It’s that time of year again: time for fun in the sun! Which means it’s also a great time to start brainstorming some summer family photo ideas.
We love taking family photos and we get them done professionally about twice a year, usually once in the spring or summer and then again in the fall or winter! We’ve done many summer family photoshoots and we super enjoy them!
Summer is the perfect time to schedule family photos for so many reasons. First, many professional photographers aren’t as busy in the summer as they are in the spring or fall, probably because the weather is milder in those seasons. (Especially around here…summer is HOT)
Second, in general, all your family members will be home! Little kids are out of school, older kids are home from college, and the chances of getting extended family together is way higher. So whether you’re wanting to plan a photo shoot for your immediate family or get the whole crew together, summer’s a great time to do it!
It’s also a great time because it’s easier to work around schedules! Kids don’t have school and that includes after school activities as well as sports etc that can make scheduling photos tricky. It’s also easy to have great natural lighting for family pictures outside in the summertime because it’s light outside for so much longer and the golden hour is later in the day which also means cooler temps. (We’ve also done summer family photos EARLY in the morning too…beautiful lighting and avoid the heat and humidity!).
Maybe you go on vacation every year and organize the photo shoot yourself. Maybe you prefer to schedule a professional photo session at a local venue. No matter how you prefer to do it, coming up with summer family photo ideas should be a no-brainer!
So let’s dive right in and talk about some tips, advice, and great ideas for taking the best summer family photos:
Tips for Planning Summer Family Pictures
1. Hire a professional photographer
The first thing you should do is decide if you’re going to have your photos professionally done. Honestly, I highly recommend investing in a professional photographer who you know will do a great job! You’ll get the high-quality photos you want, and the photographer will know how to work the lighting and pose everyone so they look their best!
Research local photographers in your area, check out their portfolios, and read reviews. Or, if you know friends and family who’ve had professional pictures taken, ask for their recommendations!
I also highly recommend finding someone who specializes in family photography. Working with kids and having the ability to make the session fun and engaging is important. When you find someone that is a great fit for your crew – be loyal!
We’ve been working with the SAME photographer for over 10 years now. Lindsay does ALL of our family photos and the longer we work together the easier our sessions are because she KNOWS us so well now and the kids are all so comfortable with her too (heck even my husband doesn’t mind our family sessions because he’s so comfortable and Lindsay makes it so easy!)
If you’re local to the South Georgia, North Florida area be sure to check out Captured by Colson. She specializes in Seniors and Weddings but often offers family options too!
2. Set a date a few weeks in advance
You don’t want to be rushing around at the last minute, or be unable to find a photographer because they’re booked up! Set a date, mark your calendar, and make sure everyone in your family knows when picture day is!
It’s important to really begin planning for family photos as far out as possible. This allows time for your photographer to pick an ideal location and time for you to choose your family outfits without being rushed!
3. Plan your outfits ahead of time
Planning out your clothing choice goes without saying – you want to know what everyone will be wearing! We’ll talk more about choosing good family photo outfits down below, but giving yourself TIME in choosing the right looks is so cruical.
We’re a family of SIX so I can rack up a huge pile of returns with all the different elements at play in deciding the “just right” looks for our crew!
See more from our photo session in June 2020 here!
4. Choose the perfect time of day
Harsh light (like high noon) can cast hard shadows or make everyone squint! It’s best to aim for midmorning or late afternoon, when the sun isn’t high in the sky and the light isn’t so in your face.
In general, natural light is the best light. A lot of photographers also like to utilize the “golden hour” – those magical moments right around sunrise and sunset when everything is bathed in golden light and nothing’s too bright!
While those times of day are both perfect choices, if they don’t work for your schedule, just pick a time when the sun isn’t too high in the sky and you should be good to go! A truly professional photographer will be able to work in any lighting and be able to help scout locations to allow for shade or coverage as needed too.
When thinking of time of day it’s also important to think about when your children (and husband!) will be their happiest. We like first thing in the morning with little ones as they are well rested from a good night’s sleep. Later evening time slots can mean fussiness and crankiness especially if it’s after bedtime!
These were taken at 7 am! See more from this photo session in July 2018 here.
5. Choose a good location
Summer is a great time of year to take pictures because everything’s green and full, and there are so many outdoor places you can go!
Choosing the right place is mostly about preference and what’s available to you, so utilizing your natural surroundings is an excellent idea. Or you can take advantage of summer vacations (especially beach vacations!) to get those ideal destination photos!
