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Outdoor Family Portraits: Everything You Need to Know

May 16, 2023

Filed in: Families

Are you planning outdoor family portraits? Whether you’re envisioning your family in a field of wildflowers or in a grove of oak trees, outdoor family portraits can showcase your family at your best. After all, some of your best family memories are of outdoor adventures. Why not take family portraits outside? With a little planning ahead, you can ensure your outdoor family portraits are the best ever with these five tips.


portraits with a family of four in a field


1. Choose a Location to Showcase the Outdoors

If you’re doing photos outdoors, why not choose a location with some natural beauty? I adore locations that feel a little more “wild” and natural: tall grasses, old growth trees, expansive views, and wildflowers. These elements all photograph really softly and filter light in a magical way that just can’t be beat. A close second is any location with a quintessentially Oregon view: family photos at the Columbia River Gorge are my favorite. (Like these Columbia River Gorge maternity photos published at The Motherhood Anthology!)


Read More | Best Locations in Portland for Outdoor Family Portraits


2. Choose a Season that Matches Your Vision

Before you even reach out to a photographer to book your portraits, think about how you’d like your images to look. Are you envisioning fall photos with all the warm, rich colors of the changing leaves? Or are you hoping for lush greenery and pastel florals in the background of your photos? Whatever you’re dreaming of, choose to book your session in a season that can accommodate that.


mom and son during outdoor family portraits


Read More | Outdoor Family Portraits in Fall


3. Dress comfortably

This goes for everyone in the family, but is especially important for younger children. There’s nobody more unhappy than an underdressed kiddo on a cold day. Layer those babies up in sweaters and tights that photograph well, so that they’ll be happy even if it’s cold. On hot days, opt for lightweight shirts or dresses. My clients get a wardrobe guide and a complimentary styling service to help with this, but you can also check out some of my What to Wear for Photos posts, like this one on what to wear for outdoor family portraits in the fall.


what to wear for outdoor family portraits


Read More | What to Wear for Outdoor Family Portraits in the Spring


4. Prepare for the Weather

The thing about outdoor photo sessions is that we have no control over the weather. Most of the time, it’s beautiful! But summertime sessions can be warm, and fall or winter sessions can be cooler.  Set your expectations the same as you would for a walk outdoors (read: no air conditioning) and be ready to embrace the season and windblown hair! Bring handwarmers to slip into pockets in the winter, and extra bottles of water in the summer. Since we live in Oregon and this is definitely A Thing, I wrote about what happens if it rains on your session day here. We’ll also reschedule for any other major weather events, like lightning storms or excessive heat.


Read more | Outdoor Family Portraits: What Happens if it Rains?


5. Book Your Session In Advance

If you have your eye on family portraits during a peak season, like fall, you’ll want to book far in advance. Many photographers offer prime spots during peak seasons to their e-mail list first, so once you’ve found a photographer you like, ask about getting on their list so you’ll be notified when there are open dates. This goes for special short seasons too, like wildflower or cherry blossom season, which may only last a few weeks.

Hot tip: you can get onto Samantha Shannon Photography’s VIP list by entering your info in the form below for first dibs on dates!



Book Your Outdoor Family Portraits in Portland

Okay, Portland! Ready to schedule your family portraits? Drop me a quick message and let’s get started! Looking for even more information on outdoor portrait sessions in Portland? You might check these out:

Guide to Outdoor Maternity Photos in Oregon

What is the Best Time of Day for Outdoor Photos?


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Outdoor Family Portraits: Everything You Need To Know


PS, are you ready for another installment of my favorite posts from photographers around the world? This week, I loved reading this post that my friend Miriam, a baby photographer in London, wrote about finding the right photographer for your child. Truly such excellent advice!


comments +

  1. Vanessa says:

    As usual, great information! The family is beautiful! These look like they belong in a magazine!

  2. I LOVE mom’s dress. Gorgeous session. If I should ever make it to your area, I would definitely want to book a session with you!

  3. Jasmyn says:

    These are perfection Samantha! I love your tips for family outdoor photos. And, I can’t say this enough, how much I want a photo session with you!

  4. I always love your work. Those photographs are no difference. Stunning portrait of big brother too

  5. Karla Vacek says:

    These are beautiful and I love mom’s dress! Great information too!

    • Samantha Shannon says:

      Thank you! Her dress was so fun to photograph: a favorite in my Client Closet. Layers of tulle just feels so springtime to me!

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