So you’ve booked a family photo shoot while you’re in the tropics. Fantastic! Childhood is fleeting and there’s no better opportunity to preserve this moment in time with your kids. Looking like a million bucks in your pictures is easier if you spend some time figuring out how to style your family photo shoot on vacation like a pro.

Styling a family photo shoot on vacation can be easy with a little prep.

Using white as our focus, I added other light colours like beige, grey and soft pink for this sunset beach shoot last year. (Photo credit: Beaches Turks & Caicos SnapShots photography.)

Family photos are so important. You’ve already picked the perfect location — somewhere fabulously beachy — but you may still be wondering how to make the whole fam look their best. Styling your family photo shoot on vacation doesn’t have to be expensive, nor does it require a professional stylist — but it does take a little planning.

Now it’s time for you to get out from behind the lens, hire a photographer and have fun.

How to Style a Family Photo Shoot on Vacation in Four Easy Steps

STEP ONE — CREATE A COHESIVE LOOK

I like turning to Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration. The best family photos usually have an overall color scheme, focus on a specific theme or may even include inside joke.

I personally create cohesion through the color of our clothes, often gravitating to white as the predominant “color.” I like that it keeps our look clean and simple, and doesn’t distract from us or the tropical background.

Bold colors like royal blue and fuchsia also look great on camera (unless you’re surrounded by really colorful flowers, in which case you’ll blend in too much). And your look doesn’t need to break the bank either. It can be as easy as T-shirts and jean shorts.

Some experts will warn that you should stay away from plaid or wild patterns, but I believe if that’s what represents you as a family — go for it! Just be sure that you’re weaving together something that’s complementary among each family member and makes sense visually.

Make no mistake: you don’t have to go the matchy-matchy route and that’s not what I mean by cohesion. Find a common thread (literally) and work your magic.

STEP TWO — CONSIDER PROPS & ACCESSORIES

Whether it’s sarongs or something funny like adhesive moustaches from the dollar store, you may want to share your family’s vibe through a clothing item or accessory.

If you’ve seen and been part of fun family photo shoots that use props well, you also know that it can quickly go overboard. Don’t let lavish props outshine your beautiful family.

We love doing family photos on the beach with nothing more than the sand between our toes. Creative props can help turn an otherwise bland backdrop into something magical. But sometimes, simplicity wins.

Want to learn how to style a beach family photo shoot?

White and blue is an easy palette that goes with any background — especially sand. (Photo credit: Beaches Negril SnapShots photography.)

STEP THREE — KEEP HAIR AND MAKEUP SIMPLE

Do you normally wear your hair in a fancy updo? Or spend two hours putting on makeup for daytime? If not, it may feel unnatural for your family photo shoot, too. Especially in a warm, tropical location.

And natural is key. The photographer is there to capture YOU, and you’re at your best when you’re comfortable.

I’ve certainly added curls to my little girl’s locks and gelled my boy’s hair just so. But I still want them to look like my kids.

I’m known to rock a messy bun 90 per cent of the time, so my hair is often up in one for photos, too. Because that’s me. After all, it’s not a corporate headshot. It’s a snapshot in time with the people I love most.

When it comes to makeup, probably the most important thing to keep in mind is whether you’ll be doing any black and white photos as part of your family photo shoot on vacation. Dark lipstick, for example, will end up looking almost black. Unless you’re goth-inclined, this may not be the look you’re trying to achieve.

My makeup look for a recent EPIX Studio photo shoot at Beaches Resorts had to work for black and white, so I kept my lips light and glossy, focused on chiseling my cheekbones, defining my eyebrows and knocking lashes out of the park. I did nothing to my kids except wash their faces and brush their hair.

What kind of hair and makeup should you have for a family photo shoot on vacation?

Simple makeup and easy hair can often create the most beautiful photos. (Photo credit: EPIX Studio by Joe Craig at Beaches Negril.)

With all of the photo-editing software that photographers use today, don’t worry about covering every flaw. That’s something you can usually request in post-production.

STEP FOUR — PRACTICE POSING & SMILING

I’m not even joking. Look through some of your favorite photos of yourself and your family. What makes them favorites?

Is your toothy grin better than those without teeth? Do your kids look more like themselves when they’re caught mid-laugh? Are your photos better when they’re carefully posed and everyone’s looking at the camera or when you’re candidly chatting with each other?

It’s not uncommon to hear me remind my kids to do their “laughing smiles” or to threaten tickles.

If you're going to the trouble (and expense) of booking a professional photographer while you're on vacation, style your family photo shoot like a pro.

PIN THIS! Figure out what makes your kids look their best on camera — and don’t be afraid to employ bribery. (Photo credit: EPIX Studio by Joe Craig at Beaches Negril.)

I’ve even been known to practice in a mirror. I constantly need to channel Tyra Banks to remember to “smize,” as she ingrained into America’s Next Top Model contestants week after week. (That’s smile with your eyes.)

It may mean some hokey practice time figuring out what works best on camera, but believe me — it’ll be worth it.

P.S. Taking a few pics yourself on vacay? Be sure to check out these great photography tips and tricks from Empty Nest TravelingMom Cindy Richards, and Photo TravelingMom Kymri Wilt’s tips for using a point and shoot camera.