The Photography Session Un-Planning Crash Course

unplanning your family photos

We've all been there. 

It's 1 am and you're on pinterest checking out the latest cute photo ideas (that baby with the pumpkin painted bottom or everyone in christmas sweaters on the beach in Hawaii). All of a sudden, you MUST have these photos- because they're super cute. 

NAILED IT. (This photo dates to pre-pinning days, I should get some sort of credit dude)

NAILED IT. (This photo dates to pre-pinning days, I should get some sort of credit dude)

What if- stay with me- you could have a cool, relaxed photo shoot that required no matching white and khaki, no bribing kids to say cheese, and no driving for DAYS to that "perfect" park/beach?

You're probably snorting behind your computer, What on earth would the photos look like then, Candice? We would have messy hair, yoga pants, and pancake syrup all over Timmy's face!

cute girl showing off cloth diaper - candice macdonnell real life photographer

Maybe. But think about it- in ten years, when you look back at your album from 2016 (you are printing these photos right?) will you remember much about the pretty beach photoshoot other than how much Zoey cried on the drive, and the gum she stuck in sissy's hair, and Ben screaming "I WANT ICE CREAM" the whole way home? When you look at that (hopefully) magazine perfect shot, what will you SEE?

Cue a real life, aka family photo-journalism, aka story telling or documentary shoot. Everyone is relaxed, happy, having fun doing something they love, and the bonus is you get amazing photographs at the end that show just how Dad tickles Emily until she belly laughs SO LOUD, and how the cat haaaaates playing dressup with Suzie, but patiently obliges her. I bet you'll get misty eyed when you think back on the actual, real life memories and connections captured in a pretty album for you to relive over and over again.

So how do we un-plan a photoshoot?


While coordinating somewhat isn't a bad thing, everyone should be wearing clothing they already own and are comfortable in. Unless you're my friend Rebecca, I'll never believe your four children wear matching outfits on a regular basis. Mom: wear something you feel GOOD in.

shopping with two girls lifestyle photographer candice macdonnell


No beach required. Honestly, your home is where the heart is, and most of your memories and routines take place here. We are a military family, so I know that ever few years we will have a new "home" and I LOVE looking through photos of past residences. A little clutter? Clean it up, Own it (its the stuff you love!) or Do Something About it and donate the unwanted mess prior to your session. If you still aren't convinced, pick a location that your family frequents often (mini golf, dave and busters, a quiet spot for a picnic) and keep it as real-life as possible.


Let me (or your photographer) observe your family in your natural habitat, interacting naturally. The kids making silly faces at each other behind your back, a little mischief that happens when Bobby thinks no one is looking, the way your husband lovingly gazes at you as you police the house. Make it fun, game night or Tuesday tacos. I'll see so much more than you think, and you'll thank me for it again and again :)

girl enjoying snow cone in haleiwa oahu hawaii documentary family photographer candice macdonnell