Emma Godfrey

Top tips for places to take family photos

A Sunday morning walk along the lake, playing in the water and chasing the swans.

A Sunday morning walk along the lake, playing in the water and chasing the swans.

I am always being asked what are the best place to take family photos. As well as looking for recommendations for locations in my local area, my clients are looking for advice on whether to choose an indoor or outdoor session. Switzerland is full of amazing places and sweeping views but when you have small children some of these may not be the best choice for portraits of your family. I love to shoot outdoors and will always try to get out with my families because it suits my style of photography. In the winter though it’s not so easy so here are my top tips for choosing between an indoor at-home shoot or choosing the best location for your family photos outdoors.

Presenting your photos

One of the first things to think about is how are you going to display your family photos? If you are looking for framed prints or a big family canvas, then the place you choose for your shoot needs to reflect the style and colours of your home. If you have a minimalist home then a colourful photo might not work but something with a simple colour palette or in black and white might work really well. If your family loves the outdoors and the living room is also home to skis, bikes and boots, then a picture of you all enjoying the mountains is a great fit.

If you are going to present your photos on the walls it is also important to think about the style and colour of the clothes you wear to the shoot. To avoid the pictures becoming dated you probably want to choose a more classic style, with colours that balance well with the environment. That doesn’t mean you have to opt for boring colours, just make sure they are your colours!

If you are thinking about a family photo album from your shoot, or a collection from all your shoots, then you can choose colours and locations without worrying about how they will look on the wall. Choose something a little bit unusual or a place you’ve always wanted to visit. 

Think about what you love

I always encourage my clients to be themselves at their photo shoot. For families that means thinking about what works for everyone’s personality. It is one of the main reasons I like to shoot outdoors. Kids are nearly always happier when they are free, running around or exploring. Happy kids make for happy parents and great, natural pictures. 

What do you normally do at the weekends? We could go on your favourite local walk, take your bikes down to the cycle path, learn to roller blade or skim stones. With smaller kids, a trip to the local park can provide endless entertainment just investigating the flowers or sitting on the swings. The important thing to remember is that these are photos of you, the location should only play a minor part. This is hard in Switzerland with so many beautiful places, and I always try to capture a sense of place as well as the interactions between your family. 

If the town is more your thing, then consider times of the day and week when the market or shops won’t be so busy, or areas with interesting backdrops. I love the old town in Vevey and Lausanne, and the bridges in Geneva. The important thing is that you all feel relaxed, so don’t choose somewhere where there might be people watching if you are going to feel shy or embarrassed.  

A day out in the mountains is great for sledging, making snowmen and enjoying hot chocolate.

A day out in the mountains is great for sledging, making snowmen and enjoying hot chocolate.


Some time alone with dad, picking out her favourite books.

Some time alone with dad, picking out her favourite books.

Indoors or outdoors

Indoors shoots are sometimes the only option for newborns or young babies, especially in winter. A photo shoot at home though can be great fun. It is a way to capture some of your everyday life – what is sometimes called ‘lifestyle photography’ – normal family life and interactions. My favourite way to do this is to try to capture natural moments: reading a book, baking cookies, playing a board game. If the weather is bad we always have the option of braving the outdoors for a few pictures in the garden or park and then heading in for cookies and hot chocolate. 
If you do opt for an indoor shoot it is worth taking a look around your home and ‘decluttering’. I like to capture homes not ‘show houses’ but it makes for better pictures if the wires, tissue boxes and less photogenic items are hidden away! Plants and seasonal flowers can help add atmosphere, and I love to capture the decorating of a Christmas tree. 

Unless your home has really great light, I usually have to add some flash so usually advise against indoor shoots in the evening or depths of winter. It is great, however, to take pictures of kids in their bedrooms. I’ve had plays performed, stories read and dance ensembles enacted. In the end, the best pictures come from kids just being kids and I’m always happy to join in the games. 

When choosing an outdoor location it is important to think about the limits of your family. How far can everyone walk and still be happy? Do we need to be close to a café or facilities? If you have young children there are still lots of accessible, family-friendly places where you can still enjoy the wild outdoors. Villars-sur-Ollon and Gryon, where I live, are perfect examples. If you are more adventurous, I am always up for a hike and can recommend places in most of Suisse romande.

Special places

I’ve had the great pleasure of being able to photograph some families from their engagement session right through to third or fourth birthdays. Choosing a special place to go back to and chart the passing of time is a lovely way to think about your professional family photography. I’ve been back to the same park in Morges many times over with Muge & Paul. With Gemma and Ben we took their daughter back to where they had their wedding reception and first dance in the vineyards, this time it was mum and daughter dancing. Perhaps there is somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit or somewhere that holds a special place in your family history. 

If I’ve sparked your imagination, do get in touch to chat some more about your family photography. What we can do together and the best way to get you the best, natural photos of you and your kids.

Dancing with mum at the spot she shared her first dance with dad.

Dancing with mum at the spot she shared her first dance with dad.

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