When to Take Family Photos: A Guide for Families in Chicago

Family photos have the magical power to freeze moments in time, capturing the love, laughter, and unique essence of your family. In the bustling heart of Chicago, with its diverse neighborhoods and stunning cityscapes, the opportunities for creating beautiful family memories are endless. But when is the best time to take those cherished family photos? In this guide, we’ll explore the ideal moments and seasons for family photoshoots in the Windy City. Whether you’re a teacher, a tech worker, a dog lover, or a parent with a packed schedule, we’ll help you navigate the world of family photography and make it a meaningful and enjoyable experience. So, let’s dive in and discover when to take family photos that truly honor your family’s story.

Capturing the Seasons

Chicago, known for its distinct seasons, offers a breathtaking backdrop for family photos throughout the year. Each season brings its own unique charm, and the choice of when to take your family photos largely depends on your preferences and the atmosphere you want to create.

I recommend having one full session and one petite/mini session per year – think about which of the vibes below you want to emanate from your session. Keep in mind – in-home sessions are perfect year round!

Springtime Blooms: Spring is a time of renewal and vibrant growth. It’s the perfect season for capturing your family surrounded by blossoming flowers in Chicago’s many parks and gardens. The soft, pastel colors of spring add a touch of freshness to your photos.

Summer Sunshine: Summer in Chicago is all about blue skies, warm weather, and endless outdoor possibilities. Beaches, parks, and lakeshores become picturesque settings for fun-filled family photoshoots. The long days and golden sunsets create a warm and playful atmosphere.

Autumn’s Palette: Fall in Chicago transforms the city into a canvas of rich, earthy tones. The changing foliage provides a stunning backdrop for family photos in places like Millennium Park or along tree-lined streets. The crisp air and cozy sweaters add a touch of nostalgia to your images.

Winter Wonderland: If you’re brave enough to embrace the cold, winter can offer a unique and magical setting for family photos. Think snow-covered landscapes, cozy scarves, and rosy cheeks. You can opt for indoor sessions with cozy holiday themes or venture outdoors for a snowy adventure.

That Golden Hour Everyone Talks About

When it comes to photography, I’m sure you’ve heard about the “golden hour.” This refers to the period shortly after sunrise and before sunset when the sun casts a warm, golden glow over everything it touches. In Chicago, making the most of the golden hour can elevate your family photos to a whole new level.

The soft, diffused light during the golden hour creates flattering and ethereal portraits. The warm tones add a touch of romance to your photos, making them look timeless and dreamy. If you’re an early riser, consider scheduling a sunrise family photoshoot along Lake Michigan, where you can capture the city’s skyline bathed in golden hues. For those who prefer evenings, the sunsets in Chicago provide a stunning backdrop against the city’s iconic landmarks.

It may be controversial, but I don’t like Golden Hour better than direct sun. We can create really beautiful images together regardless of how close to sunset it is. However, Golden Hour is perfect for a dressed-up beach shoot or a walk along the Lake Front Trail.

Finding Your Ideal Time

While the golden hour is indeed magical, if you’re looking for something unique, nostalgic, or filled with liveliness, you should read on. We also have to consider your little ones’ routines. Finding the ideal time for your family photoshoot means considering your family’s schedule, especially if you have young children.

Start by thinking about your family’s daily rhythm. Do your kids have a specific time when they are most active and playful? Scheduling your photoshoot during their happiest hours can lead to more relaxed and natural-looking photos. Perhaps it’s in the morning when they’re full of energy or after a midday nap when they’re refreshed.

Additionally, consider the lighting conditions inside your home if you’re planning an in-home photoshoot. Large windows that let in plenty of natural light can create a beautifully lit setting for your family photos. Direct light inside homes is my absolute favorite to have sessions in, and I’ll provide guidance on finding that light in your home further down.

Direct, Uneven Light Magic

I love direct light. This is the light you see pouring into your home during the sunny hours of the day – the sun patches your cat lies in and the puddles of light that often have shadows from the leaves outside in them. My use of direct, uneven light is one of the things that makes my photos unique and full of emotion. If you are up for authentic, artistic photos, we’ll schedule your session around when the light is best in your house.

I’ll ask you to look for sun patches, write down those times, and let me know. I’ll also have you send me pictures or a video of all the rooms in your home during the time of day that you are seeing the sun patches. I’m always happy to do this process with clients after they book, but if you are able to arrive at our call with this info in hand, we can really easily schedule your session.

Beyond the Calendar

While considering the seasons and the light are the most important factors, don’t forget to think about the significance of family milestones and personal moments. These occasions can serve as meaningful opportunities to capture your family’s journey.

  • Birthdays and Anniversaries: Celebrate your family’s milestones with a photoshoot. Whether it’s a child’s birthday, a wedding anniversary, or a significant life event, capturing these moments will create lasting memories.
  • Holidays and Traditions: Chicago hosts a variety of festive events and holiday celebrations throughout the year. Embrace the holiday spirit and include these moments in your family photos. The holiday lights and decorations can add a touch of magic to your images.
  • Special Achievements: If your children have achieved something remarkable, like winning a sports competition, receiving an award, or graduating, these moments are perfect for family photos. They celebrate your family’s accomplishments and the pride you feel.

