It’s summer in Tahoe which means that it’s time for family portraits galore. While there isn’t a single season or time of year that’s the best time to get your family portraits taken, it’s just the nature of our high-season for tourism that I fill my calendar with families who want to make sure they document their vacation, the location, and capitalize on the fact that they are all in one place. Nobody wants to add stress to their family vacation though! Unfortunately, the process of organizing a family portrait session can often be stressful. Coordinating schedules, choosing outfits, and ensuring everyone cooperates can be overwhelming. I’m here to remind you that it’s not about when you show up to get your photos taken, but how you show up!  If you want a more enjoyable family portrait experience, for one, book me!  But second, read on! I’ve got all the ways that you can make preparing for a low stress family portrait session a breeze with these simple guidelines.

1. Plan Ahead. 

Want lake photos? It’s a challenge and one that you should plan for ahead of time! The days are LONG in the summer in Tahoe and the best time for lake photos is either the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset, which is either VERY early or VERY late. Sometimes this doesn’t jive with small ones’ sleep schedules (especially if you’re visiting from a different time zone!). I generally suggest that sometimes the location is less important than the time of day when everyone is likely to be in good spirits. If we do a forested session we can photograph almost any time of the day.  The other option is using light modifiers on the beach – this means that we are more restricted in how we frame your photos, but less restricted on time.

Don’t forget that Lake Tahoe is more than just a beach!  It has an abundance of variety for an outdoor settings including impressive pine forests, aspens, meadows and snow capped mountains.  The light behaves differently at each location and it’s a BIG factor in the timing of your session.  I’ve got a wide variety of locations up my sleeve to fit your family’s vacation vibe no matter how big or how small!

  • Lakeside Beaches can offer a great backdrop, but as I mentioned, they come with challenges. Photographing on the beach can be time-restricted and more difficult because the best light is available only about an hour before sunset. During the summer, this can be quite late in the day, so plan accordingly to ensure everyone is well-rested and ready for the session.
  • Mountain Trails and Forest Settings are in abundance and easy to photograph at almost any time of day. Depending on your desires (quaking aspens? tall pines? easily accessible?) I have a number of great places that offer plenty of variety in backdrop and the ability to let your kids be more candid.
  • Historic Sites can be a great choice and add a sense of place (and a history lesson) to your portraits.

Ultimately, the right location should reflect your family’s vacation experience and personality and the confines of whether or not someone will be cranky at 7:45 PM at night. I like to remind clients that the ultimate goal is to create a setting where your family can relax and enjoy the moment – your photos will be all the better for it!

2. Avoid matchy-matchy outfits. 

We all know of the classic 90s and early 2000s family photo: everyone in white or the same solid color. Not only is this look outdated, it’s just a weird vibe. Instead of choosing matching outfits for everyone in the family, create a color/pattern palette to choose from. Coordinating outfits is key to creating a cohesive, yet personal look. Bonus points: everyone gets a chance to express their own personality and to choose what they’re most comfortable wearing.  I generally recommend that you choose a color palette that compliments each other without being too matchy. For example, two complimentary colors and one neutral. Avoid patterns – they can be distracting.

Need more guidance?  Head here for more extensive tips on what to wear in your family portraits.

As much as I love a good statement piece, family portraits aren’t the time to wear something you’ve never worn before. Stick to what you feel at ease in. No matter the season you book your session, bring layers, so you can quickly and easily change out looks.  The weather can change abruptly in the mountains and you should be prepared for it!

3. Embrace the mood (all of them).

If you follow me on social media, you’re familiar with my #lifeishard series, born from fits and temper tantrums most often occurring during family portrait sessions. They’re truly my favorite. As nice as it would be for your toddler to be all smiles for the portrait that’s going to live on your living room wall and maybe your holiday card, toddlers are toddlers (and sometimes adults are toddlers, too). Sassy teenager? Grumpy grandpa? Roll with it, trust me.

Focusing on just being present rather than convincing them to get it together is the only thing that’s going to get them out of their funk. I assure you they’ll eventually come around, and I usually get a smile or two out of them. If not, at least you have some photos to embarrass them with at graduation.

Talk to your children beforehand about what will happen during the photo session to help them feel comfortable and excited. This is as much a message for parents as it is for kids: trust the process and stay relaxed!  DON’T tell your kids to smile repeatedly or ask them to look at the camera. Trust that I am going to guide the session in a way that is going to get the best out of your kids. My biggest problem is never the children!  It’s always the 4 adults who are looking AT the kids to make sure they are doing what they want them to, instead of looking at me!  If I decide to take a break and play games, please understand that this is a vital part of the process. It might look like we’re not doing anything important, but these moments help your kids stay relaxed, engaged, and excited about the photos. End result? We capture genuine and joyful expressions, natural portraits, and get them to buy in for the rest of the post photos.

4. Think outside the box.

I know a ton of secret spots, whether your family wants to be low-key, adventurous, or has a specific place in mind. If you do have a specific shot or pose in mind, I’ll make it happen on one condition: after we get the shot, we have fun.  The more you interact and play with your kids during our session, the more authentic your photos will be. Candid moments often reveal the most genuine expressions and interactions – they are often more representative of the tiny awesome weird little humans you’ve created than the posed ones. This is especially true when you allow your kids to play, explore, and be themselves during the session.  Lifestyle photos capture true personalities. 

Sometimes having expectations about weather and moods (see above) can cloud the experience–and that shows in the photos. So do your best to relax and be present in the moment with your family, and love them for who they are (it’ll show through). I’ll take care of the rest.

Ready to book your session? Check out my family portrait sessions and packages. Don’t forget, have camera, will travel!  My fees are the same regardless of location – if you want to keep tabs on my travel schedule you can do so by signing up for my email newsletter.