So you’re looking for a family photographer, but you’re nervous because you don’t really know what to expect at a session and how it all plays out. This fear is totally rational & I definitely feel you!

It’s like that time I went on a first date with someone who didn’t give me specifics about what we’d be doing – only that he’d pick me up at 7:00. I was left wondering if I should dress up or be casual, is he going to feed me or should I eat dinner before I go? How long will we stay out – I have work early & can’t stay out too late… All of the unanswered questions made me nervous, but I felt embarrassed asking, so I just went along with it. 

Let me be translucent and answer some of these questions for you. After all, I strive to make my sessions stress free & the last thing I want is for you to feel nervous or unsure about what will happen! Since I love making lists, lets do it that way…

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1) We schedule the Session!

I usually plan portrait sessions in person at a coffee or ice cream shop, but sometimes it happens over the phone instead. During this “pre-session consultation” I ask a lot of questions to get a feel for your personality, interests, and needs. I ask important questions like, “Is there anything you want to make sure is absolutely captured during the session?” and “What do you and your family/spouse like to do for fun?”. We talk about who will be photographed, locations, dates, products, and pricing (And you’ll get a chance to look at the selection of products I’ve brought with me). Then we probably chat a little more about life and share some laughs. By the end, we’ve scheduled a date, and discussed the contract. At this time I send over an electronic contract to be reviewed, signed & submitted at home, and ask for a deposit to be sent to seal the deal.  

2) Pre-Session Confirmation

A couple days before the session I check in one last time via email to confirm. I’ll reiterate the plan, give directions, a short reminder of what to bring {snacks & a toy for the kids, or a pre-chosen prop for the session, etc.} and triple check to see if there are any last minute questions.

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3) Meet up for the Session.

We share our hellos & have some small talk. I try to make everyone participating feel comfortable and if kids are involved in the session, I make sure to spend extra time with them forging a small friendship before the camera ever comes out of my bag. I want them to feel like I’m a person they can be silly around, and someone they trust. 

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4) Photo Shoot Time!!

I take a healthy mix of posed and candid photographs at each session, taking into account what was mentioned or asked of me at the pre-consultation. I start by directing you into simple poses until everyone seems comfortable in front of my lens, and then I’ll start pulling out the tricks I use to get personality-packed portraits. Most often, I’ll show you how to pose through modeling it first, and then once everyone’s in position I give commands and ask questions to get laughs and loving looks which turn into perfect candid moments. At each session I like to take large group, small group, and individual shots to add variety to the final gallery of images.

BTS Heather Palecek Photography

As you can see I’m not afraid to get dirty to get the best shot! Don’t be surprised if I end up lying on the ground, or up in a tree!

Portrait Sessions will last anywhere between 45minutes and 2 hours. This wide gap is for a variety of reasons – type of session (cake smash vs. extended family session), how many participants, weather, attention spans, outfit changes, breaks, etc. 

During sessions with children, I take lots of breaks & have tons of patience! We’ll shoot for twenty minutes, and then take a quick play break, shoot again for a while, and then take a snack break. We want to keep them happy, and the best way to do so is to work on their schedule!  

5) Leaving the Session

As we walk back to our cars, this is usually when ‘dad’ says, “Wow! That was easier than I thought it would be!” This always makes me smile! When we get to the cars I like to spend some time {about 10 minutes} showing you a selection of products, so that you’re able to see & feel the wonderful items that I offer. I’ll show you my albums, what my high quality canvas gallery wraps look like, a session box, handmade necklaces and a few other products. After that I give you my post-session package and collect the remaining balance from our session.


6) Processing the Final Images

After the session, I go home and backup all of the files to multiple devices. Over the next two weeks I cull through all of the images to find the best of the best and then digitally process them to their final form. These are the artworks that will be a part of your final image gallery. 


I hope that this article helps you feel more comfortable with what to expect at a portrait session with Heather Palecek Photography. To hear what others have said about their experiences, click here.


Much of what was shared in this article can be applied to engagement sessions and maternity sessions. Newborn photography is quite a bit different. If you’re planning a newborn session, definitely head over to this article instead!