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Family Photos - River Session Edition

Have you heard of River Sessions? If you follow as many photographers as I do, you have probably seen gorgeous family, engagement, maternity photos taken in rivers and creeks, along sandy beaches or under awnings of trees. They're beautiful, fun, and offer a little more adventure than your normal photo session.

If you're willing to let go, be a little wild, and get a little wet, then a River Session may be for you!

My first river session technically took place in a creek. Cibilo Creek runs through the Cibilo Nature Center in Boerne, and is a popular spot for families and photographers alike. My friend and her two sons met me at there at 8 in the morning, before the crowds of people showed up (around 9:30 am). It was quiet and still and morning sun spilled through the trees. It was everything I could hope for and more!

Family Photos in a River? Yes, Please!

What better way to take your family photos mid-summer in Texas than to have them take place wading in a river or a creek? Not only do you get to stay cool by dipping your toes in the water, but the backdrop is magical! Plus, I want your session to be about more than just updating your family photo. I want it to be an experience, a time to make memories.

River Sessions allows for your family to spend some quality time together in the outdoors. Your family can only dip your toes in or jump in all the way! It's up to you! My friend's boys could not wait to get in and swim (well one took some convincing, but once he was more awake he was very excited!). I hope it was a time they'll remember and look back on when they were older.

Now more than ever, families want to be outside of their homes and to create opportunities for their kids to have fun. Why not document these moments?

The following series of the oldest giving his little brother a ride on his back as he swam were taken near the end of our session. I love how you can see him starting to sink under the weight of his brother. He tried several times but it always ended with him going under. Luckily the water isn't too deep here.

I'll admit that this session ran longer than most because she's a good friend of mine and we hung out after the hour finished. Plus, how do you convince two young boys to stop playing in the river on a warm day during a pandemic? So we stayed a little longer and I continued taking photos because I can't help myself. Many of these images occurred during that time, too.

But the following photos were taken when we were on our way back to our cars. The stop gave us more time to dry off. It was also to appease the youngest when he couldn't play on the fort because another family was already there. Pandemic problems. So I pulled out the bubbles (I don't always bring these to sessions so you would have to request these or bring your own if you want bubbles).

Our pit stop also gave me an excuse to practice taking photos of bubbles and showcase more areas of the Cibilo Nature Center.

Who is ready to have their photos taken at this amazing location?? (Note: There is a photography permit fee that clients will be responsible for paying)


I told my friend that my idea for this shoot was to be more documentary than posed. I encouraged her boys to just be themselves and do whatever they wanted (so long as they did nothing dangerous, weren't fighting, and listened to their mom). I only posed them once and only occasionally suggested they move or do something. As a result, all of these images are how this family naturally interacts. Their love for one another, the joy they had being in the water, how the big brother looked after his little brother, all of it is them being them.

Documentary vs Lifestyle vs Posed Photography

If you're wondering what the difference is between Lifestyle Photography (the term I use to define my style) and other forms, here's a quick guide.


This is where I told the family where to stand and how to: mom hold youngest, oldest hold mom's hand, everyone look at me. I could go further into posing by saying "place a hand here, bend that leg, lift chin, etc" but did not do that in this instance.


Same pose. This is how many lifestyle portraits begin: a pose. Then you provide a prompt to encourage family members or couples to look anywhere other than the camera and evoke a natural emotion. Here I told them things like "look at mom", "make youngest laugh", "now make oldest laugh". When a whole session is in this style, I would move around the family as they interact to get more images from different angles, focus on one or two members of the family, tweak their pose a little. Then we'd switch up the pose, throw in new prompts, and repeat.


This may look like the beginnings of a posed image, but it's not. She sat down with her youngest and started interacting with him. Her oldest son then joined. I merely stood back and talked to them while I took photos. I used this image to showcase documentary because it may not have been as obvious as the ones where the boys are swimming or splashing.

One more example to show difference in Lifestyle and Documentary. The photo of the youngest on the left is more "Lifestyle". I asked him to look up into my camera lens. I did not however ask him to smile or evoke a specific emotion. Instead I asked him if he could see a rainbow, a sleepy dog, or his eye? (I kept throwing out possibilities since he saw none). If he made a confused face or a grumpy face, rather this his adorable smile, I would have the taken the photo. The photo on the right of her eldest son is documentary. I don't think he even knew I was taking a photo of him during this moment. He was looking at his mom and brother (I think) and I captured his expression.

If you want all posed family portraits, I am not the photographer for you. I will get posed family photos at my session but after I get one or two, I move on to a more lifestyle approach. I also love documenting those in between moments, the ones unprompted by me or that happen when you're on the way back to your car. So if documentary intrigues you, let me know and we can arrange a whole session dedicated to this style of photography.


Are you in need of new family photos but want to wait until its not so hot? Consider a River Session! Keep cool during your family photos this summer! The above photos were taken during the morning when it was only 80 degrees and less crowded.

If you're ready to book your River Session, click here! Simply enter "Cibilo Nature Center" or "a River" in the Location field.


1 Comment

What a beautiful location! It looks like they really enjoyed their session!

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