How to Prepare for Your Outdoor Family Photo Session

As your Pittsburgh family photographer, I want my clients to have enough information to help them feel prepared before the day we take photos. So in this post, I’ll tell you how to prepare for your outdoor family photo session!

One of my main priorities for your lifestyle photo session is to keep everything as simple and as stress-free as possible! I think having enough info ahead of time can help cut down on the stress and anxiety leading up to your photo session.

After having my own family photographed a few times by a professional photographer, I know all about the anxiety leading up to photo session day!

Mini photo sessions in pittsburgh

What do we wear? 

This is probably the biggest concern for my clients and this was probably the biggest thing I was worried about each time I hired a photographer to take my own family photos. I learned from my own experiences to not overthink this!


Please do not make yourself crazy trying to buy everyone new matching outfits in the weeks and days leading up to your session! I always tell Moms to check your closets first! There is a good chance you already own the “perfect” outfits. And if you really feel the need to buy something, then go ahead and get a new outfit for yourself. You totally deserve it! 😉

I always encourage families to put comfort first. I prefer that you dress closer to what you dress like the other 364 days of the year rather than dressing up way more than you usually do.

Some tips…

-please avoid matchy-matchy clothing. (aka everyone in white shirts and khaki pants or jeans) Instead, pick a color palette of 3 or 4 coordinating colors. (search Pinterest for ideas according to the season)

-Limit patterns like florals, stripes, and plaids to one or two family members and put everyone else in a solid color.

-Avoid clothing with large logos or characters and avoid neon/fluorescent colors.

-Layers are great when the temps are cooler.

And once again, put comfort over fashion. I don’t want your son annoyed by an itchy sweater or tie he would not normally wear or your daughter fussing over uncomfortable shoes or a dress she is not used to. And if they do wear a dress or skirt, I recommend they also wear shorts under it.

Or in my case, do not make your husband and sons wear pastel button down shirts and khakis (or a suit jacket etc.) if they never actually wear these things in real life! (they still bring this up 5 years later!)

I even encourage allowing your kids to help make some choices when it comes to what they will be wearing!

Family next to the Schenley Cafe and Visitors Center in Oakland, Pittsburgh for a family photo session

Should we bring anything?

Although I encourage you to feed everyone before the session, feel free to bring a snack and a drink for your child(ren), especially for the little ones. It is more than ok to pause for a few minutes, especially if it is a hot day or they just need to take a short break. Just maybe don’t mention said snacks to the children and just surprise them when they are needed 😉

If you have a little one, it’s ok to bring your stroller along to shove the diaper bag in (make sure to have diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes because we know babies can have blowouts at the least opportune times!)

The stroller is also a great place to stash your keys and cell phones! Otherwise, I will put your things into my camera bag to hold for you until our session is over. Let’s avoid having your pockets bulging with phones and keys!

And it’s okay to let your child bring along a favorite toy or blanket that they are attached to. I think this will help keep them calm and I would love to include this special item in the photos! And having their favorite stuffed animal, toy car, etc. can also help me get some smiles out of the little ones.

mom and her three kids for a fall family photo session

How do I prepare my kids?

This is what to say to them…

“On [insert day here] we’re going to meet this awesome lady named Mary Beth. She’s going to hang out with us and we’re going to go play at a park and she’s going to bring her camera and take some pictures of us having fun!”

Yep.  That’s it.  

I don’t recommend rehearsing the perfect smiles or telling them repeatedly to “say cheese” during the session (this almost always results in forced smiles) and don’t tell them (or threaten lol) to be on their very best behavior because they might be afraid to relax and have fun with me.

Although I discourage threats, I do think a little incentive (aka bribes) can come in handy for some kids. For example, it’s more than ok to promise ice cream or a special treat after the session. I think everyone in the family deserves a treat after a photo session. 😉

pittsburgh mini family photo session

What to expect.

My sessions typically last around an hour long. However, I never set tight time restraints and sometimes sessions are shorter or longer depending on the kids and family. Some little ones take longer to warm up to me and I am ok with getting to know each other a bit before I start taking photos.

In most locations, we will circle around the park a bit for a variety of backdrops rather than staying in one spot.

I’ll get a variety of photos of the kids individually, siblings together, kids with each parent, the whole family and even just the parents alone together!

I’ll shoot a mix of naturally posed shots with a lot of fun candid images throughout the session. I’m not a fan of posing people but I’ll direct you as needed.

dad holding daughter in backyard of pittsburgh home

How will we find you?

If I’m not coming to your home, I’ll tell you where to find me at a location. I’ll text you where to park and I often send a “dropped pin” in Google Maps.

You can see what I look like in the photo below with my youngest son (there’s more on my about me page) to know what I look like. I’ll have my camera in my hand and usually a gray canvas backpack/camera bag on my back and I’ll be on the lookout for you and your family! And I always have my phone on me if you need to text or call!

Mary Beth miller with her son in black and white documentary image by casey and her camera

So, relax, I’ve photographed hundreds of families and I assure you that our session will be fun. And I promise you that you’ll treasure the memories that I will capture for you!

Have a look at my lifestyle family photo session gallery of photos that take place on location at a park to get an idea of what your session will be like!

If you have not already booked and you are interested in a newborn or family session this year, please do not wait to get in touch. I know life gets busy and these things tend to slip to the bottom of the to-do list, but it’s time to make it a priority!

Please get in touch before my schedule is filled up! I only accept a limited number of clients each month, so once my schedule is filled, it is filled. I can’t wait to hear from you and to plan a unique session for your family!

Have any questions or concerns?  
Please get in touch to ask me anything!

Are you on Instagram?
Let’s connect over there!

~All images by Mary Beth Miller Photography ~

Mary Beth Miller Photography specializes in lifestyle and documentary family, newborn and Fresh 48 photography in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and many of the surrounding areas. Mary Beth has over ten years of experience photographing families, newborns and babies in the Regent Square, Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Greentree, Point Breeze and Highland Park.  Her style is very relaxed and natural and your family session will feel like a stress-free Sunday afternoon with your family!

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  • Kami Vanous

    Such great tips and your work is so beautiful!  Thank you so much!  ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Milward

    I love how much information you provide. It’s so helpful and feels like you’ve literally just read my mind haha…ReplyCancel

  • very Helpful tips .. :) ReplyCancel

Mary Beth Miller Photography


Established in 2009
Family & Newborn Photographer serving the greater Pittsburgh area; Wexford, Mars, Cranberry Twp., and also serving Boardman, Poland, and Canfield, Ohio.

Mary Beth Miller Photography

best newborn photographers in Pittsburgh Expertise logo award

Established in 2009
Family & Newborn Photographer serving the greater Pittsburgh area; Wexford, Mars, Cranberry Twp., and also serving Boardman, Poland, and Canfield, Ohio.