Pregnancy, the newborn months, the first year and all the stages of growing up go by so fast. That’s why it’s important to take loads of pictures (and videos, too!) to capture those cherished moments. And while the baby pictures you snap with your phone are great at getting the everyday stuff – like the first time your little one eats solid foods – there’s nothing like getting photos professionally done.
But there’s a lot involved with making sure the cash you shell out for professional pics gives you exactly what you want – whether you’re taking maternity photos, newborn pictures or trying to get the perfect family shot for your holiday card.
In this post, you’ll learn all the in’s and out’s of getting awesome family photos on a budget: From finding the perfect photographer to getting your little one to cooperate and even how to coordinate outfits.
Family Photography for Less
If you’ve started shopping around for a photographer, chances are you’ve gotten some sticker shock. Because good family photos – the ones that look more natural and organic – aren’t cheap.
When I wanted photos of our first baby, I started looking for a lifestyle photographer: Someone who could snap pictures of our baby girl as she explored her environment, rather than being posed against a fabric backdrop. I wanted our framed photos to have natural expressions that told a story about who my child was, and later about my family. I found several lifestyle photographers near us that offered outdoor photo shoots with either a cool cityscape or a beautiful natural setting.
The problem? Those kind of baby and family photos are muy, muy expensive. Like hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. But if you’re like me and have your heart set on a certain style of photography, don’t worry: There are ways to cut costs and still get the photos of your dreams.
Pick a Milestone
Ok, here’s the deal: Lifestyle photography is an investment that you’ll never regret, but be prepared to shell out at least $500 for a one-time photo session. For even more money, some lifestyle photographers offer milestone packages that typically include maternity photos, a newborn photo shoot and another photo shoot when your child is one year old.
If you can’t afford lifestyle photography for all the various stages, choose one period of time that you most want to capture. Is it your gloriously big belly during the third trimester? Your baby’s first days in the world? Or, when your tot starts toddling around?
If you don’t want to miss a thing, you can purchase less expensive baby picture packages at JC Penney Portraits or another budget studio for your baby’s first year. This way, all the changes your child goes through during that fast-growing time are captured month by month. Then, ante up for the pricy, lifestyle photography for a certain milestone (e.g. newborn, one-year-old, first family portrait).
We chose to do it when our first child was nine months old and have continued to invest in professional photo shoots every few years.
Try a “Mini” Photo Shoot
Another money-saving strategy is to sign up for a “mini-session.” These are 30-minute photo shoots that many lifestyle photographers offer in the spring, summer and fall on a select day. They shoot clients back-to-back (usually on a Saturday) and charge a smaller sitting fee.
Note that photographers may have a minimum amount you’re required to purchase. Find out what the minimum is before you book your session.
Purchase the Photos on CD
If you purchase your photos on CD, you can print them through an online service like Shutterfly. This can be significantly cheaper than purchasing individual pictures through your photographer, especially if you want a bunch of different images. Also, if you have the images on CD you can use them to make your holiday greeting cards and evites, and post them to Facebook.
Not all photographers will sell the images on CD. So, if this is something you want, make sure it’s an option before scheduling a photo shoot.
Find a Professional Photographer
To find a photographer who will fit your style and budget, scour the Internet and ask for referrals from family and friends whose hallway pictures you love.
When Googling, search for “child lifestyle photographer” plus your state or metro area. For example, I live in a suburb 30 minutes from Detroit and first searched using the term “Michigan” and then again with the term “Detroit.”
Make the Most of Your Family Photo Shoot
A little preparation helps to ensure you get the best baby pictures or family photos. Your child should be well-rested before your photo shoot. Try to schedule your session long before your child’s naptime or afterward. (Learn how to get your baby to sleep more.)
Along the same lines, your child should be well fed before coming to the photo shoot. (We all know what happens when babies and kids get hangry.) If you have to bring a snack, make sure it’s dry and not messy (think: gummy bears, not crackers or chocolate).
Don’t be afraid to bring fun props with you. Anything that makes your child smile can be used during the photo shoot. Consider bringing:
- Fresh flowers
- A blankie or stuffed animal
- A vintage wagon or tricycle
- Classic wooden toys
Lastly, don’t invite any non-essential family members or friends to watch the photo shoot. They might distract your child from looking at the photographer, because who can compete with grandma?
Coordinate Outfits for the Family Photo Shoot
If you’re taking a family portrait, no doubt you’ll be sweating over what everyone is going to wear. Too matchy-matchy and your photos will look dated. But you don’t want a carnival of colors either.
First, think about where you want these framed photos to go. What colors are already in that room? Aim for outfits that pull in some of your décor colors so the portrait will tie together nicely once it’s hung up in that room.
Then, check out examples from style gurus who are experts at pulling together individual looks that come off as cohesive, but not cheesy. Photographer Kristen Honeycutt has great tips on what to wear to a family photo shoot and pictures of outfits for the entire family. You can also find all kinds of inspo on this Pinterest board with examples of coordinating outfits for family photos.
Want your images to really stand out? Here are some additional styling secrets:
- Bright colors, and mix and match patterns – They make images pop.
- Hats and hoods – They add character and create a frame for the face.
- Outerwear, winter gear and rain gear – These items can create a playful look, even if your photo shoot is on a warm, dry day.
- Large logos or graphics – They draw attention away from your child’s face.
- Light pastels or solid white – These colors wash out the complexion, especially for fair-haired or light-skinned children.
- Skirts or dresses – On a baby or tot, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the “diaper shot” when they sit and move around. If a skirt or dress is a must, then make sure you have a cute diaper cover on her, too.
Although it may be difficult to stomach the cost of a session with a professional photographer, it’s worth it. With the right planning, you can get amazing photos that will tug at your heart for years to come.