Are you tired of photos that are stale and posed (and kind of boring)? Are you looking for photo session ideas that are fun, meaningful, and actually capture the reality of your life?

I came up with the following list of sentimental photo session ideas after spending some time diving into the reasons why certain photo sessions just seem to have this MAGIC about them.

Some sessions seem to just flow and feel so natural and comfortable. It’s during these kind of sessions that I come alive with creativity and the people I’m photographing seem to shine. It’s a vibe, you know? I’ve also been paying attention to the photos that my clients love the most, the ones that get posted to social media, and/or get printed most often.

I’ve noticed that they are almost always photos of those sweet, authentic, in-between moments. And they are rarely the formal posed photos. You’ll hear me call these type of posed photos “the ones for the grandparents” during our sessions together. These are the ones where everyone stands facing the camera, looking right into my lens, forced smiles, CLICK, and done.

Listen… I WILL take those formal posed photos for you if you request them. I understand their place and usefulness as family albums and as heirlooms, but if I’m being brutally honest, they’re my least favorite photo to take.

Overly posed photos almost never tell a story and rarely capture the magic that happens when people are being themselves.

Quick note: I could have easily titled this post “Photo Session Ideas for People Who Hate Having Their Pictures Taken” because if you’re anything like the average human with even a modest amount of social anxiety, having your photos taken can make you feel like the most awkward person on the planet.

So what’s the easiest way to get those authentic, candid photos given the average person usually feels incredibly nervous when in front of the camera?

Think back to a party where everyone is just standing around with nothing to do but mingle around awkwardly. The energy of the room is weird, your social anxiety kicks in, you clam up, and you either end up clinging to one person you know the entire time–or if you’re like me, you end up sitting in a corner petting the house cat until it’s time to finally leave.

On the other hand, if you have something TO DO–it could be a game, an icebreaker, or even just helping in the kitchen or setting the table–you ease up and start having natural conversations & interactions. It’s actually fun because you feel connection and less pressure to perform.

In the same way, having something you’re actively doing during photo sessions cuts through anxiety and awkwardness we all feel while getting our pictures taken. I could write a whole blog post on this, and I probably will, but that’s actually beside the point for today’s post.

This is about how to take photos that will make you feel something.

(This is also me trying to convince you to leave the pale, stale, and posed photos behind)

You probably won’t look back in 10 years and say “oh yes I remember that day and how I felt when we posed for that one photo!” but you probably WILL remember the stories that you told each other that day when you randomly pitched a tent in your backyard, lit a fire, and roasted marshmallows under the stars. It became a core memory with real feelings attached.

How amazing would it be having beautiful, professional photos that bring you right back to that core memory when you look back on them years from now?

So when you’re thinking about your next photo session, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. What activity makes you feel alive and most like YOU? Here’s a list to get you inspired to leave the standard photo session (and awkwardness) behind.

50 photo session ideas that are meaningful (and not boring):

  1. Build a sand castle at the beach 
  2. Wrap holiday presents together
  3. Decorate the Christmas tree
  4. Have a snowball fight 
  5. Play in the pile of freshly raked leaves 
  6. Put on some roller skates and go for a spin
  7. Cook a meal together
  8. Go for a hike
  9. Make a cup of fancy hot chocolate with marshmallows & snuggle up by a fire
  10. Play a game of hide and seek
  11. Build a fort indoors 
  12. Paint each other’s nails
  13. Document learning something new, like riding a bike 
  14. Bake a pie 
  15. Build a snow man 
  16. Go sledding 
  17. Pick flowers and make a bouquet
  18. Play a board game 
  19. Bake cookies 
  20. Paint a picture and craft something
  21. Go on a date at a coffee shop 
  22. Dress up like models and pop a bottle 
  23. Have a pillow fight 
  24. Decorate a cake 
  25. Go to a farmers market 
  26. Go to a pumpkin patch 
  27. Plant a garden 
  28. Harvest from your garden 
  29. Go for a stroll in a local park
  30. Have a popcorn fight
  31. Go apple picking 
  32. Visit your favorite bookstore 
  33. Play in a sprinkler or the hose
  34. Give your dog a bath together 
  35. Make snow angels 
  36. Pick out your Christmas tree at a local farm 
  37. Have a jam session with your favorite instrument(s)
  38. Have a dance party in your living room 
  39. Have a silly jam session with household items that double as instruments, like pots and spoons 
  40. Roast marshmallows over a fire 
  41. Have a picnic in the park or your backyard 
  42. Go to the zoo 
  43. Fly a kite 
  44. Go camping or pitch a tent in your backyard 
  45. Watch the sunset with your favorite drink in hand 
  46. Go for ice cream 
  47. Make sushi or pizza 
  48. Decorate a cake 
  49. Dance in the rain
  50. Go to a record store and pick out a couple old records

I put together this list to inspire you to think outside of the box for your next photo session and to inspire you to document the days in your life that some would consider mundane–but you actually find beautiful and meaningful. What activity would YOU like to document with the people you love? What activity will help you remember–10 or 20 years from now–what gives your life meaning today? I’d love yo hear your thoughts and own ideas in the comments!

On a final note, don’t forget to sign up for my email list to grab 15% off your first session! Sign up here!

In addition to the discounted session, I periodically send all kinds of tips, tricks, and inspiration like this straight to your email. You’ll also get first dibs to my seasonal mini sessions. Next up: Snow Minis! I’ll be releasing the details to my email list around the Winter Solstice Dec. 21, 2022 🙂

50 Photo Session Ideas in Rochester that are Actually Fun!

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