head the day of the shoot. Florida’s weather is extremely hard to predict – so sometimes you cannot call a rain plan into effect until an hour or so before the actual shoot. So being on the same page and communicating quickly with your photographer is a must. Let them know your concerns, and remember they are a professional! They know how to deal with this kind of thing so if you’re unsure about something, defer to them.



Photo taken at Disney Springs in Orlando Florida 


Plan your shoot around a water-based activity

I love this one! Firstly, consult your photographer before you do this so they are properly prepared, but the kids LOVE being in the pool in the Florida heat – so why not make some memories while they’re swimming around. I have done shoots in backyard pools, at water parks and at the beach. The only real way to completely beat the heat is to have water around, so embrace that! Even a slip and slide can be a great place to get photos of the kids having a great time. It’s real-life photos and memories that the kids are no doubt going to remember the rest of their lives.



Photo from a Family Photojournalism Session at Champion’s Gate in Orlando Florida.

Waterproof makeup is worth the investment

It took me years to learn this one. I love doing my makeup, but I never understood why people would buy foundation for 4x the price of the one I bought. Well, it’s for that waterproof magic! If your shoot is outside at all, you’re going to sweat. And when you sweat, your makeup becomes a Jackson Pollack painting – only not a masterpiece. I finally got on board with the waterproof makeup last summer and it is a huge game-changer. Obviously no one wants to look terrible in their photos and every little bit helps, so invest the extra money in good makeup. You’ll be surprised at the difference.


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Shoot Location: Disney’s Four Season’s Resort Orlando, Florida 


Keep the theme of “Summer” in mind

If you love the look of boots and dark hair and leaves on the ground, wait until fall to schedule your shoot. You will be miserable and sweaty and it will show in your photos. If you really just want to make family memories that look great – lean into the fact that it’s summer! Bring your sunglasses, a beach ball and all things summer. Don’t shy away from the season just because it’s hot. Personally, I want my photos to reflect real life memories which means they need to make sense! So if the only time your family is all together is during a hot Florida summer that doesn’t mean you can’t make great long-lasting memories. Just embrace the summer idea and run with it.


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Photo from Calendar Photoshoot for Family First Firm in Orlando, Florida



If you’re interested in booking a summer photoshoot with us, you can do so by emailing or Book Online Now! 

Check out our Family Photography Portfolio.


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