Maureen O'Shay Photography » Senior and Family Portrait Photographer

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Letting personality shine through in your family portraits

Anyone who has ever had family portraits knows it can go one of two ways – the photographer captures your family unit the way you really are or the photographer didn’t. Knowing how to capture a family unit does not start on the day of the photo shoot. Photographers and clients have to work together well in advance of the session day to maximize the most of their time on the day of the session.

Last year, I met a family who was scheduled to be the cover of January 2017 Cinco Sprit Magazine. Immediately I thought of doing some sort of New Years-theme photoshoot. I do not normally have themes in mind before I meet a family, but for a magazine cover it seemed like a great idea; plus, my publisher told me the family “would be up for something fun” so I was hoping my idea would be something they would like.  The mom and I touched base and talked about the her expectations of the session and her willingness to do something a little different.  I was excited to learn they had moved to Katy from New York City.  I proposed the idea of an urban shoot with a post-New Years Eve party theme and she was so excited. They were totally up for getting dressed up and have fun in downtown Houston. Then I immediately thought of those fun, HUGE, gold number balloons. Just like themes, I don’t use a lot of props, but these seemed to fit the bill and would be a really fun way to tie in the New Year’s theme. After a few more family-specific questions that I needed answers to, we scheduled the session date and were ready to rock and roll!


Having a pre-consultation doesn’t have to take a long, drawn out process but you need to allow enough time to for your photographer to figure out what your family is like and where they will be most comfortable. Working with your photographer before hand will help create a shared vision for your shoot. If your photographer doesn’t offer a pre-consultation, ask for one. Or find a photographer that does. When I first started out photographing families six years ago, I did not offer pre-anything. And trust me when I say, it makes all the difference in the photos and the experience.

But this is a two-way street – and you know all the details! My advice for clients is to be totally upfront and honest with your photographer. Give them the details about your family – the good, the bad and the ugly so they know what they are working with. If you really want to capture the details of your kids, like the little freckles, etc, – then let the photographer know. Want to make sure you get photos of just you and your husband together? Make sure you communicate that, too. Know child #1 and child #3 don’t get along and cooperate? Let her know.

Additionally, give thought to the end result of your session – what are these photos for? Holiday cards? Wall art? An album? Gifts for family? Letting your photographer know your vision will really help you get exactly what you are looking for in a final product. 

Robin and Matthew’s downtown urban session really turned out well.  But you know what happens to the best laid plans, don’t you? My gold balloons didn’t do too well with the wind on the deck of the parking garage.  We lost the number one balloon in our “2017” but the their sweet daughter, even through her tears (who wouldn’t cry if a big shiny balloon floated away!?) was determined to be the number 1 and held her hands up high! And it turned out to be one of my most favorite photos! I prefer the black and white image – which do you like?

All images Copyright Maureen O’Shay Photography