Extended Family Sessions by Alisha Shaw

Posted in :
families, photography
Blog Post by :
Alisha Shaw

Extended families are sessions many photographers shy away from because of the chaos that they entail!! I LOVE THEM!! HA!

There is an energy that exists when families are together.

Cousins are playing, sisters are chatting, brothers-in-law are teasing and grandpas are throwing little ones up in the air for giggles. What’s not to love about all that genuine interaction?? My goal is to get every shot I want in the shortest amount of time possible. Considering that I’m surrounded by a handful of unwilling husbands and lots of crazy kids, I come with a plan and some treats!

In order to keep things moving smoothly, I’ve come up with a shot set that works for almost EVERY extended family.


I start with the whole group together. Everyone is fresh and it’s the shot that is most important to them. I ask them to stand in family groups so I can see which children belong to which parents. I look for numbers and color balance. I also start with grandma and grandpa in the middle almost every time. There are poses that keep them close and some that spread them out. I try to ask if they are a silly-face family before we start so I know to ask for that picture or not.



Without moving too much we ask the parents to step out and have grandma and grandpa gather the grandchildren around them. We want this one at the beginning when the kids are still interested in my antics, dance moves, toys and animal noises (it’s not pretty, but it works to get the shots I need – Heehee!)


3. Small GROUPS

These groups include the parental siblings, siblings and spouses, all boys, all girls, etc. It gives the children a break for water, treats or wiggles and I ask an older grandchild to help us with their little cousins.


4. Individual FAMILIES

I always start with the youngest child’s family first. Again, trying to get them while they are still happy. I like to take the family a little ways away from the big group if I can to have their full attention and eyes on me. I photograph the whole family in a  posed shot and then a relaxed shot (looking at each other, walking, laughing, etc.). Next are headshots of each child and finally a couple shot of the parents. I then ask if either of the parents need a free headshot for Facebook or work.  Then I move on to the next family.



The last shots I take are of the grandparents. Often they are the ones who’ve hired me and paid the bill. They are able to be patient while we get the others taken care of, and it gives me a chance to rave about their darling family and thank them for letting me spend time with them. I always ask what other shots they want me to take and as they think back on what I’ve done, there’s seldom any others they need. Once my shot set is finished, there is usually time for candid, goofy random pics just for fun.





alisha-shawAlisha Shaw loves M&M’s, celebrates Christmas year round and is married to her high school sweetheart. Her most fulfilling job is that of mom to 3 little miracles who teach her more than she’ll ever teach them. She prides herself on her double-fingered, crowd commanding whistle that she learned in middle school from a neighbor boy. She is a family, children, & newborn photographer based in Southern Utah by Zion National Park and has been featured in magazines like Party Style. From her downtown studio, she hosts and teaches in-person and online workshops/mentoring to help photographers refine their skills and business practices. Be sure to check out her website here.