How To Capture Amazing Candid Family Photos for Your Clients

San Diego Family Photographer

As a San Diego family photographer, my goal for your session is simple: capture the most authentic (and amazing!) candid family photos for you to treasure! It seems so simple, doesn’t it? But as a family photographer, I can tell you it’s not as easy as pulling out your camera and taking some photos. Even with candid family photos, there is a technique to getting those perfect shots, including staging them (gasp).

If you are a newer photographer, or just looking for a few pointers on how to mix it up to get those fun candid family photos for your clients, here are my top four tips to get you ready to take great candid family photos.

  1. Get the location down before you start photographing
  2. Stage the photo first
  3.  Move your feet
  4. Games and prompts are your friend!

Location Matters

Capturing Candid Family Photos

mom and her son and daughter

Obviously, if you are a photographer, you are already looking and scouting great locations for your family sessions, and it’s not any different when searching for good areas to take candid family photos. I always look for open spaces with little to no crowds, and no obvious distractions. Little kids get distracted easily, so limiting those is key. Taking photos right next to a train museum may not be the easiest when it comes to photographing little kiddos.

Open spaces with no distractions or hazards work wonders for candid family photos! Even if you are at a location that may have a beautiful spot for a photo but is closely surrounded by trees, take a beautiful family photo there and then move to a more open location to let the family (and you) have more space to work.

Set The Photo

Capturing Candid Family Photos


Just like any other photo you will take, you set the photo up first. It is no different when taking candid family photos. Our clients really have NO clue what you are envisioning for their image, nor do they know where to stand or how to move. So, you stage that ish for them. Set them up together for that perfect “grandparent shot” that we all get of everyone looking and smiling, and then from there you can go in and get your candid shots. Whether it’s sitting down or standing all together, make sure they all start together with at least one hand touching another family member.

Move Your Feet

Capturing Candid Family Photos

This one should be a given, but it may be forgotten easily. Move. Your. Feet. While I looove shooting with my Nikon 70-200 lens, it can only get me so close to my clients. Which is not beneficial when getting those candid family photos. For those, I switch to my Sigma 35mm Art – one of my favorite family photography essentials I always have on hand. Running around your clients, getting right up in their space leaves you with some great candid family photos they will love for years!

Games and Prompts

Capturing Candid Family Photos

Once you have your family staged where you want them, take the posed and smiling photo we all love and adore, now what? How do you get those natural interactions we all strive to capture? Games and prompts. Movement is what is going to make (or break) your candid family photos. For younger children, dancing, twirling, playing freeze dance or red light/green light are all winners. Older kids aren’t really going to go for red light/green light, so you have to get a bit creative with them. Staring contests can work for a genuine laugh, or trying to link arms and walk at a different tempo than the other one. When it’s the full family, linking arms and having the youngest child pull along the rest of the family is always hilarious. tickles, snuggles, whispering silly things in ears are all great little games and prompts that lead to natural smiles and laughs, and great interaction for your candid family photos.

BONUS: My 5 favorite games/prompts for achieving those candid family photos

  1. I want everyone to look at the person who has the stinkiest farts (works great if you have some older kids/young tweens)
  2. Snuggle in together, and Mom – give your kid a tickle.
  3. Parents, stand together and look into one another’s eyes, arms wrapped around one another. Kids, it’s time to play tag around your parents!
  4. Red light/green light towards me from parents.
  5. If only one younger child, walking towards me and swinging the child up, only interacting with one another.


I hope this quick guide to how I get great candid family photos for all of my clients helps! If you have any great prompts that you love and are 100% tried and true, leave them below. Want to schedule your San Diego family photos with me? Send me a message and we can chat about your perfect session! I can’t wait to hear from you and plan your family session soon <3

In the meantime, leave a comment below and follow me over on Instagram to see what I’ve been up to in real time.