7 Ways to Personalize Your Family Pictures

posted in: Photography | 26

While I love photographing all kinds of families, the sessions that really stand out are the ones like these family pictures. Not only were the family pictures taken at a meaningful location, but we were able to incorporate some unique elements to personalize their family portraits. And that’s what makes this so much fun. No matter how many times I photograph at a given location, the people, their personalities, and their interests are always so unique.

A little further on, I’ll share some tips on how to personalize your family pictures, but first, let me share these family portraits! The family portraits were taken at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, MI. We originally planned to use the lovely greenery at Barton Hills as a setting for the family pictures — the grounds of the country club are truly lovely when in bloom; even throughout the summer months you know it will always be gorgeously green at a top notch golf course like Barton Hills.

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com

On this particular day, I’d been watching the weather like a hawk (I tend to reschedule if there’s bad weather). Fortunately, the rain let up, and we had a wonderfully sunny afternoon and evening — just a little damp.

As we walked to one of the spots for taking pictures, I had a sudden inspiration. A golf cart was sitting, empty, almost asking to be photographed. Since I knew this family was fond of golf, I suggested we add another series of family pictures with the golf cart, and the idea was received enthusiastically. The series of family pictures with the golf cart turned out to be my favorite, and the family ended up liking one of the portraits so much it will be on display as a wall portrait in their home!

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - BPhotoArt.com

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

How to Personalize Your Family Pictures

Now, I promised tips on how to personalize your family pictures, so let me get started with some suggestions for the next time you plan a family portrait session. You could probably adapt these for spur of the moment family snapshots too.

1. Include your family in the planning process

Sometimes I work with families who are totally nonchalant about their portraits, aside from wanting “something nice” as an end result. But, usually, families have an idea in mind for their family pictures. I like to hear from everyone — including the kids, because the more involved the whole family is with the family pictures, the better the portrait experience will be for everyone.

Kids like to have a voice. So, even if their opinion is less influential than, say, mom or dad’s… I like to hear everyone’s thoughts. Often we can work in some elements that will make everyone happy.

2. Your family pictures should reflect your style and show your personalities

Plain and simple — generic family pictures aren’t as memorable ones. You want your family pictures to be a window into your family’s dynamics and show you as you really are.

For families who are more laid-back and casual, I’ll usually recommend relaxed clothing and a more impromptu portrait style. It’s better, though, to plan a formal and elegant session for a family who is more conventional and “proper.”

extended family portrait - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
Clothing and location can really affect how formal or casual a family portrait ends up being.

3. Choose a location that is meaningful

Even if you don’t have a specific park, country club, or spot that your family finds meaningful, there are still ways to personalize your family pictures through your choice of location. If your family likes to do a lot of things outdoors, I’ll typically suggest a park with lots of natural scenery.

There’s always the option of having your family pictures taken at your home, or on your property. I love this choice, honestly, because it’s fun for me to include the house as a background element, or pets that may not have ventured off the premises for a different location session.

Family Picture with dogs - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
Bringing multiple dogs and a baby on location would have been tough, but worked beautifully at my client’s home.

4. Incorporate your family’s interests and hobbies

This tip works whether you’re outdoors on location or inside at the studio. Find something your family enjoys, and include it! As with the family pictures above, a shared love of golf can really enhance the creativity of a family picture. Other ideas on how to personalize your family pictures can focus on the pets you have, the sports team you love, the city where you live, or the horses you ride.

family portrait with horses - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
When you enjoy something, it’s always great to capture that memory in a family portrait.

5. There is no right or wrong

When planning your family portraits, remember — there is no right or wrong. What works best for your family will not work well for another. You can be inspired by what you find online, or what you pin on Pinterest, but ultimately, you need to think about how to personalize your family pictures in a way that makes sense for your family.

formal generations portrait - BPhotoArt.com
Formal portraits do work best for some portraits, but there is no one size fits all solution.

6. Flexibility is important

It’s important to be flexible on the day of a family portrait session. I often find the parents are very stressed out about getting good pictures, or making sure their kids behave, so I will do my best to put everyone at ease. The more relaxed everyone is, the better the family pictures will be.

