Extended Family Photoshoot

Extended Family Photoshoot

Your entire family is in town and you thought it would be a great idea to do an Extended Family Photoshoot.  I understand, I would think the same thing.  What better time for a photoshoot than when everyone is there, right?  Well, there’s more to it than that.

I always want to make sure my families are 100% educated as to what is going to happen at their photoshoot, and I think it’s important to understand the difference between photographing your own family, and photographing your family, your siblings family and the grandparents all at the same time.

The Shot List

For my regular family shoots, I have a shot list in my head.  I roughly follow the same routine for each family session I do but I have flexibility to switch things up if it’s not working.  We take shots in the bedrooms, living room, sometimes a basement play area and even the kitchen.  It’s directed but still pretty organic and natural.

For extended family shoots it’s an entirely different story.  There are so many shots required that it’s impossible to do the session organically.  We will work together to discuss the shots you want, and then we basically stay in one or two areas and I call out who is required to be in each shot.  After each shot, we will cross it out so there is no confusion.  It is much more structured with less time for natural moments.  I rarely follow the list order exactly, but I do make sure each shot gets done.

Here is an example shot list for two families of two children and two adults and grandparents:

  1. Family 1 – Sibling 1
  2. Family 1 – Sibling 2
  3. Family 1 – Siblings together
  4. Family 1 – Siblings with mom
  5. Family 1 – Siblings with mom and dad
  6. Family 1 – siblings with dad
  7. Family 1 – siblings with mom and dad and grandparents
  8. Family 1 – siblings and grandparents
  9. Family 1 – mom and dad only
  10. Family 2 – sibling 1
  11. Family 2 – sibling 2
  12. Family 2 – siblings together
  13. Family 2 – siblings with mom
  14. Family 2 – siblings with mom and dad
  15. Family 2 – siblings with dad
  16. Family 2 – siblings with mom and dad and grandparents
  17. Family 2 – siblings and grandparents
  18. Family 2 – mom and dad only
  19. all grandchildren
  20. all grandchildren with grandparents
  21. grandchild 1 with grandparents
  22. grandchild 2 with grandparents
  23. grandchild 3 with grandparents
  24. grandchild 4 with grandparents
  25. grandparents only
  26. grandparents and their two children
  27. group shot of everyone
  28. If there is time and people are still into it, I take the time to get natural organic shots of everyone.

There are a few things about this list:

First – you can see how we need to both keep track and keep it flowing.  Depending on the behaviour of the children this could take up to two hours but I find that most adults have a time span of max two hours for a photoshoot as well.

Second – check out how many times the children are being asked to be in photos.  It’s a lot.  There are not a lot of children who will not reach breaking point at some stage and you have to consider the temperament and age of your own children.  I definitely have done shoots like this where the children were fine throughout.  I have also done shoots where there was some crazy bribing at the end to get through it.

Third – you might be saying to yourself that this shot list is crazy, and we definitely don’t need that many combinations.  Yes, we can agree to a shorter shot list but I can almost guarantee that when photo shoot time comes around, someone there will ask for these shots.

Fourth – With the number of shots required within the time given there is much less room for creativity.  I typically get one photo where everyone is looking at the camera and then another where everyone is laughing, and then we move on.  With a single family photoshoot yes there are portraits, but there are also photos of everyday and play time.

Family Co-operation

I’ve done quite a few of these to know that while you feel like you are doing a great thing (and you are – you are adding to your family history) there will often times be a family member who doesn’t understand why they have to be there and doesn’t really want to participate.  I encourage you to talk to your family as much as possible in advance to explain why you are doing the photoshoot, why it is so important, how long it will take, what to wear, etc.  Communication is key.


I think you can get an idea already as to why extended family photoshoots cost more money.  There is a heck of a lot more planning involved than in a regular photoshoot, and on shoot day there is a lot more work involved.  Back in editing, there is much more editing involved because there are more people in each picture to edit.


Location is also tricky.  I need a location that is big enough that I can get everyone in my camera frame and have either enough natural light or have room to set up studio lights.  I can say right now after shooting in literally hundreds of Montreal homes that there is nearly no house that has both enough room and enough natural light.  Options include bringing studio lights in-home if the group is small enough, going outdoors or renting a studio.  I will discuss each of the options with you.

Last Thoughts

With families living all over the world these days, or even busy families located in the same city, I think extended family photoshoots definitely have value.  However, I think it’s important to understand what goes into a shoot like this.  I want my families to know what they are getting into so they are fully prepared on shoot day.  I also want them to be able to prepare the other members of their family who will be present.  I know that this is the best way for a successful, extended family photoshoot.

Is your family visiting?  Do you want an extended family photoshoot?  Contact me and we can get the ball rolling!