Prepping for your portrait session with Sara Waterman Photography

A few tips to help your family portraits looks their best

by Scottsdale based family and event photographer Sara Waterman.

1-  Coordinate your clothing do not match your clothing.

If you show up to your shoot all wearing white collared shirts and khakis, just know there is not enough creative posing I can do to prevent your portraits looking like they came out of 1993. Ouch!  No no instead pick a color theme, think blues, jewel tones, pastels, pinks and creams, I love yellow and blues, reds and blacks, deep purples and yellows. Sometimes using the outfit you have in mind for the children to help plan your outfit (let’s face it their clothing is way cuter than yours)  pick a color out of their dress or shirt and use that to plan  your attire.  There is one exception to this small kiddos and twins can always match, that is just plain cuteKeep in mind darker color clothing will frame your face better, if you choose lighter colors the focus will be a bit more on the clothing rather than your face.

This matching is just plain adorable…

chance love

Maybe not quite the look we are going for…

Family Portrait With Cardigans

Styling perfection!!…..





2- Avoid busy patterns or characters on clothing

  You may be a chevron or ikat fan right now, but I guarantee in a few years these trendy patterns will look stale and dated. Keep in mind, super busy patterns distract from what we want people to notice… you. I want people to look at your photo and notice you not the large Tory Burch logo on or Old Navy logo your sweater. Keep it simple!

Palm candid

3- Consider you backgrounds

Pretty self explanatory, but if we are shooting at the beach try to stay away from tan, I want your photos to pop from the background. If we are going to a shoot against the desert (most of the time that’s what we do in Arizona) stay away from light greens and tans for your shirt. Bright colors are my favorite look how eye catching this image is…


4- Layer it up

I love layers, they give us the flexibility to quickly change your look, plus I think a jacket or an over shirt help to make your look  polished, a jean jacket a black cardigan, a blazer for a man can really look nice. I know it’s hot here but a light neck scarf can also go a long way to finish your look. Not a requirement but certainly something to think about.


5- Plan ahead

Make sure you plan ahead for your shoot. I can’t tell you how many times I had clients come to shoot in a tizzy because the dress their kid was going to wear was dirty. Make sure you dry clean your clothes (if needed) make sure shirts are pressed and you are ready to rock on shoot day. Make sure hair is cut, fingernails don’t have chipped polish and please don’t wax your eyebrows day of.  If you are planning new makeup or a new style, try to do that a few weeks before your shoot so you have time to adjust. Family shoots can be stressful (as much as you will have fun with me on shoot day) you still have to get everyone on board (happy) and on time looking their best if you plan your outfits ahead it will be one less  thing to stress about on shoot day.

6- Avoid all white or all black or fluorescents.

If everyone showed up in black if would difficult to photograph you can end up with clippings (which just means you loose a little details in the clothes in order to properly expose your skin) Florescent shirts can throw color casts on the skin, which is just time consuming to correct in photoshop, especially if it’s for every photo. So this request is just for me.. thanks!


7- Consider your home

Many family portraits end up gracing the walls of your home, especially if you have a plan to print a large print, think what would look best on your walls? Light and fun or dark and moody. Do you have white furniture would a portrait look good if everyone was wearing dark colors. A picky point I know, but something to think about for a moment.



8- The details..

For men wear dark colored socks, so if they peek out they don’t stand out. Women consider a shirt with at least a small sleeve, this helps the attention go to your face, not your bare arms, as a rule it looks better (but of course not always) Do you see the white socks peeping out – Yes I photoshopped them dark in the end (but I can’t do that for every photo).

Hair spray is your friend, we don’t want frizzy hair. If you have bangs make sure they are trimmed, I want to see your beautiful eyes! Make sure clothing is wrinkle and stain free. Ladies wear a bra that does not show thru or bulge. Use make up that is SPF free, some foundations with SPF can leave a white ghost like residue that does not photograph well. Nails should not be chipped and scrub under nails for those kiddos. Oh and if you have a toddler in a dress a diaper cover is a must!


9- Keep is classic

These images will be around for year to come. So timeless simple classic attire will help you not cringe when you look at these images over the years. Of course that’s fun too, looking back at your pegged jeans and mc hammer pants for the 80’s is great fodder for a giggle.

10 –  All the extras!

Hats frame the face, protect the eyes from squinting in  full sun and are overall just fun fun fun! Belts, socks, scarves and jewelry. All these things are going to give oops of color, and compete the outfit. Than can be unexpected bits of fun! Maybe it’s fun knee socks on a little girl, or a fun belt can give a little pizzaz to plane khakis. Scarves are my favorite, they blow in wind, and add color and texture, so many options!

11- You don’t need to run out and buy something

I can almost guarantee that there is something in your closet that is just perfect. Keep it real, keep it comfortable! The best look is a happy smile. Toddlers are not happy in frilly scratchy dresses, as we are not happy in uncomfortable clothing. Jeans.. kids don’t like jeans, they are stiff and overwhelm them. I want your kiddo running around and happy!


Thanks for reading! I can’t wait to help create your family portraits. We are going to create magic!!!

-Sara Waterman


Scottsdale based family photographer.

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