If a picture is worth a thousand words, a family photo that perfectly captures the individuals featured is worth volumes. Many elements go into a successful family photo shoot, of course—not least of which is a skilled photographer (you can find a scouted pro in your area in The Scout Guide directory here). But it’s also helpful to have a sense of the style you’re going for and what will work best for your family, which can help ensure that the end results will reflect both your vision and the personalities of those involved. Recently, we reached out to five professional photographers for advice on selecting the photo style and setting that’s right for you. Read on for their recommendations before booking your next session.

Remember that lifestyle shots rely on setting. If you’re looking for a more lifestyle-geared photo, Allison Leonard, photographer at Kismet Visuals & Co. in Columbus, Ohio, recommends staying away from the studio. Instead, she likes to shoot at a public park where you can play with your kids while she captures the moment. Alternatively, if you stage a photo shoot at your home, everyone will feel more comfortable, especially the younger set, which will result in more playful, relaxed photos.

Know that traditional photos and wardrobe go hand in hand. When you’re going the route of a more traditional family photo, clothing choices and location can heavily factor into creating a cohesive family portrait, says Tiffany Hix, master photographer at Tiffany Hix Photography in Boise, Idaho. “You want to be sure the two complement each other and don’t detract from the faces,” she advices. “Bright colors and bold patterns tend to pull the eye away from the face while solids and subtle patterns keep the eye on the family instead of the clothes.” Soft, neutral colors are always a great choice, while royal colors are the perfect foil for nature’s fall colors.

Consider a more modern image. If you’re looking for a departure from a traditional family photo, options abound. Casia and Eric Fletcher, photographers and owners at Fletcher and Co. in Tucson, Arizona, often take inspiration from their environment. “We rely on interesting forms, such as leading lines in architecture, the way light wraps around a wall or subject, and clean materials like concrete, steel, and glass,” Casia says. “We use form, light, and material to lead the viewer’s eye toward the moment we are capturing.”

Curate a moment. Mary Craven Dawkins, photographer at Mary Craven Photography in Nashville, Tennessee, recommends giving kids a fun activity they can get lost in during the photo shoot like making pancakes or muffins, which can put kids in motion with authentic smiles and engagement rather than having them pose or stare at the camera. “Shoots like this create a moment and a memory,” she adds. “Capturing happy moments are more important than trying to create pretty moments. And happy kids lead to pretty moments no matter what you are wearing, what you are doing, and where you are!”

Take age into consideration. Determining the style of your photo might rely heavily on the ages of your crew. While you may want a more traditional photo, when children are very young, it can be difficult to get them to sit for a formal portrait session. Dawkins recommends collaborating and planning with your photographer to find the right scene, props, and vibe for your family photos, as they have likely worked with subjects of all ages and can offer helpful guidance.

Be willing to take direction. Following the lead of your photographer is always important (it’s why you’ve hired them in the first place), but even more so when you’re going the route of a more non-traditional photo. Olivia Grey Pritchard, photographer at Olivia Grey Pritchard Photography in New Orleans, Louisiana, loves to capture the playful essence of a family, part of which entails asking parents not to give children any instruction. “When parents step into that parenting role, they are going to get the photos they see on their phone camera roll,” she says. However, when they give up control to their photographer, magic happens.

Partake in a pre-portrait consultation. Many professional photographers follow a detailed process that takes the client through the entire portrait experience. Hix does a consultation with her clients during which they decide on the location, wardrobe, and where the portrait will be displayed. All of these elements build upon each other, she explains. “The wardrobe consultation is one of the most helpful aspects for the client because we can determine a location that will complement their wardrobe and their home décor,” she notes.

TSG Tip 409 from Allison Leonard, photographer at Kismet Visuals & Co. in Columbus, Ohio; Tiffany Hix, master photographer and owner of Tiffany Hix Photography in Boise, Idaho; Casia and Eric Fletcher, photographers and owners of Fletcher and Co. in Tucson, Arizona; Mary Craven Dawkins, photographer and owner of Mary Craven Photography in Nashville, Tennessee; and Olivia Grey Pritchard, photographer and owner of Olivia Grey Pritchard Photography in New Orleans, Louisiana. Kismet Visuals & Co. appears in The Scout Guide Columbus. Tiffany Hix Photography appears in The Scout Guide Boise. Fletcher and Co. appears in The Scout Guide Tucson. Mary Craven Photography appears in The Scout Guide Nashville. Olivia Grey Pritchard Photography appears in The Scout Guide New Orleans.