Five Tips for Gorgeous Winter Family Photos

Although fall is by far the most popular time to schedule photos, the winter months can be a perfect time to get your family together for an outside session! If you have kids who are home from college for Thanksgiving or Christmas break, or even home for a weekend, take advantage of that golden winter light and schedule your photos!

Here are my top tips for families and photographers for getting great winter family photos:

Find the best light and location.

Lighting ALWAYS takes priority when I am looking for the best spot to shoot. We met around 3:30 which is about 1.5 hours before sunset, so the sun was low in the sky but we still had plenty of light. If the session is at someone’s home, I look for elements that can best tell a story about the family. I loved the barn in the background and how the sun was setting just above it, and the evergreen trees provided some filtered light and color.

Other locations to look for in winter are fields, pine trees, or evergreens. One of my favorite local locations is a field with dead grass that turns golden at sunset. Trust me on this, the texture and light are incredible!

outdoor winter family photos of mom, dad and 2 daughters
mom and dad in front of barn walking across grass during their winter family photo session
three photos of sisters standing in front of barn during their winter family photo session

My friend Caroline mentioned that throughout the years every school photo of her daughters was taken on these steps so we grabbed a few there! 

teenage girl sitting on steps during her winter family photo session
college-age girl sitting on steps during her winter family photo session

Wear layers.

I always suggest using this time of year to really play up layers and textures, it adds so much to your photos. Vests, boots and sweaters are all good choices. Smaller kids need extra warmth so be sure to bundle them up with a cute hat and coat.

Plan your outfits.

The most important tip when planning your outfits (other than layers) is consider the location and base your colors off of that. For this session neutrals and earth tones looked beautiful with the green grass, trees, and gray/brown barn. Again, make sure you are warm enough! 

Use one lens.

This is a personal choice… I usually shoot with 35 mm and 50mm lenses, but when it’s cold I use only the 50, my all-time favorite prime portrait lens. It’s versatile for group shots as well as close-ups, and I don’t have to keep changing lenses.

Be flexible when scheduling your winter family photos.

Be open to rescheduling and let your clients know that you may have to reschedule due to inclement weather. Keep your schedule and communication open with your clients. Pay attention to the weather forecast and let them know a few days ahead of time if a certain date is looking good for weather.

Check out more outfit ideas here.

If you’re up for a winter session, I’d love to chat! See more of my Northern Virginia Family Photographer portfolio here!

Five Tips for Gorgeous Winter Family Photos


Hello, I’m Sarah! Nothing would make me happier than documenting your authentic, real moments in beautiful evening light in the Virginia mountains.