Two Musts in Choosing Your Family Photographer | Lisa Staff Photography

August 6, 2022

So you’re finally getting around to doing your family photos. And let’s be honest…. It’s been  AGES and you have been putting it off  F O R E V E R!

Family portrait Hilton Head Photographer Lisa Staff Photography

I’ll be writing a few of these blogs, dispersing small and digestible tips, so watch out for more coming up. I’ve been doing this for a long time and have learned a thing or two. 

And here’s one thing that I know. You’ve used every excuse in the book to procrastinate on it.

  1.  I need to get my hair done.
  2.  I want to lose a bit of weight first. 
  3. Billy just got his braces on. 
  4. I’ve got to find the right outfits for all of the kids.

And in doing so you have missed some key moments and stages in time that won’t come back. I am continually surprised when I look at my own family portraits and see the changes so apparent in them that I couldn’t witness at the moment because I was “in the trenches”. I also get the privilege of seeing the changes and growth in my clients families when just a couple of years have gone by. So let’s not miss the boat. Christmas is coming and you aren’t going another year without the Christmas card going out on time with an incredible image that will rival everyone elses.

Let’s address some of those excuses!

Let’s address some of those excuses above because you know what they say about excuses. They are like butts. They all stink and everyone has one. Now, enough of that second-grade boy humor and onto you making it the best experience ever, both visually and experientially.

Family portrait photography Hilton Head

I need to get my hair done.

  1. Make the hair appointment. You’re going to look marvelous, dahling!

I want to lose a bit of weight first. 

  1. We are always our worst critics and, let’s be honest, there’s always Photoshop. Don’t think that I don’t do it for all of my published work, weddings, couple shots, content creation,  family portrait sessions, lifestyle photography, food photography, and interior photography. It’s pretty standard and has been for the last few decades. When was the last time that someone “‘airbrushed” something? Decades! It’s all Photoshop and filters now, baby! Ask your kids. They are throwing filters on and Facetuning their images left, right, and center. But… and here’s the thing…. you want people to recognize you and not look like a porcelain doll. So here’s a free tip. Make sure that you discuss this with your photographer, that they understand your needs and have the ability to deliver enhanced and/or Photoshopped images on all of their work and not just a special collection that they put on their website ten years ago. Do your due diligence and make sure that this is their standard quality control and available to you without having to sell a lung.

Billy/ Suzy just got their braces on. 

  1. These are changes and milestones that need to be recorded. Don’t miss the opportunity. You are going to wish that you had. And if it was someone’s bad haircut, growth spurt, braces, missing tooth, cute freckles, you are going to want a record of that. Or at least have some ammunition to take the mickey out of them and have good laugh years down the road.

I’ve got to find the right outfits for all of the kids.

  1. Gotta love an excuse for shopping. But it’s really not that difficult to pull the wardrobe styling together. Ask your photographer for some tips, guidelines, and suggestions. I’ve got some really simple ideas that you won’t regret in five years. 

Today we are going to talk about how you choose the right location for your family portrait photography. 

Here’s the first decision. Studio or Location?

You may already have an idea in mind but let’s discuss.

Some things to expect in a studio setting.


  • Lighting is set and synced  through all shots with no variations
  • There is really no allotment for movement in the shots and the images will be more staged and less candid to a certain extent
  • There are no weather elements to deal with including heat, cold, wind, bugs, rain, snow, and clouds. It’s consistent and you can book that appointment with no risk of last-minute cancellation on your family portrait session
  • You are typically going to get just a standard backdrop which can be super simple and clean. But also doesn’t have as much depth or soul and is more stagnant and rigid. It can be less easy to relate to each other or get movement and soul in the images…. That is unless you are a supermodel. I’m not saying that it can’t be amazing and artistic. It’s just got a different quality to it.

Some things to expect in a location setting.


  • There’s the potential for wind and elements. Which can produce an absolutely incredible image. Picture hair blowing, movement in dresses. It can become the best iconic family photograph ever. You just need to be open to your hair possibly moving. It’s okay. What you need to know is that your photographer is going to have your back with this and know how to shoot with these elements so that you don’t look like you have “Something About Mary” bangs. There. I said it. You still want your hair to look good, right ladies?
  • It’s far easier to relate to the background when you are on location. It will give off a vibe and you won’t feel as stiff and static.
  • It may be hot or it may be a bit chilly. That’s the problem with nature sometimes. But I think that it’s well worth it. Decide the season that you love dressing for and revel in those fabulous clothes.
  • Watch out for bugs. Here in Hilton Head and the Lowcountry, there has been a time or two that I have been capturing a beach family portrait and been standing in a red ant army and that’s never fun. Watch where you step.
  • There’s more of a variety for posing change-ups. You aren’t going to be standing in a row. We are going to get creative.
  • Caters more to lifestyle or photojournalistic.
  • There’s going to be movement. My honest opinion is that all shots are better with some type of movement and life to them. It’s not as hard as it sounds. It doesn’t involve you striking a pose every two seconds like a fashion influencer. It just means that we are going to have fun and you’re going to be yourself with your family. Say goodbye to boring. We are going to laugh and interact, Walk. Joke. Chase your kids. Thrown them in the air or on your shoulders. With some movement involved, we are going to show in your family portrait what your family is all about. That’s right! You’ll win for the best Christmas card hands down that year as well as finally having something great to post on your Instagram besides selfies.
  • People relate more to the background. Let’s make it easier for everyone. It’s not like I haven’t heard “I hate getting my pic taken”. Let’s change that up
  • It’s sooooo much easier to grab candid, fun, playing shots as they happen organically. No set up required. You choose the right environment and things will happen
  • You will need a backup date in case of inclement weather. Make sure that your photographer gives you a backup date option that works for everyone.

So here are my surprising closing thoughts.

And it’s not earth-shattering. Know your family and the style. Take that into consideration

Know your photographer. Here are some tips.

Create a relationship with them that could last a lifetime. Don’t be a commitment-phobe. This is a good relationship. I know myself that I love working with clients throughout the years. I love seeing the changes and additions to the family. But… and this is what’s interesting… we are competitive with ourselves. Each time we will try to make it better than the last family portrait session. It’s a quest and an obsession.

And just like you would do some “R and D” going into any romantic relationship, do the same when choosing your family photographer. Do some stalking. Look at their site. Check out their social media. Look at their google reviews. And best of all when all that is done, have a conversation with them. It’s worth it to see if they are the right fit. And don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Any and all questions. We actually like when families are interested and not just price shopping. 

Make sure that you understand the pricing. 

Make sure that the person that you are speaking with is actually the same person who will be photographing your family portraits.

And if you have any other questions reach out to me. And watch for some of my other blogs where I’ll give you more tips on choosing the right family photographer.

Lisa Staff is the owner of Lisa Staff Photography servicing Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, SC, Savannah GA, Beaufort, SC and the Lowcountry. Please reach out with any questions.

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