Considering the beach for your family photos? Be sure to read this post with the best beach family photo ideas including what to wear and more!
In my personal opinion, I think location matters the least in making decisions regarding family photos. Again, when you have a great photographer anywhere is a great spot for pictures! We’ve taken photos all over our local little town and even used just a random dirt road near our house and we’re always happy with the end results!
Of course finding a variety of locations can offer fun backdrops or easier ways to coordinate with your home decor but by trusting your photographer to ultimately make the final decision on the location will ensure you love the end results because THEY will be comfortable with shooting and will know the best spots!
This photo session was in someone’s yard! Totally random and beautiful 🙂
6. Bring Props
Props are wonderful additions to add personality and meaning to family photos and help them avoid looking “stuffy.” We’ve used a special quilt my husband’s great-grandmother made and a wooden rocking chair that I used as a child from my grandmother. We also often bring along props that the kids love and enjoy. A special toy or a favorite item. Not only does it add a fun element for them during the session but it’s a sweet memory to look back on and remember that phase of life where they couldn’t let go of that special toy!
Props are also a great addition when deciding outfit choices. Adding a hat to a look gives a variety of options. Layers are also a great way to add movement and depth to your session.
Props also don’t have to be IN the photos! We bring a TON of stuff to use behind the scenes. Noisy toys especially come in handy to get the little one’s attention and silly props can help get those smiles.
My best friend made this blanket for our baby so we used it for her 3 month photos in November 2014!
7. Bring Snacks and Water
Staying hydrated, especially for summer family photos, is super important. I also know I’m going to get some haters for this…but I believe that family photos are an appropriate time to use bribery when it comes to my kids and getting the pics done easily and smoothly!
We usually bring Smarties candies and when the kids are getting frustrated we take a quick break and let them eat a couple. This is a great candy choice because they aren’t messy and are quick and easy to eat!
As the kids have gotten older we also do a larger treat after the photo session as a reward for us all. They are old enough to understand delayed gratification and are more eager to be in a good mood in order to get that end prize!
My youngest is motivated by the prize of getting to play with his tractors so we even included his favorite toys in his 3 year old photo session from November 2020.
8. HAVE FUN
Yes, we bribe but we also KEEP it FUN! While taking individual photos of one child we’ll let the others run and play. We keep the energy up and play fun music on our way to the session location. Our photographer has a fantastic personality which really helps keep us all smiling the whole time too!
We did a maternity photo session in March 2014 when I was pregnant with our third baby and incorporated fun “big sibling” items and the kids loved having their big sibling books as part of our session!
Summer Family Photo Outfit Ideas
The outfit choices for your family photos should reflect your family and their style. When choosing a color palette, it’s a good idea to go with one that you know will look good on everybody.
If you choose to all wear the same color, make sure everyone has a clothing item that works in the color palette. In general, mixing patterns and hues looks good, especially if you have a few people wear solids to even it out.
You can also assign specific colors for boys and girls, like you’ll see with some of the examples below. If you have a little girl and a little boy, you can match them with mom and dad, or have the kids wear one color and the parents another.
I’ve pulled together a lot of inspiration in this post, but feel free to take a theme you like and create your own Pinterest board around it so you have a reference when you go to buy outfits or find a location!
The best idea for you and your family may be one of these, a combination of several ideas, or something completely new!
One classic look I’ve seen is to have everyone wear a white shirt, usually with khakis or blue jeans. You can go pretty casual with this (though I’d avoid shirts with large logos) or make it formal. I think it looks great when there are a mix of styles, but I’ve also seen great photos where everyone wore the same type of shirt!
Here’s a family who wore off-whites and different textures, which kept things light while still adding visual interest:
In this photo, the men wore white and the mom wore light blue, which is also a great option for adding a little bit of color:
And then, of course, the classic white shirt, blue jean combo:
Or white shirts and khakis:
These can look really nice and clean (and is great for beach pictures, which I’ll talk more about soon!) but if you want to create more visual interest, consider some of these other outfit choices:
One thing you can usually never go wrong with is a neutral color palette. Nearly everyone looks good in neutrals and you can count on everyone owning a neutral clothing item. We often stick to a neutral color pallet and I always love how they turn out…for summer photos or really any time of the year! It really may just be the most perfect color scheme for family photos.
