Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

The Best Time of Year for A Family Photo Shoot


Your Guide to The Best Time of Year for A Family Photo Shoot

Hazy August days on the beach or crisp December mornings in the snow? Which month is best for family photography?

The great thing about family photography is it can be done all year round. We often think of sunny summer days as the perfect time, but all seasons have their advantages, and all create different types of images.

Most of my clients have regular sessions as their children grow up and it’s fun to mix the seasons up over time. One year we meet up for a summer session, then we arrange a winter session to really increase picture variety.

With all my sessions there’s usually some time indoors too. Your home is so important and will be filled with memories for your children, so it makes sense to include it.

Often more time might be spent indoors on a super-hot July day when it’s just too warm to be outside for long than on a cold February morning when the light is soft and we can run around in the woods and jump in puddles for hours. Summer doesn’t always equal long days outside and winter doesn’t always equal rain.

If you’re planning a family photo shoot, then read on to learn more about each season’s charms and what they can offer you in your family photographs.

Spring Family Photo Shoot

I’ve always loved spring shoots as they feel full of joy and excitement – this year more than ever when it will be wonderful to be getting out and seeing our friends again. There’s new growth on the trees and often a blanket of flowers if we’re in daffodil, bluebell or even cherry blossom season.

Spring is the season when the ground firms up and we’re less likely to be jumping in muddy puddles. We can sit on the ground again for pictures, opening up opportunities for play and relaxed family pictures. The light is still lower than in the summer, giving a beauty to our photographs which can be very dramatic if we’re dodging the occasional April shower.

If it rains, we can shelter under umbrellas or shoot inside, which I always love to incorporate into my shoots whatever the weather. Home is where the heart is and the place where so many memories are made.

Clothing changes from winter to spring and this alters the look of your pictures. From March to May, the weather can warm up considerably so we can leave those cute duffle coats and woollen hats at home. By May we may be in summer dresses, shorts and t-shirts depending on what the weather has in store. It tends not to be really hot though which is ideal as photographing in the midst of a heatwave can be tricky if children get too warm and tempers fray. Spring, like autumn, often has the best of both worlds with that magic combination of light, temperature and mood.

And nothing lifts that mood like a holiday. The Easter break and May half-term give ample opportunities for midweek photo shoots as well as the option for Saturday and Sunday sessions, as is the case throughout the year. A bright early start on a midweek morning can reward us with empty parks and beaches. This always feels extra special as well as giving us photographic opportunities without other people in our pictures. Or, importantly, without us getting in the way of other park and beach visitors.


Summer Family Photo Shoot

Summer is a very busy time for family photography and a season that I love. I often get fully booked up and in a normal year will juggle family photography shoots in London with many further afield.

On a typical summer I’ll usually travel up to Yorkshire and down to Devon and Cornwall, across to the Cotswolds and to Norfolk too. Extra costs are involved of course, but it can be a brilliant way to add variety to your family photo album particularly if you’ve been doing sessions year on year while your family grows up.

I often head to Europe too, meeting regular clients on their summer holidays. Hopefully Brexit and Covid won’t spoil this in the future, although I sadly can’t imagine any trips abroad this year.

So, if you’re thinking of a summer shoot then do get in touch sooner rather than later, especially if travel is involved. I do limit the number of overnight trips I make each week to ensure I have the time to process images and the energy to give my all to each and every client.

What does summer offer us in terms of the pictures themselves? Usually, we have fairly settled weather which can make planning easier. While I’ll tend to do some shots indoors whatever the weather to provide you with the greatest variety of images, in the summer we can plan more outdoor activities.

I find it fun to think about the activities that really define this particular summer for your children. There’s usually something that stands out. Maybe it’s an activity linked to a sporting event like the World Cup or Wimbledon? Or maybe this is the year your child has learnt to juggle, to spin a diablo or even to swim? Heatwaves might be celebrated with paddling pools in the garden and home-made ice lollies. So give some thought to what your children will remember and we can make sure to photograph it.

The beach is a favourite spot for summer shoots. Kids are always in their element there, whether it’s running around playing beach games, building sandcastles, digging for worms, rock pooling or crab racing. I’m sure mine’s not the only family who raced the crabs we caught seeing which got back to their rockpool first!

When planning, we need to consider tide times. Ideally, we want to be out on the beach early before the sun is high in the sky to get the best light. And of course to maximise the chances of having the beach to ourselves for a little while. Luckily, tide times are all published online now so we can easily work out the best day of your summer holiday months in advance.

