The Importance of Capturing Family Moments

I first met the Saechao Family in 2021 at a wedding I was photographing. Bayleigh, the mom in this session, was actually cousins of the wedding couple and we bonded over both being photographers and that she lived in my hometown in Washington. Their family has since moved to Bigfork and now get to experience the Montana life that is so highly sought after. We've since become friends over the years and I am now their family photographer for their annual session.

During the session, the boys had so much fun exploring the sandy beach of Flathead Lake, chasing and playing tag with each other. Mom and Dad enjoyed watching them laugh, do cartwheels, and get their feet wet. We started the session about 40 minutes before the sun dropped behind the mountains, providing the perfect golden hour for the entire session. I love the blue hour photos we captured towards the end of the session as well. We ended the night by letting the boys get their feet wet, they were begging to the whole time. They splashed, dug holes, and we had to drag them away as darkness was encroaching.

I highly recommend capturing annual family photos, you can always switch up the season to capture the vast difference in scenery that Montana offers from season to season. Kids change so much in their characteristics, style, hair, and interests from year to year. It's incredibly fun to document each phase they go through.

two boys holding hands, walking along logs at the lake in Montana

Tips for Preparing for a Family Photoshoot at Flathead Lake

Some of my greatest advice for families planning for a session along Flathead Lake is to simply relax. Let your kids be kids. Make an adventure out of your session, bring a blanket and picnic snacks to keep their bellies full. Prepare to take off your shoes and dip your toes in the water (or jump to make the biggest splash, like pictured below), and ride out the sunset with me photographing the whole thing. Trust the process, I'll guide us through the best lighting, the perfect locations, and help keep the kids in line.

Dress appropriately for the weather, early Spring and late Fall sessions can still get chilly as the sun goes down or if there's any wind present. Bring a light jacket or outer layer to add on in case anyone gets cold. You might also want to pack an extra set of clothes in case anyone gets a little too wet while playing in the water. Plan ahead and do your session during the off-season, this is when lake levels are best to utilize the lower levels of water and you get a bit more privacy for your session.

couple walking along a log with he sun flare filtering in the image at the lake at sunset
two boys running in front of their parents towards the camera with smiles on their faces

The Best Locations for Family Photos at Flathead Lake

Choosing a location for your Flathead Lake family session can be a fun experience. Flathead Lake itself is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, featuring over 187 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 370ft! Granted, the lake shore isn't all public access, but several locations would make for the perfect session spot. As your photographer, I would take into account the time of day, season, weather, and level of lake water to determine which location is best for your session. Below are three of my favorite spots to photograph during the year.

Somers Beach State Park

Located on the Northernmost section of Flathead Lake, you can access this park by entering the town of Somers from Hwy 93 or Hwy 82. This State Park offers nearly 1/2 mile of sandy beach during the low-pool season for Flathead Lake. Typically through the late Fall to late Spring, you can recreate on the sandy beaches of the lake. Important things to note: Out-of-state visitors need to pay the $8 daily use fee to recreate. Photography requires a commercial use permit, which can be obtained via a simple application and fee.

Wayfarers State Park

Located on the NE shore of Flathead Lake, Wayfarers offers a variety of backdrops for your session. Popularly known for the large rocky cliffs, you can also find the forested area full of lupine wildflowers in May. This state park offers camping and a boat launch for all your summer festivities as well. Important things to note: Out-of-state visitors need to pay the $8 daily use fee to recreate. Photography requires a commercial use permit, which can be obtained via a simple application and fee.

Wild Horse Island State Park (boat access only)

A large island located near the West side of the lake, about halfway between Kalispell and Polson. This island can only be accessed by boat. There are 6 public docking areas along the island, dispersed between private properties. This island is gorgeous; with wild horses, wildflowers, and beautiful forests. You can enjoy the hiking trails and public beaches all summer long. Important things to note: Out-of-state visitors need to pay the $8 daily use fee to recreate. Photography requires a commercial use permit, which can be obtained via a simple application and fee.

Hopefully, you find some of these locations to be the perfect backdrop for your upcoming family or portrait session. Flathead Lake should not be overlooked! While this is just three locations along the lake, don't miss out on other opportunities, like if you're staying at a rental or lodge, with proper permission we might also be able to document your session there as well!

Choosing the Right Photographer for Family Portraits

If you're a local to the area or are traveling to NW Montana and plan to see or recreate around Flathead Lake, consider hiring a local to document your session for you. For my booked clients, I offer to send them a curated list of my favorite activities, restaurants, and sights to see around the area. Along with choosing me, you get a photographer who's highly skilled in working with kids, is familiar with the area, and brings years of experience to your session. If this sounds like the right fit for you, contact me to book your session along Flathead Lake! I encourage clients to book photo sessions 4-5 months in advance to ensure they can get a date on my calendar. Let's start planning your session today!

Check out some other family sessions from NW Montana:

Lifestyle Family Session in Whitefish Montana

Winter Maternity Session