my girls snuggling during our northern minnesota photography session

Guide to a Successful Northern Minnesota Photography Session with Small Children

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Our Summer Family Photoshoot on the Beach

Today, I’m inviting you to join my family for a peek “behind the scenes” of our North Central Minnesota photography session on the beach.

I’ll admit, the thought of coordinating family photos was — and still is — a bit stressful. When you have small children, you never know how it’s going to go!

But honestly? Time flies by so quickly and, until you start looking back at photographs, it’s too easy to forget what your little family looked like when the kiddos were small.

If you want to capture your family in professional photos, but you’re not sure where to start, let me guide the way. 

I’m going to help you choose the right photographer, figure out the best time, and choose a location in Northern Minnesota. I’ll also share a few tips for coordinating your family’s outfits and ensuring a smooth session — whether the kids are cooperating or not!

Let’s get started.


pinterest graphic to accompany our northern minnesota photography session blog post


This post was sponsored by Amber Doll Photography, but all opinions expressed are my own.


Choosing Your Photographer

Choosing the right photographer is the first step in the right direction toward a successful family photo shoot. 

So, what exactly do you need to think about before hiring a photographer?

A few important considerations:


  • Experience with children
  • Photography style
  • Area served


You can usually find all of this information by looking at their website, if they have one.

Amber, the mom behind the lens at Amber Doll Photography, has four kids of her own — so you know she has a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to capturing children’s unique personalities on camera.

She is a lifestyle photographer, meaning her goal is to highlight your family’s natural interactions in an artistic way. 


daddy and daughter during our family photo session


Her area served is Central and Northern Minnesota, including (but not limited to):


  • Park Rapids
  • Wadena
  • Perham
  • Bemidji
  • Brainerd
  • Detroit Lakes
  • Alexandria
  • Long Prairie


Deciding on the Best Time

Your photographer will likely help you figure out the best time of day for your family photo session.

If you want outdoor photos, natural lighting is one of the most important considerations. When the sun is too high in the sky, you’ll get harsh shadows — not to mention, the bright light will make everyone squint!

Not ideal.

Amber scheduled our photoshoot for the time just before sunset, helping to achieve that soft glow you see in our pictures.


my daughter during our family photoshoot


I know what you’re thinking: “But that’s when my kids go to bed!”

Kenna had just turned three and did pretty well staying up a little later than normal. And luckily, we were able to get Raelyn to nap a little later in the day, so she managed to cooperate until the very end before starting to get fussy.

For indoor photos, my best suggestion is to keep your kids’ daily pattern in mind. Try to schedule your session for the time when they are the happiest — which is typically after naps and meal or snack time.


Selecting a Northern Minnesota Photography Session Location

North Central MN is chock full of photo ops, and your photographer should be able to work with you to choose the perfect location.

If you plan on hanging printed photos on your walls, consider the type of backdrop you want to have on display in your home, hopefully for years to come.

Photographers typically have go-to locations for their outdoor sessions. But you might want to consider any beautiful areas near you. 

While Amber came to our home and took our pictures on the beach, you might prefer a woodsy scene, corn fields, wheat, sunflowers, a nice open meadow, or something else. 

If you have a location in mind, ask your photographer for their opinion — they might want to scope it out beforehand. Otherwise, ask if they have any suggestions.


my daughter during our family photography session


Pro mom tip: Having your family photos taken at (or near) your home takes away a lot of the stress when you have small children! 


Coordinating Your Family’s Outfits

A few tips for coordinating your family’s outfits for your photo session:


  • Consider your backdrop
  • Coordinate your clothes, don’t “match” outfits
  • Consider your home decor (for hanging your photos)
  • Limit patterns — but add in lots of texture
  • Avoid logos and characters


Coordinating everyone’s outfits can be tricky! 

When I was choosing clothes for my family, I knew I wanted beach-friendly attire. From there, I looked at some of the photos on Amber’s Pinterest board for inspiration.

And this was the result:


our family walking along the beach during our north central minnesota photography session


Getting Kids to Cooperate

Finally, the one you’ve been waiting for. How to get kids to cooperate for family pictures.

The truth? Kids won’t always cooperate (aka sit still and say “cheese”) while waiting for the photographer to snap the picture.

And that’s okay!

Amber gave us some tips ahead of time, suggesting that we make it a fun family experience. She kept it all very relaxed, allowing us to walk along the shoreline with the kids — something we did regularly, anyway — so it wasn’t something new and scary. 

She snapped away while we snuggled our little girls and had fun on the beach. And as you can see, we ended up with some beautiful family photos to treasure forever. 


our family on the beach


A few additional tips for making your session go smoothly:


  • Allow plenty of time to get ready so you’re not rushing at the last minute.
  • Make sure your kiddos are well rested and fed beforehand.
  • Bring snacks (but nothing too messy).
  • Keep it simple; a blanket to sit on is fine, but don’t go too crazy with props.
  • Have fun with your family!


If your family is due for new photos, check out Amber’s website to see some of her other work.

Make sure to like her Facebook page and follow her on Instagram, too!


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  1. Pretty helpful tips, The outfit co-ordination certainly seems like it would be a tricky thing to pull off! I think almost as hard as getting kids to co-operate, although as you mentioned you just have to stay relaxed. Thanks for the helpful tips

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