And, speaking of going with the flow, remember that sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. But, that’s ok. Honestly, some of my favorite photographs and portraits have been the result of the need to make a spur of the moment adjustment or change.

family portrait outdoors winter - BPhotoArt.com
Children can be unpredictable, but sometimes their personalities really come through even if they’re not smiling for the camera.

7. Have a little fun and be silly!

I am a big proponent of being silly and having fun during any portrait session. Whether the funny faces end up as outtakes, or you ultimately choose to include the silliness in an album or wall portrait, pictures that let you (and your kids) have fun will really bring out your personalities.

Making Funny Faces for the Camera - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
This family picture of the kids was potentially an outtake, but helped them relax!

Have Ideas on How to Personalize Your Family Pictures?

This list of tips on how to personalize your family pictures is by no means all-inclusive. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works — or doesn’t — for your family. Or, if you have any memories of past family picture experiences to share, I’d love to read them!

26 Responses

  1. Judy Charlotte

    Love the shots. Beautiful photos. They gave me an inspiration.

  2. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Judy! Glad you stopped by πŸ™‚

  3. Not only are your pictures beautiful, but these tips are wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Betsy Finn

    Thank you πŸ™‚ …glad the tips are helpful!

  5. Nicole Nenninger

    Fantastic photography! I prefer a more natural approach to photography for my family (which you have captured in a few photos above) and I wish you lived closer because I think you’d capture our essence! You definitely have a gift. Great article, visiting from SITS…

  6. Carolann

    Happy SITS day! Great post – love the tips and the photos are just beautiful!

  7. Susan - ofeverymoment

    Your blog is beautiful. I just pinned this – great tips for making our family reunion photos better this summer! Happy SITS Day!

  8. Akaleistar

    These are wonderful ideas, and I love the variety of styles! Happy SITS Day!

  9. Ana Lynn

    Great tips and even better photography. I especially loved the last two – they were pure perfection!

  10. Danah

    Those are great pictures. We had some taken with our puppy and let’s just say that he was fairly inappropriate in some. The pictures after were our favorite because everyone was laughing and they were so natural. Great tips!

  11. Jean Lynd

    Great tips. I’ve never really thought about doing pics at home b/c home isn’t grand or spectacular… However, home IS personal, revealing & meaningful. Over from SITS…

  12. Yvonne I. Wilson

    Thanks for sharing these tips – they are great! The photos are awesome – such inspiration from them all with each one telling its own beautiful story of family, togetherness, and love.

    Our photography sessions are not always planned but always seem to work out well for everyone, even my little 23 month old grand daughter who nowadays picks up my phone and give indication to have her photo taken πŸ™‚ Occasions like that really bring joy and happiness to my heart. Stopping by from SITS..Enjoy your day!

  13. Mary

    These are such great tips, especially on how to deal with kids and pets! I had professional photos taken with my dog (not once but twice!), and the first time around we had planned on working at Bethesda Fountain, but it was closed that day due to a parade. We ended up taking amazing pictures in front of the Museum of Natural History that never would have happened if everything had gone as planned!


  14. Kirsten

    Great tips! We have always found that with 3 kids, it’s important to have a photographer that let’s their personality shine through. I love that your photos capture that in your subjects. Stopping by from SITS!

  15. Clotilde/Craftybegonia

    Hi, visiting you via the SITS girls. Those are great tips, loved every one of the photos!

  16. Betsy Finn

    Thank you so much, Nicole. P.S. If you’re ever in the area… πŸ˜‰

  17. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Carolann! Glad you stopped by πŸ™‚

  18. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Susan! Hope your family reunion photos are spectacular πŸ™‚

  19. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Ashley!

  20. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Ana Lynn! Silly pictures are some of my favorite ones to do — kids (and adults) really loosen up when “required” to be silly.

  21. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Danah. Yes, pictures that make the whole family laugh are the best!

  22. Betsy Finn

    Exactly, Jean. Home may be “average” or nothing spectacular, but it is part of you. And, if you have anyone who is stressed out about picture taking… they will be more relaxed in the home too πŸ™‚

  23. Betsy Finn

    Thanks, Yvonne! Isn’t it great when the little ones want to have their picture taken?

  24. Betsy Finn

    It’s always interesting how the unplanned twists in life play out for the better! I love it when that happens, Mary.

  25. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Kristen!

  26. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Clotilde πŸ™‚ …glad you stopped by.