My favorite photo color scheme was when we did a “fancy” neutral theme for our beach family photos in the summer of 2019!
This cute little family complimented neutral tones with denim for a nice, rustic contrast:
Different shades of brown make this photo look calm and natural:
You can even mix browns, grays, and blacks with very nice results:
Or go for darker browns and blacks for a dramatic flair:
To convey the summery mood, one great option is to wear warm colors in shades of yellow, orange, and burnt umber. (I’d avoid red at the risk of looking too Christmas-y, but if you don’t mind, go for it!) They’re easy to pair with neutrals or blue jeans, and they look really nice against a neutral backdrop like a field or some mountains!
These colors also work wonderful for spring family photos or even fall! Yellow is a great color scheme with a pop that truly works year round.
We’ve done several blue-themed photo sessions including this one with a pop of yellow color in March 2018!
Here’s a great example of yellows done right:
I love the contrast between the mustard yellow and the black and white here:
And the tans and burnt umbers in this photo really play well against the sunset backdrop:
On the flipside, going for cooler colors, especially blue, can make for great visual appeal. Not only does just about everyone look good in blue, it’s easy to find, and mixing shades and patterns tends to look good no matter what.
Out of all the color schemes for family photos, a blue color scheme is my favorite. There are so many shade options to keep a variety and blue works well with so many other colors too. You can go navy blue, light blue, dark blue, aqua blue, it’s all so pretty to me and is probably the color we wear most often for our family photo session.
Gray is a second favorite color and it one I tend to work in frequently with other colors as it ties in nicely and works as a neutral shade and also coordinates with the color scheme in our home 😉
We’ve worn blue and grey tones for many of our family outfits and I always love the way it turns out!
Gray works so well with any backdrop and is a fabulous neutral to match our home decor like our outfits in our June 2019 photo session:
We also did an all blue color scheme for another one of my favorite family photo sessions – our beach photos in July 2016!
Dressing everyone in denim blues creates a great contrast against green scenery:
Blues and whites contrast well together and stand out against a green or neutral background:
And blues, whites, and grays work well together, too:
These softer tones almost get into the blue-greens:
And then, if you’d like something other than blue, here’s a great example of some greens:
For a light and airy feel, coordinating pastels can make for super cute family photo outfits. Pale blue and pink always looks nice in photos, as does yellow and blue or green and yellow. Or various shades of pastel all mixed together! As long as they’re close in hue, they tend to work! If you’re worried about it looking too spring-y, add some tropical patterns… or shoot them at a beach, if available!
Light pastels and whites create a soft, airy look that’s perfect for summer photos:
Try adding patterns and textures for a lovely, summery effect:
For a small family session, you can have everyone wear a different color to create a colorful but soft palette:
Complimentary Color Palette
If you’re looking for something a little bit bolder, try a complimentary color palette! You can choose one main color and accent it with the complimentary color, like a bright yellow with some blue, or use them both equally, like turquoise and coral.
Complimentary color palette is probably my most go-to look for our family sessions. I love mixing patterns and different shades of a similar color family and adding in pops of color as well!
I love how our tropical colors came together in our family photos from August 2017
I also did shades of blue with some bright summer-like colors mixed in for our family photos in July 2015
Here are a couple a good examples of dusty blue and blush:
And here are examples of blue and yellow, offset with some neutrals:
I love this green and yellow palette, too. So fun and unique:
For a bright, summery look, aqua blue and coral work well together:
Or coral and navy:
Summer Family Photo Ideas: Conclusion
I hope you found some inspiration and helpful tips from these great summer family photo ideas! When planning your photos, remember that it’s all about having fun and capturing the moment. Full disclosure, it probably won’t go 100% perfectly (especially if you have little kids!) but it can be a really great bonding experience and make some precious memories.
My personal belief is that family photos should be something you look back on with a smile on your face. It’s okay if they aren’t “Pinterest Perfect” it’s YOUR family and the memories and moments you want to remember most!
Have you taken family photos? What are some of your best summer family photo ideas? Share them down in the comments!
Wonderful tips! Now I’ve got to call my photographer and pick a date! Thanks for the inspiration!
As a family photographer based in Brighton, UK it’s so interesting and inspiring to see family photo shoots in the US. I love your take on things and the colour coordination ideas for outfits. Thanks so much!
I can really tell that you love what you’re wearing. These are best ideas for summer family photos.