Thanks to waterproof housing for my camera, we can also go in the water on our photo shoots.  Bodyboarding, surfing, swimming as a family and playing in the surf all make for glorious, happy photographs and are as fun to take as they are to be in. Especially if the day ends with ice cream.

Other ideas for summer family photo shoots might be a trip to your local park, heading out early in the day armed with a picnic. We can play on the swings and explore the playground while it’s empty before finding cosy corners and quiet areas of shade to set up camp and enjoy games. We can even take a book. What beats sitting under a tree on a sunny day and reading to your little one, sharing a love of stories surrounded by nature?

If you have something exciting up your sleeve for a photoshoot – perhaps it’s horse riding or water-skiing that floats your boat – then do let me know beforehand so I can ensure I have the right equipment to make the most of our summer photo shoot. If I don’t have the right thing to hand (and I have a lot of exciting equipment) then we can always hire at cost to ensure your pictures will be spectacular and exceed your expectations


Autumn Family Photo Shoot

Autumn is the busiest season for family photography. The children are back at school and suddenly Christmas is around the corner. It always feels like the first week of September is a turning point and the spaces in the diary fill up very quickly from then.

I think most family photographers will agree that autumn is a glorious time for pictures. We have the best of both worlds with the low sun and long shadows that are such a feature of winter shoots along with often really lovely weather. It’s not unusual to be running around in a t-shirt on a family shoot in November.

Obviously the earlier in the autumn you book the better the weather is likely to be. This has the added bonus of giving us more time to get your family pictures ready for Christmas so I’d always say book as early in the season as you can. That also means you can tick it off your list before the term gets filled with kids’ parties, sports fixtures and the fun of Christmas concerts.

Autumn shoots tend to stay closer to home and find me regularly returning to my favourite London parks. I love the amazing playground at Holland Park, the beautiful trees of Kensington, the serpentine in Hyde Park as well as the delightful landscaping of Regents Park. Greenwich Park and Kew Gardens are also favourites, as well as the wilds of Wimbledon, Hampstead Heath, Highgate Woods and Richmond Park.  We have so many extraordinary green spaces on our doorstep here in London and it’s a joy to see them all in the magic of autumn.

As the weather gets colder, we move into the season of cute hats and scarfs. We can capture delightful images of children with frosty leaves or looking in wonder as they see their breath in the air. Autumn is the season that keeps on giving and a truly wonderful time of year for family photography.

If you like the sound of throwing leaves in the air and exploring the parks of London to create pictures for your family Christmas presents and cards, at the same time as producing a wonderful document of your children’s lives, then an autumn photo shoot is for you.

Many of my clients have annual autumn sessions so weekend spaces are at a premium. But it’s first come first served so it’s never too early to get that date in the diary. I do end up turning people away each year so if you’re interested in an autumn family photo shoot do bear that in mind.

Winter Family Photo Shoot

Winter gets a bad rep for family photography. As the season begins on December 21st with the bleaker months after Christmas ahead and maybe some gloomy weather, it can feel like a time to skip any family photography.

But don’t dismiss it. Winter can be one of the most stunning times of year for children’s portraits.

And because photographers tend to be less busy, there’s usually much more flexibility for rescheduling if the weather is unkind.

Certainly, I know I can move shoots in January and February if rain is on the cards whereas in the autumn months, I’m fully booked so we go ahead whatever the weather’s doing. And of course, wintry weather can be absolutely spectacular.

These are the days of low sunlight and crisp days, often with a cloudless sky bathing the world in cool blue light. These are the days of stomping in puddles and the exciting sounds of ice crackling underfoot after a hard frost. Cold mornings are extraordinary as the world is covered in icy sparkles creating a glorious backdrop for pictures as well as a natural reflector bouncing light back into the children’s faces as they look around them in wonder.

Winter light is some of the most stunning for photographs. The sun is very low in the sky giving us soft sunlight and long shadows which make for dramatic imagery. The leafless trees also really add to the graphic possibilities of our photos, making winter the perfect time for silhouette images to create a sense of mystery in our pictures.

If we’re especially lucky, then a winter shoot might coincide with a rare snow day. Those are the very best days. Think sledging and snowball fights and building snowmen, often combined with some indoor shots with board games and hot chocolate to warm up. Cosy knitted jumpers and baking, wood burners and blankets, there’s something glorious about being snuggled up as a family on the sofa when it’s cold outside. I can record these moments for you in pictures to treasure.

