De La O Family | White Sands Family Portrait Session

Barbie found me last fall through another client of mine, and she and her little family have quickly become favorites! I felt an instant connection and friendship with Barbie. She has a happy and bubbly personality, and is so easy to talk to! She and Jose are loving and connected as a couple, and they have the most adorable little boy, whom they absolutely adore. A few month’s ago, they welcomed a sweet baby girl into their family, too! She is an absolute doll.

With a new addition, it was time to update their family pictures again and this time Barbie knew exactly what she wanted—the epic gorgeousness of White Sands National Monument. (You’ll never hear me complain, White Sands will ALWAYS be at the top of my list of favorite spots to shoot!). 

In my most recent blog posts, I’ve started highlighting things that made the session a success. I value your time, and want to make sure you leave with something useful! I appreciate followers taking the time to read what I write, and I want you to walk away from the experience with more than a description of the location, the weather, or the sweet family I photographed (though you may still have to endure hearing about that, because I love my clients!). My hope is that you can skim through the “What Worked In This Session” section and gain some insight or perspective for your OWN portrait session someday. You’ll be even better prepared and have an even better experience in front of the camera for having followed along from post to post!


1. Style Guide = Success

I send each of my clients a style guide after booking, to help them plan for their upcoming session. Since Barbie had already used it last year, I checked with her before sending one, just to see if she’d want to browse through it again to be reminded of my best tips and suggestions. Her response caught me by surprise, made me laugh and made my day:

“I actually do have it! I saved it in case we ever worked with you again, which I knew we would!”

I don’t expect clients to hold on to their style guide from year to year—but the fact that Barbie did told me so much about her and about what she wanted out of her pictures. She used that resource last year, and she fully intended to use it again!

Whether you’re a new client, a long-time client, receiving your style guide for the first time, or even if you’re just ‘brushing up’ on the tips and information—that guide can and will be a huge resource if you use it! It’s fun to flip through the pages, but for your own sake, take time to read it, too—it’ll pay off in the end result!

2. Location, Location, Location

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—this place makes for epic pictures. I never get tired of shooting at White Sands! (I do, sometimes, wonder if my portfolio is starting to look like that’s the ONLY place I ever shoot haha—but is that so bad??). When you’re choosing a location for your session, you can’t go wrong with White Sands…but it’s certainly not the only place you can get stunning portraits. 

Guiding principles—Outdoor sessions work best against neutral building faces, simple, classic architecture, or in open spaces and fields. Indoor sessions work best in rooms with lots of natural light, light-colored neutral (gray or white) painted walls, and white/neutral linens like this. Avoid brick, adobe and bold/dark background colors, which bounce red, orange or other hues onto skin. Also avoid short, green grass like a golf course (which bounces a green reflection), and heavily forested land (especially evergreens), which act as a black hole and suck up all the light. 

3. Get in front of the camera, Momma!

Barbie told me that last year was the first time they’d had family pictures done— and the reason she decided to schedule pictures then was because she read something that made her realize that someday, her family would want to look back on pictures and see her in them—not just see pictures of themselves. It’s such a simple idea, but you guys, this is truth! I know we can all be hard on ourselves and sometimes we let that keep us from having pictures–but the honest truth is, no one notices the imperfections you fixate on. Instead, when your family looks back on pictures, they will see relationships, and remember love and connection. Get in front of the camera and interact with your family! The images you receive that highlight your relationships and love will be priceless. 

Now–enjoy browsing pictures of this beautiful little family!


Barbie and Jose, thank you for yet another amazing session with your little fam!


Erin 🙂


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photography by erin richins
 kind people are my kinda people