Adoption Profile Photography: 5 tips to help your clients get to the top of the stack

As a lifestyle family photographer in Los Angeles I’ve photographed all kinds of families. Recently, I’ve had the honor of photographing some families who are hoping to grow their family through adoption. These shoots are a little bit different, as the portraits I make aren’t just for my clients, but for the prospective birth parents!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing T. and D. and their son, J.  We had scheduled the session for a particularly exciting reason – T. and D. are working on their adoption profile. For those who aren’t familiar, an adoption profile is a pamphlet that prospective adoptive parents create to introduce themselves to expectant parents considering adoption. So… no pressure, right?  Luckily this was the second time I’d done profile images for T. and D. and I’ve learned a few things about adoption profile photography along the way.  I thought I might share some of what I’ve learned for anyone out there navigating the process of adoption or creating adoption profile images for their clients.

T. and D. have enlisted the help of Joanna Ivey, of Our Chosen Child, to design their profile.  Joanna has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and was kind enough to help me flesh out this post with some of her own tips for creating effective profile images.

Joanna points out that the images in a couple’s profile can have a huge impact.  Prospective birth parents often have a large stack of profiles to sift through and they’re more likely to actually read the profiles with images that pull them in.


 So, how do you get high-impact photographs for your clients’ adoption profile?

1. Use a high-quality image.

Make sure your clients have clean, high-resolution files to work with. Delivering web-sized files or watermarked files won’t work for this type of photography. If your clients are mixing your images with some of their own snapshots you can advise them that images that are grainy, poorly exposed or out of focus won’t grab a reader’s attention.  If they’re submitting an older photograph, they’ll need to have a high-resolution scan or the original high-res file.  Grabbing something off of Facebook won’t work.

2. Make sure the images are welcoming.

As Joanna puts it “capture fun, happy moments and your photos will dance off the page. Too many staged photos with family members standing shoulder to shoulder and people will begin to skim”. Make sure the images you take have some life to them. A perfectly posed image may be great fro above the fireplace, but not for their adoption profile. I always prompt my families to interact with one another during our set-ups and this type of shoot is no exception.

3. Keep the background clean.

Joanna recommends cover images have a neutral background.  Think the beach or park, rather than their living room.

4. Tell their story.

The adoption agency that T. and D. are working with requires a more traditional profile, so I made more traditional portraits for the front and back covers. However, more and more agencies ask for what Joanna calls a “lifestyle profile”. These profiles have many more images (usually between 8 and 10) and feature the couple or family in different settings (at home, in their community, working on hobbies, etc.). Joanna recommends that her clients start to gather these images as soon as they begin their adoption journey. However, these shots don’t all have to be candids. You can help them create a “day in the life” session that showcases the couple or family doing some of their favorite activities. Make sure to include wardrobe changes and a variety of settings. In my case, T. and D. wanted a shot of them riding the miniature train at a local garden, because it’s something their son loves to do. For this shot we did a partial wardrobe change, which helped to lend some variety to their final profile images.

5. Help your clients relax

Relaxing in front of the camera can be a challenge in any situation, but when you’re creating images for a potential birthparent the stakes can feel pretty high. As D. told me during our consultation “The truth is there’s a lot of anxiety around it: look happy but not creepy, welcoming but not desperate, close but not so close that there’s no room for a new family member. So… it’s hard to not look basically crazy in every picture”. This is where you can help. Make sure you have a few tricks up your sleeves for helping your clients relax during the shoot and be sensitive to the fact that they may have some extra worry surrounding the images. I always allow a large block of time for my family shoots to take any sense of time pressure away. I also recommend an in-person consultation before the session: It’s easier to relax around someone you’ve met at least once, plus talking through the session can help ease anxiety before the shoot.

I hope this is helpful for anyone shooting adoption profile photography for brochure images.  I’ve loved being a part of our friends’ adoption journey. And on a happy side-note… the little guy in these portraits is now a big brother!

 Where to Find Ariel Cannon Photography:

Looking for more adoption profile photography inspiration, check out this session by Catie Lawrence Photography.