These milestones not only mark the passage of time but also tell the unique story of your family’s journey. Consider these moments as ideal times to schedule family photos that capture the essence of your family.

Making It Comfortable

One common concern families have when it comes to family photoshoots is feeling comfortable in front of the camera. It’s natural to feel a little self-conscious when you’re the center of attention, but there are strategies to help you relax and enjoy the experience.

  • Choose a Familiar Location: Opt for a location that is meaningful to your family. Whether it’s your home, a favorite park, or a spot with sentimental value, being in a familiar place can put you at ease. This is why I love in-home photos so much! It is already likely the place where you can be most yourself.
  • Wardrobe Choices: Select outfits that make you feel confident and comfortable. I’ll help you figure out what to wear, but prioritizing what makes you feel good comes first.
  • Professional Guidance: Hiring an experienced family photographer can make a significant difference. We can provide guidance on posing, lighting, and creating a relaxed atmosphere during the session.
  • Incorporate Play: If you have children, incorporating play and interactive activities during the photoshoot will lead to candid and joyful moments. It’s not just about posing; it’s about having fun together. Pick an activity that you know you all love, like baking, playing in the sprinkler, or going on a hike.
  • Be Yourself: The key to feeling comfortable in front of the camera is to be yourself. Let your family’s unique personality shine through, and don’t be afraid to show genuine emotions. I’ll prompt you to take deeper breaths, relax your shoulders, and do other things to help you be yourself in front of the lens.

Creating Meaningful Experiences

The best family photos aren’t just about capturing smiles; they’re about preserving genuine moments and connections. To make your family photos meaningful, we’ll focus on creating real, positive experiences during the photoshoot.

  • Interact Naturally: Encourage your family members to interact with each other as they normally would. Play games, share stories, or simply enjoy each other’s company. Candid moments often make for the most memorable and emotive photos.
  • Include Everyone: Ensure that every family member, including pets, feels included and valued during the photoshoot. Pets can add an extra layer of authenticity to your family photos.
  • Tell Your Story: Consider incorporating props or activities that tell your family’s unique story. It could be a favorite book, an heirloom, or an activity you all enjoy together.
  • Celebrate Individuality: Embrace each family member’s individuality and quirks. These are what make your family special, and they should be celebrated in your photos.

The goal is to create an experience that feels genuine and true to your family’s personality. When you look back at your photos, you’ll not only see smiles but also the love, laughter, and unique connections that define your family.

Affordability and Making this a Smooth Process

Affordability and time management are common concerns when it comes to family photography. Many families worry about the cost and the logistics of scheduling and preparing for a photoshoot. Here are some tips to address these concerns:

  • Plan Ahead: Schedule your family photoshoot well in advance. This allows you to choose a date that works for your family and gives you time to prepare. I’ll help you plan the session, outfits, what you’ll do with the photos, and more. When we have at least 6 weeks together before the session, we can do a lot together to get you feeling comfortable and ready!
  • Budget-Friendly Options: First you pay the session fee, and you’ll select a package after you receive the photos. All of my packages include a different number of digital images and a print credit, so you can pick a package that is more affordable for you. Because most people schedule the session and pay the session fee 6-8 weeks in advance of the shoot, the session fee and the package purchase are spaced out quite a bit to help families afford them with more ease.
  • Mini Sessions: I occasionally offer mini sessions, which are 15-minute short sessions that are more affordable. Sign up for my email list to here when those open here!
  • Membership: Returning clients are able to join my Yearbook Club membership, which spreads the payment for the session out in small monthly auto-pay fees throughout the year. This is my version of a payment plan, and makes sessions affordable for many families. Members also get exclusive perks like access to 30-minute sessions, self-scheduling, a discount on event photography, and more!
  • Preparation Guides: I have a comprehensive preparation guide that I’m happy to provide you with to get you feeling session-ready. Styling is also included in your session fee.

By planning ahead, exploring budget-friendly options, and following the guidance of your chosen photographer, you can streamline the process and make family photography more affordable and convenient.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, family photos are more than just pictures on a wall; they’re a reflection of your family’s love, journey, and unique story. By considering the seasons, the golden hour, the light in your home, your family’s schedule, and your milestones, we can choose the perfect time for a photoshoot that captures the essence of your family. Remember, comfort, authenticity, and affordability are all within reach, and our unique use of direct, uneven light adds a touch of magic to each photo. So, why wait? Schedule a call with me here and start planning memories that will last a lifetime.

We hope this guide has provided valuable insights into when to take family photos in Chicago. If you have any questions or are ready to schedule your session, feel free to reach out to me. I look forward to helping you create beautiful memories with your loved ones.

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