Extended family photos at Mercer Island Park by Neyssa Lee Photography

A Seattle Photographer’s Guide for Stress-Free Extended Family Photos

follow Neyssa Lee

I am Neyssa Lee a Seattle area photographer, mom of 6, planning obsessed, and who help you see the beauty, love and joy, in your own family’s chaos. I also use my super power of time management to help fellow photographers take control of their businesses. Learn more by heading to my ABOUT ME page.

What to Wear
Photo Tips
more categories

Hi, I'm Neyssa

Extended family photos at Mercer Island Park by Neyssa Lee Photography

Recently, I found myself not behind the lens, but in front of it for much-needed extended family photos. That’s right; my family and I, along with my brother, parents, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law, all gathered together for family pictures.

As I watch my parents age, gracefully, of course, I’m struck by a profound realization of how much I yearn to freeze these precious moments. How much I wish to encapsulate them as they are right now with me and my children. Their relationship with the kids is so important. And while, of course, I could have taken photos of the grandparents with the kids, I knew that I needed to be in those photos too. And so, armed with personal insights from my own experience (both in front of the camera and as a Seattle family photographer), I’m here to share some wisdom on how to prepare for your own extended family photos without stress.

Ready? Let’s jump into my top tips to prepare for your extended family photo session.

Grandma and granddaughter family pictures at Luther Burbank Park, Mercer Island, Wa.

Plan your extended family photo session in advance

Planning for extended family photos can be like solving a complex puzzle, with everyone’s schedules fitting together to create the perfect picture. Not to mention if someone has to come from out of town or travel a little further.

The process necessitates a good deal of advance planning. Remember, you’re not just aligning the schedules of immediate family members, but also extended family and, of course, your chosen photographer. So, start well ahead of time and make sure to pick a date that works for everyone.

Later I will share about the best time of year for planning your extended family photos. But first, let’s cover a few other details.

Extended family photos of family by the water on Mercer Island

Share your photographer’s style with everyone

When I told my mom I wanted to have family photos taken she was less than excited. In her experience, family photos were stiff, heavily posed, and highlighted every insecurity a woman has about themselves and her family. My mom is amazing and went along with it. However, I could have done a better job preparing her for the session by sharing more about our photographer’s style.

Every photographer has a distinct style. It’s crucial to ensure that everyone involved in the photoshoot is on the same page. For instance, grandma might envision a classical portrait with everyone smiling at the camera, while you’ve selected a photographer known for their candid, lifestyle shots. By sharing the style of the photographer beforehand, everyone will know what to expect and you can avoid potential day-of misunderstandings.

I suggest sharing your photographer’s portfolio, and if you’ve worked together, share how they make family photos fun/special/easy.

Professional picture of toddler cousins together enjoying a cake pop

Make things easy for everyone by selecting a simple color palette for your extended family photos.

Choosing the right outfits for everyone can feel like a daunting task. To make it easier, I suggest finding a central piece to build around. For my family’s photo shoot, I selected a floral dress for my daughter. Everyone then picked an outfit that complemented the dress, adding neutrals to make it a little easier on the grandparents. The result was a harmonious color palette that brought our photos to life!

If I had chosen super-specific colors or styles, the experience would have been less enjoyable for everyone. The last thing you want to do is add extra stress, especially if someone is feeling a little unsure about photos. By telling my brother, “Hey, just wear something in navy or white with some dark jeans” meant he could be comfortable and would not have to go out of his way to purchase an entire new wardrobe for the extended family photos.

Family of four for lifestyle portraits on Mercer Island

Avoid the holiday rush.

While it might seem convenient to schedule your extended family photos during a holiday break when everyone is gathered together. Trust me, it can lead to unnecessary stress. The last thing you want is to add a photo shoot to an already jam-packed 36-hour window. It’s best to plan your session for a time when everyone is more relaxed and receptive.

Portrait of a toddler girl sitting on the rocky beach on Mercer Island

Consider the weather when scheduling your extended family photo session.

Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we’re all too familiar with the rainy weather. When considering when to book your extended family photos, it’s wise to plan your photoshoot during the more predictable months. July through September is the prime time in the Seattle area.

Rescheduling a large group due to poor weather can be another added stress, and be almost impossible. Having a backup plan is very smart. Discussing this with your photographer can save a lot of last-minute stress. Personally, I have a list of great locations with cover, ensuring that even in a downpour, we can capture beautiful, intimate family moments.

In conclusion, planning an extended family photo session doesn’t have to be a daunting process. By planning ahead, communicating openly, and considering the variables, you can ensure a smooth, enjoyable experience that results in beautiful memories captured forever. Plus, every effort made before the photos will be rewarded 100-fold when you see your gallery of photographs.

Thinking about scheduling a session and need some inspiration for locations? Check out my freebie for top Seattle photo locations. And remember, these moments are fleeting, so don’t wait too long to freeze them in a frame. I can’t wait to capture your family’s unique story!

Come follow Neyssa Lee Photography on Facebook for tips and family photo inspiration.