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):
- Build a sand castle at the beach
- Wrap holiday presents together
- Decorate the Christmas tree
- Have a snowball fight
- Play in the pile of freshly raked leaves
- Put on some roller skates and go for a spin
- Cook a meal together
- Go for a hike
- Make a cup of fancy hot chocolate with marshmallows & snuggle up by a fire
- Play a game of hide and seek
- Build a fort indoors
- Paint each other’s nails
- Document learning something new, like riding a bike
- Bake a pie
- Build a snow man
- Go sledding
- Pick flowers and make a bouquet
- Play a board game
- Bake cookies
- Paint a picture and craft something
- Go on a date at a coffee shop
- Dress up like models and pop a bottle
- Have a pillow fight
- Decorate a cake
- Go to a farmers market
- Go to a pumpkin patch
- Plant a garden
- Harvest from your garden
- Go for a stroll in a local park
- Have a popcorn fight
- Go apple picking
- Visit your favorite bookstore
- Play in a sprinkler or the hose
- Give your dog a bath together
- Make snow angels
- Pick out your Christmas tree at a local farm
- Have a jam session with your favorite instrument(s)
- Have a dance party in your living room
- Have a silly jam session with household items that double as instruments, like pots and spoons
- Roast marshmallows over a fire
- Have a picnic in the park or your backyard
- Go to the zoo
- Fly a kite
- Go camping or pitch a tent in your backyard
- Watch the sunset with your favorite drink in hand
- Go for ice cream
- Make sushi or pizza
- Decorate a cake
- Dance in the rain
- 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 🙂