Kate Farrell Photography

Family & Dog photographer
Burlington, stowe & Northern Vt




The Best Time of Year for Family Photos

People often ask me: What is the best time of year for family photos? Is it fall foliage season? Or maybe early November when the light is actually really beautiful and winter is just barely arriving? Many people love to capture the beauty of family life during Vermont’s brief summers. Maybe summer is the best time for family photos? Still others embrace winter and opt for photos then. Are the winter holidays the best time for family photos?

So, when do I think is the best time for family photos? My quick answer is… last weekend!

The Biggest Mistake in Family Photography is: Not taking the photo!

As an artist, I take great care to consider light and composition before clicking the shutter. I plan my professional work around ideal light, scheduling sessions during Golden Hour as the sun dips low in the sky spreading beautiful light on my subjects.

Sometimes, summer is the best time of year for family photos. This 4 year old loved sitting on the rocky shore for a portrait.
One of those perfectly timed photos from a client session.

As a Mom, I prioritize the moment over light and composition. When my kids do something I want to remember, I always grab my camera. Do I try to gently invite them to do the cool new thing where the light is most favorable? All the time! Do I take a “safe shot” right away and hope to get another chance in better light or with a better backdrop? Yup!

A silhouette of four kids playing in a lake in front of a deep orange sunset.
I took many “safe shots” of my kids playing before I got this that just captured the way it felt to be out late on a summer night.

Sometimes, I get the chance to get the image I envision in beautiful light or light that enhances the story. That is always my goal. But, I still take photos when the moment happens because moments are fleeting.

A young chocolate lab playing fetch in the snow.
Willow was a 7 month old puppy when I flopped down in the snow to capture her learning to retrieve.

My clients trust me to schedule their session at a time when the light will be pretty and flattering. We always pick a beautiful place, often one that is special to the family I’m photographing. But, it is easy to wait for the “right moment” to hire a photographer.

A portrait of two parents holding their young daughter in font of a lake in the evening.
Even Mother Nature cooperated for this perfectly timed late summer session. It was raining a few miles to the south, but we had tons of fun and stayed dry.

I can think of 100 reasons you might delay getting family photos soon. Here are just a few.

  • I don’t like something about my body now.
  • Work is really busy right now.
  • We haven’t been getting enough sleep lately.
  • The kids are in a fussy or challenging phase.
  • Our schedule is full.
  • I don’t like having my photo taken.
  • Things have been a little weird the past few years.
A 4 year old girl spinning her dress on the beach.
Good thing her parents didn’t let a recent cross-country move delay getting updated photos taken!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but life is always fairly hard. This list will change a bit, but not much for the next ten years. The only difference is that in ten years you’ll be saying things like this.

  • Do I really want photos with all this grey hair?
  • How will we schedule around the kids’ activities?
  • My back is acting up again. Let’s wait a few weeks.
  • Work is busier than ever!
  • The schedule is still full.
  • I still don’t like having my photo taken.

When my first child was born almost 14 years ago, very wise people told me, “Parenting doesn’t get easier or harder. It just changes.” Averaged out month by month, that’s mostly been true.

A black and white image of a mother holding a sleeping baby.
Me with my youngest. This makes my heart skip a beat every time I see it.

I would also add, “Parenting doesn’t get any less rewarding or special. It just changes.”

A 6 year old girl bends to pick wildflowers.
My youngest is 6 years old now! How did that happen?

And, that is why photos are so important.

If it weren’t for photos there are entire years I would barely remember because I was so sleep deprived from giving birth to my second and third children 18 months apart. Our oldest was only 3 and a half when the third was born. Those were busy, exhausting years. Now that our fourth is 6 years old, we are still busy, but my sleep is very rarely interrupted by my children.

I am so grateful for the photos that help me remember what my sleep-deprived brain would have forgotten. And, I would love to give you that gift.

Ten or twenty years from now, none of the worries on either of those lists are likely to matter to you. When your kids are teens or have grown and left the nest, your future self will thank you for taking the time to get those photos taken. To paraphrase Brene Brown, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of done.” I would add that perfect is an illusion anyway.

The best time for family photos was last weekend.

Your family has already changed as a unit since last weekend. The change might be obvious. More likely it is so subtle that you barely noticed.

The old adage is true: the only constant is change.

An old chocolate lab watches a young toddler play in the grass.
Silva was one of my first generation labs. She oversaw my Little One’s early explorations in the yard.

Looking back on photos helps us appreciate that change. As a parent, change in our kids often feels hard. But, when we look back, we can often see that those were growing pains, not just tough days. Photos help us look back reflectively.

Photos also help us be grateful for the beauty in the chaos. At the end of every year, I assemble a family photo book. Few projects bring me more gratitude than literally looking back on photos that tell the story of how my near and dear ones have grown, learned new things, explored, overcome challenges and made the world a better place.

Books on a bookcase.
My collection of Annual Family Photo Books.

Day by day, it is easy to feel like the routines don’t change, we are still struggling with the same concepts, insurmountable challenges loom before us and we couldn’t possibly do anything to make a difference in the world. But, really none of that is true.

A young chocolate lab plays in a stream with a 6 year old girl.
Willow is my second gen lab! My youngest is helping teach her!!

I think it is really healthy to look over your shoulder once in a while to see how far you’ve come. Family photos are one way to do that. Last weekend was definitely the best time for family photos!

The second best time for family photos is: As Soon as Possible.

I know that getting family photos does not rise to the level of an emergency. I don’t save lives.

But, life is fragile. It can, and does, change on a dime. Many of you know that I was in a serious accident early this summer. After 27 comparatively uneventful years of cycling, I crashed. It was a freak thing and I don’t know quite how it happened.

I do know that my helmet saved my life.

Black and white image of a cracked cycling helmet.
The helmet that saved my life on June 28, 2022. I might be the biggest fan of bike helmets you’ll ever meet!

Dwelling on my own mortality is… well morbid and uncomfortable.

But, I do find great peace and satisfaction looking at the row of family photo books that I’ve lovingly assembled since 2008 for my family. I feel the joy from my clients when they receive their galleries, wall art and albums from me.

I understand that it is all to easy to procrastinate on important, but not urgent tasks. We all do it in some areas of our lives. I urge you not to let family photos be one of those areas.

The hardest part of getting family photos is reaching out.

Once you decide to reach out, I will do all the heavy lifting. We’ll chat on the phone so you can get to know me. I love meeting prospective clients and am often amazed by how much we have in common.

We all enjoyed getting to know each other and LOVED the photos we captured of this busy and outdoorsy family.

My process is streamlined for busy families. I’ll show up in your inbox with all the info you need to prepare for the session. I’ll keep the session fun and relaxed — you’ll probably feel like you are hanging out with a friend who happens to be taking lots of pictures.

A few weeks after your session, you’ll be watching a slide show on the biggest screen in your home with the whole family. From there, ordering wall art or albums and downloading digital files is easy. I will help you break that project into bite-sized tasks. My software even lets you “try on” different frame styles so you can see what would look best in your home. Before long, you will have new photos on the walls at home and your desk at work so that when life gets crazy, you can remind yourself why you work so hard.

You Might Also Enjoy: Three Annual Must-Have Childhood Photos

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Kate Farrell is a professional lifestyle family and dog photographer based in Williston, Vermont, serving Burlington, Stowe and Northern Vermont. 

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