How to Take Family Photos At Home

Family of four, two dads and two sons, have fun on the couch during their at-home family photo session



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I'm Marjorie


I work with parents who want relaxed and unposed photos, providing them with images that capture the joyful and unscripted moments in life.

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If you’re considering taking family photos at home, you may be wondering how to prepare your family and your home.

The main thing to remember is: don’t stress. The biggest advantage of at-home sessions is that everything you need is right where you are.

Although your immediate concerns may have to do with what to wear and tidying up your home, I would encourage you to focus on staying relaxed and having fun. Creating the right mood and actually enjoying this time with your family will lead to the most natural, joyful, and loving images.

The emotion and connection in your photos will always trump the aesthetics, which is why I would argue that the most important form of preparation you can do is getting in the right mindset.

Check out my Portfolio Page for lots of examples of family photos taken at home.

Photo collage with three photos of family photos at home. One photo of two dads with their two twin sons, a photo of a single mother with her son as they color, and the last photo of a mother with her newborn baby girl in the nursery.

Why should you take family photos at home?

At-home family photos are my favorite for a few different reasons. First of all, as a documentary-style photographer, I like capturing families as they are, in their “natural habitat.” I believe that in the long term, those are the most powerful types of photographs because they can bring you back to this moment in time. Those images will show your kids what life was like when they were this age and ignite memories that would otherwise have faded. 

Photo collage with family photos at home: Two parents and their toddler looking over their newborn in a crib, a mother snuggling her toddler daughter, and a dad tickling his young son.

Secondly – and I don’t know if you relate to this – but I find that it can be pretty overwhelming to get the whole family ready and at a certain location by a specific time. I know when it came to my own family photos, I wanted the experience to feel as easy and relaxed as possible, which is why we chose to have our session at home.

I believe that if your session feels relaxed, then you and your family will look relaxed in your photos. That will allow your personalities to shine through so you end up with photos that reflect who you truly are as a family.

DIY Family Portraits At-Home vs. Professional Photos

I’m all about encouraging parents to capture their family and document their kids’ childhoods. And sometimes that means having to DIY your photos in between sessions with a professional photographer. 

That’s why I wrote an article about how to DIY your photo session – video tutorials included!

Although there is certainly value in taking your own family photos at home, those images will not compare to the ones taken by a professional photographer. Even though digital cameras have become ubiquitous in our lives, taking photos thoughtfully and intentionally requires time and practice. 

If you’re not used to thinking about things such as lighting and composition, chances are you’ll struggle to incorporate those elements into your photos while also capturing precious moments.

Self portrait of photographer Marjorie Cohen holding her newborn baby. They are in a pocket of light in an otherwise dimly lit room.

Additionally, self-portraits are an art form all on their own. Capturing candid moments while also being in the frame is hard to master for even experienced photographers. 

Having said all that, DIY portraits are better than nothing! But a professional photographer will take it to the next level. It’s not an investment you’ll ever regret making.

Tips for Taking DIY Family Photos at Home

If for whatever reason hiring a professional photographer is not feasible right now – or you are actually interested in becoming a better photographer yourself, here are some tips to get you started.

Check out my article on “Taking Stunning Photos on your iPhone” for the in-depth steps.

  1. Experience the moment – Be attentive to the situation you’re walking into so you don’t disrupt what’s going on. 
  2. Establish the Who, What, When, Where, Why – Document a moment from a variety of angles. Capture the whole picture and also the details. Tell a story through your photos.
  3. Composition: Edge Control – Scan the edges of your frame before snapping your photo and make a deliberate decision about what to include or exclude from the frame. 
  4. Composition: Isolating your Subject – Pay attention to what is directly behind your subject’s face and snake sure there are no distractions. Avoid stacking people behind each other. Try to give everyone their own space in the image.
  5. Use Natural Light – Switch off your overhead lights to capture cleaner colors and tones. Pay attention to your light source (where is the sunlight coming from?) and position yourself to create contrast between your subject and the background. 

Tips for Finding a Professional Photographer for Family Photos At Home

The most important step for getting the kind of family photos you want is to find the best photographer for your family. 

Check out my article where I outline the most important points to consider before committing to a photographer.

Or check out the intro video to see what I cover:

Inspiration for your At-Home Family Photo Session

Here are some images that epitomize the advantages of at-home photo sessions. In my opinion, this level of relaxation and connection is harder to achieve if you’re shooting on location. But at home, it comes naturally.

Example #1: Relaxed At-home Family Session

Notice how relaxed (and happy!) both toddler and father seem to be. This image gives you great insight into their relationship and dad’s sense of humor.

Black & white image of toddler boy laying back on his father

Example #2

To me, the environment is just as important as the subjects in this photo. The scattered toys, dock-a-tot, and yoga ball contribute to the story of what life is like with a newborn baby. This photo also serves as a perfect example for how a little messiness can actually add richness to the story.

Example #3

I was incredibly lucky to capture this baby’s very first steps. I photographed him from several angles, but this is my favorite. The expression of surprise and pride in his mother’s face absolutely makes this moment. It’s not something you can easily emulate, but a great example of what can happen at home when everyone is living in the moment.

Toddler boy takes his first steps towards his very excited and proud mother.

Example #4

A very intimate moment between a grandmother and her two grandchildren as they all just… love each other. There was an evolution of events that led to this moment, starting with just grandma and the newborn baby with the toddler eventually joining them. Though grandma looks at the camera, I would argue that it’s still a great documentary moment with her inviting the viewer into this window of happiness.

Black and white image of a grandmother holding her newborn grandson as her toddler granddaughter squeezes him from the other side.

Example #5

Looking at this image, it’s quickly obvious that this activity is a regular part of this family’s routine. For that reason, it tells the story of what life was like at this moment. When looking back at this image in the future, the family will notice all the little details – the pup cuddling next to mom, the musical instruments spread around the rug, the book that was a big favorite – and they’ll be taken right back to this moment.

Want to chat about scheduling a family photo session?

If you’re local to Los Angeles and interested in a photo session with me, I’d love to chat with you! Visit my contact page on my website and I’ll be in touch shortly!


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