How to Take Gorgeous Family Photos on a Budget

Shannon Cairns

April 12, 2021


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One of my favorite things in LIFE are family photos.  I love to use our family photos to decorate our home or send out the perfect Christmas cards.

I usually get professional family photos made every year around Christmas.

This past year was the first time in a while that I decided to forgo a professional family photo session, in the name of the budget.

Originally posted in 2019, updated for 2021.

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The Christmas card still turned out super cute of course, even though I used a simple iPhone photo from our recent pumpkin patch outing.

I love Shutterfly for their awesome selection of photo ready cards!

I was tempted again to drop major dollar on family photos, when I got an email from our local photographer advertising spring mini sessions.

Spring family photos in Texas mean bluebonnets, and y’all…they do not disappoint.

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2019 Bluebonnets
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2021 Bluebonnets

The bluebonnets make the most beautiful photo backdrop, and I simply could not resist a few sweet photos of our three kiddos this year.

I was strong though, and instead of paying the $250 for the professional family photo session, I decided I could do almost as good of a job with a Texas overcast sky, and my iPhone.

Pro Tip: An overcast sky, or dusk/dawn time of day is best for photos. Too much sun can cause unwanted shadows. Our schedule in 2021 did not allow us to do the photos in the evening, so you can see the shadows and over-brightness compared to the overcast photos in 2019.

There are definitely times when I love to splurge on professional family shots, but since we are on a tight budget, I knew it would be best to DIY our spring photos this year.

Our photos turned out great!  We are lucky to be able to capture great pictures with our cell phones!

Here are a few tips and tricks to get the perfect family photos on a budget.

How to Take Beautiful Family Photos on a Budget

Get Outdoors

The best photos are captured using natural light.

  • If you can, wait for an overcast day, or find a shady spot.
  • No shade?  Try early morning or sunset for the perfect lighting.
  • Don’t be afraid of a rainy day!  The overcast sky can make for a gorgeous photo back drop!

Direct sunlight overexposes the photo, but the right amount of shade can make a huge difference!

Play with Angles

The perfectly posed family photo is out!

Get creative with your angles using these tips:

  • Stand on a step stool
  • Get down on the ground
  • Take an overhead shot, from the side, or from below!

If you don’t feel like you just completed a major workout after capturing photos of your kids, then you might be missing some super cute ANGLES.

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Try taking photos from several different views and see what you can come up with.

Use Accessories

If you need extra light, have too much light, or want to stabilize the camera, there are a lot of great (budget friendly) cell phone accessories for capturing the perfect photo.

Some of my favorite cell phone photography accessories include:

  • Love this inexpensive selfie light that slides right over the top of your phone!
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  • You can even get an entire lens kit for your cell phone!
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  • As crazy as the selfie stick used to sound, it can actually come in quite handy for getting fun family photos where everyone is included!
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Set the Timer

You can get the entire family in the photo, by making use of the timer on your phone.

Many cell phones will give you a 10 second option to find your spot and say cheese before the camera goes off.

Don’t trust the timer?  Bring a friend and offer to take pictures of her family next!

Face the Light

If you can’t get outside, or are trying to capture photos indoors, try to use the light from a large window.

Your photo subjects should be facing the light, not standing in front of it.

In this photo, the baby is in front of the window, and even though he’s a total cutie, the photo is too dark.

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Simply changing the position of the highchair to face the window would completely change the photo quality.

In this photo, I am using the light from a large window in our living room. It turned out much better and bright!

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Use an Inexpensive Photo Editor

There are a gazillion different photo editing apps that you can use to brighten your photos, add filters, or other small edits.

I like to use PicMonkey, because it’s user friendly (for a non-techie person like me), and pretty inexpensive.  Get a free trial here.

There are several free apps like VSCO, and Adobe Lightroom, sometimes I even use the filters in Instagram as a quick and easy fix to brighten photos.

Embrace the Chaos

It’s easy to get frustrated, or annoyed when the kids won’t sit still or smile for the camera.

I’ve found that my favorite photos always end up being the completely candid ones.

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Let your kids play and allow their personalities to shine through!  You might just capture the perfect moment in all of the chaos!

Do you struggle with what to wear for family photos?  Check out my best tips here!

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hi! I'm shannon

I’m a wife, mom of three, doctor, and blogger! In 2018, I decided to turn my mom blog, into a personal finance blog so others could follow along on our journey to pay off over HALF a MILLION dollars in student loan and practice start up debt. I hope you enjoy following along, and maybe even find some inspiration along the way.