I tend to get outdoors for part of my photo shoots whatever the season and whatever the age of the children (and whatever the weather). You might not think outdoor pictures of a newborn in January would work but I promise you they do and can add a wonderful variety to your gallery.

Incorporating the world around you and your favourite parks into your photo shoots will bring back so many memories whatever the time of year. Newborns, babies, children and families, the opportunities for winter family photography are there for you all.

So don’t discount winter as a season for wonderful family photographs. There’s a huge amount to recommend it and the opportunities are fantastic.


Christmas Family Photo Shoot

The run-up to Christmas is always a very busy time for family photographers but what many people don’t realise before their first session is the lead times for print.

If I’m to deliver prints for Christmas (i.e. delivery in the week preceding Christmas itself) then mid-November is the absolute cut-off. If you want pictures to send to family and friends or digital files to make into Christmas cards, then we need to be planning much further ahead.

Because it’s not just the photo shoot itself. After that there’s the processing and editing as I prepare your images to view, then the viewing session to be scheduled in at a time that suits you. From there we might have some album tweaks to make or some time finalising your wall galleries so everything is perfect.

Once the order is finalised, then images go to the retoucher to remove those stray biscuit crumbs and runny noses that are part and parcel of photographing children before I can send anything off to print. The labs then have their own turnaround times and things get very busy before Christmas.

So if you’re planning pictures as Christmas gifts then the earlier the better for your photo shoot. September and October are perfect and also often give us the best of autumn’s weather.

Family Photo Shoots to Mark Milestones and Anniversaries

There are so many family milestones that can be a wonderful excuse for a photo shoot. It’s the perfect reason to get pictures of everyone together and record how your life is at this moment in time. And it’s one of the few gifts you can buy that will literally last a lifetime.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed seeing families to celebrate a significant birthday and then seen them again a decade later. The children have grown up and it’s always such a joy to see the pictures from my previous session up on the wall, knowing they’ve been enjoyed for the years in between.

Family photographs makes great presents for Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day or as gifts to give grandparents. I’m really looking forward to an extended family photo shoot to celebrate a ruby wedding this year (restrictions permitting, of course). What better reason to get everyone together?

Photo shoots are also often planned to mark a child’s birthday. If we start with a newborn shoot, which usually take place within the first two weeks after your baby is born, then sessions can become an annual event after that. It’s fantastic to track the changes year on year in pictures that can be hung on the wall in a growing gallery or printed in an album that can be looked back on as time passes. Annual albums are an amazing gift for the children, something you know will be treasured for the whole of their lives.

I do offer birthday party photography for children although I tend to think it’s better to do a family photo shoot at a different time as on party day you’ll all be busy and often fairly frantic. And by the very nature of a party, there’s very little opportunity for shots of your family together. Better to do your family photo shoot the day before when you can all be relaxed and enjoying your time together for a fantastic set of images to mark the special day.

If you’re having a big extended family party, then this might be best organised for the summer when the weather is likely to be better. It’s hard photographing a family of ten or more indoors, when there may be a large age span between children, unless you have a very large and light-filled house. Often on big family sessions there’ll be babes in arms as well as teenagers so we’ll get much better pictures if we can be outside.


Choosing Your Ideal Time of Year and Booking Your Family Photo Shoot

So as you can see ‘when is the best time for family photographs’ isn’t an easy question to answer as every season has its own unique charm.

There might be one that really appeals to you so, as I book up to a year in advance, my advice would be to choose your favourite time now. I’d be more than happy to get you scheduled in for an upcoming season. Your children will grow and change, and you can always have another session in the future, but you can never go back in time.

It’s lovely to record life as it is now so whether we’re in the height of summer or the depths of winter, let’s meet and take pictures to record your family story in beautiful pictures to treasure.

I hope it’s also inspired you to look beyond the obvious summer and autumn seasons and perhaps consider a spring or winter shoot to add variety to your family photo story. There’s so much to be enjoyed in every season and so many wonderful opportunities for pictures.  Whether you have a family milestone to mark or just want a set of beautiful images to record your life as you live it and the love you have for your family, then do get in touch via the contact form or drop me an email or give me a call.

If you’d like to find out more about my photography for the specific age of your child, there are details on newborn photography, baby photography, younger children’s portraits and photography of teenagers in my dedicated pages.

There’s also information about how the sessions work, my prices, and also reviews and press coverage if you’d like to get a sense of how others have enjoyed their sessions.

And of course, any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’d love to hear from you and I look forward to meeting you and your family.