How to Get the Perfect Family Portrait

It’s my favorite time of year — family portrait season. There’s a joke in the photography community that October is to photographers as April is to tax accountants, although for me it’s more like September through early December. It seems like once there’s a chill in the air, my schedule never stops…just the way I like it!

To celebrate the season, I decided to share my top tips for a successful family portrait. I’m also including an offer for all Stylebook readers. See the end of this post for details.

Here are my DO’s and DON’Ts for the upcoming season.


Do pick out a color scheme. It’s important to create order for your shot. With multiple people included in the shot, it can get overwhelming and chaotic. Some of my favorite picks are below.

tlp_3469-x3Red & Navy with Neutral Undertones
This scheme creates a nautical, preppy theme — perfect for representing Alexandria!

1tlp_0417-x3Black & White
Perfect for creating a more modern family portrait. This is a less traditional color scheme, but works so well in Old Town with the brick background.

edittlp_0471-x3Earthtones & Neutrals
One of my favorite color schemes! This is my “go-to” choice. Everyone looks great and it makes choosing a location easy.

DO book in advance. Photographers are flexible, but this is the busy season! If you would like a fall shoot, give you photographer at least two weeks notice.

DO let your photographer choose the location. Unless you have a specific location in mind, or a place that is near-and-dear to you, please let us choose. We know where the best lighting is during the time of day that you request. However, we always love suggestions! Just don’t be offended if we decline to use them — it’s not you, it’s us!


DO pack a change of clothes. Family portrait sessions are normally about an hour long. During this time, little children tend to get a little…uneasy. To ensure everyone is clean and pressed for the picture, grab an extra pair of clothes for the little ones. You don’t want to have to use a shot of a mud-covered child for your Christmas card!


DO pack extra make-up, comb, and hairspray. This benefits everyone in the family, not just you. Even in the fall, Alexandria can be extraordinarily humid. Though Photoshop can fix most hair issues, it’s always better to fix it pre-photo rather than in post editing. For make-up, just remember your lipstick, concealer and powder foundation. Walking around and being dressed up leads to oil and sweat. Before the photographer snaps the image, cover up those spots with a little powder for a natural, airbrushed look.

DO research your photographer. If your girlfriend has a recommendation, by all means listen to her! However, take a look at the photographer’s site before booking. Make sure their style fits inline with what you’re looking for.


DON’T forget the kiddos! Make sure you ask the photographer for a shot of just the kids. This is a great gift for family members during the holidays and to add to your wall!1_tlp_9436-2-x3


Don’t feel afraid to bring your fur babies. Ask your photographer at the time at booking the shoot if they mind you bringing the pups (or other fur babies) along for the shoot. Many photographers have experience shooting with animals. However, some will charge extra, so make sure you ask in advance! (I don’t charge extra and I encourage you to bring them. They’re part of your family, too!)


OK, here’s the deal. Now through October 15th* I’m offering $25 off any family portrait package and an additional $25 off for sharing this post on Facebook or Instagram, just remember to tag @alxstylebook in the post.


* Must book appointment by October 15th. Photo shoot can take place anytime until December 15th, 2016.
Location must be within 10 miles of Old Town Alexandria.

If you’re looking for a photographer for to capture the perfect image for your family portraits, give me a call or shoot me an email. I would love to work with you and meet your family! Take a look at more of my work at

  • The latest from Sarah
Owner + Photographer | Sarah Marcella Creative
I started photographing after rupturing my spleen while I was in high school. Yeah, it sounds made up, but I swear I’m telling the truth. was in marching band and happened to fall on my saxophone. This incident made it impossible for me to march for the remainder of the season. So, I did what any bored high school teenager does — started taking self portraits (at that time the word “selfie” was not invented). Turns out, I really enjoyed it! I started photographing everything and everyone. After graduation, I decided to head to Shepherd University for photography & digital imagery. My passion continued to grow as I started to photograph more conceptual themes, primarily the way women are viewed in modern media and the over editing that happens in the fashion industry. This is what has influenced and inspired my current work.

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