family session guide
What should we wear?
Have your clothing chosen way in advance and make sure that your outfit choices are comfortable and attractive. What do your dream family photos look like? Are they are soft and elegant? Chose neutral colors with soft, flowing fabrics…. think creams, very soft pastels, oatmeals, light browns, tans, grays, and slate blues. Want to showcase the fun and spunky side of your family? Choose coordinating colors (but not matchy, matchy) with bold accent colors, start with neutral hues like gray then add yellow or bright red accents. To add dimension, play with textures and fabrics: tulle skirts for the girls, corduroy pants for boys, knitted scarfs/bow ties, fitted chinos for dad, chiffon/flow-y dresses for mom.
What to avoid: 1. Busy or small patterns like tiny checkered shirts, skinny and narrow stripes, pin-sized polka dots. 2. Matching outfits (everyone wearing the SAME white shirts and denim pants).
Coordinate outfits, don’t duplicate. Unless you have twins, no one in your group should be wearing the exact same outfit. This will give your images a more natural look while still looking great printed on your walls for MANY years. When planning, start with the mom, then plan everyone else accordingly.
Don’t break the bank. Investing in family photos is important to capture a time in your lives that will never be here again, but spending hundreds on new outfits for everyone isn’t as important and will limit what you can spend on finding a quality photographer. Go through your wardrobes and pick items that still looks fresh and fit well, then determine if you need to pick up a few items to complete the look. It’s also much easier to select from your current wardrobes than to plan everything from scratch.
Be open to input. Your children or spouse may want to choose what they wear, so let them have a say. You want their little personalities to shine through anyway, so if the day of your shoot your 4 year old insists on wearing his/her favorite red rubber boots, go with it! Having a happy child in your images is more important than everyone coordinating perfectly, and you’ll look back more fondly at those red rubber boots in ten years than your sad, sour faced, coordinated little darling.
Remember to dress for the location/weather and communicate the "dress code" throughout your family (for bigger sessions). For example: beach casual, desert chic, 'what you would wear to a wedding', elegant-formal, cocktail.
Be certain not to schedule your photo session around your child’s nap or bedtime. The best time for lighting is the two hours before sunset and after sunrise. If this is a bad time for your children, talk with your photographer. Good photographers will be able to shoot at any time of day by utilizing areas of open shade that will give your skin a beautiful hue and put a sparkle in your eyes. Don’t show up to a photo shoot on an empty stomach. I meet many families who come to a photo session with dinner scheduled at the end. If this is your plan, be sure to give everyone a healthy snack before the photo shoot and to bring water/snacks to the session. It’s amazing how exhausting having your photos taken can get in a very short time, and it may be necessary to keep your kiddos (or you husband!) happy for the duration of the session. Try to avoid foods that might stain teeth or tongues though, some of us learn that the hard way.
Be sure to leave plenty of time to get ready
Moms are often rushing around before a photo shoot, making sure that their family is dressed and ready. I always encourage mothers to have their hair and makeup professionally done. This will prepare mom for her pictures and when mom is feeling pretty and confident, this will reflect on the rest of the family as well. Leave plenty of time for showers, baths, dressing, and grooming. When a family shows up to a family photo session rushed and disorganized, it sets the tone for a rushed and disorganized session. Give yourself extra time so that you are ready before it’s time to head out that door.
Ask the dads to be cheerful participants
Dads, please cheerfully participate. I know that many dads dread the family photo session, but fathers, please understand how important capturing your family is. These images will be left as a legacy, when your children are grown, with families of their own some day. Family photos are treasured forever and they are so important. Please, please, dads… cheerfully participate in your family photo session. Once you see your happy wife and amazing photographs, you will be so glad that you gave this time to your family.
Tip: Moms, don’t forget your spouse. Sometimes we get so caught up with our love for our children, we end with tons of pictures of them and none of us with our spouses, who are supposed to come first anyway! Take just a quick minute to capture a shot of you together, and print it.
Cheese is for crackers
Please, parents… leave the “cheese” at home. Cheese is for crackers. So many times I have found parents who stand behind the photographer and scream, “Say cheese to the lady kids!” Yelling and demanding young children to look at the camera to smile will only stress your children out (not to mention the photographer) and will result in strained, unnatural and often unflattering photographs. Step back, and allow the photographer to naturally interact and talk with your children. This will result in natural, gorgeous smiles. Help the photographer capture the true essence of your child’s personality by talking with and coaxing out those smiles naturally and easily.
Have fun with your family
Don’t be afraid to pick up your children and toss them in the air. Give your wife a sweet kiss on the check. Tell your husband how much you love him and appreciate him for being there for your family. Have fun. Laugh. Giggle. Joke. Embrace. Kiss. Snuggle. Play. Doing these things will allow the photographer to capture the emotion and true beauty of your family. Leave the stiff “cheese” faces for Aunt Marge at the next family reunion. Show your photographer who you really are, so that she has the opportunity to capture your love through her lens.
Bring an activity you that enjoy doing together as a family
My most successful family sessions have incorporated an activity that the family loves to do together. This gives you something to do with your hands and feet, engages the little ones, and brings an authentic smile to your face. Do you love to read together? Bring some books. Is your favorite dessert ice cream? Bring some ice cream bars or drumsticks to your session or better yet… hire an ice cream truck to come to your session. Love to play board games or cards? Plan to play a round of Uno or Monopoly during your family photo session. Other ideas include: football, piggy back rides, races, bike riding, hiking, singing, picnics, the ideas are endless. When families are engaged in doing something that they love together, the photographer will have the opportunity to take some beautiful and authentic photographs.
Not everyone has to be looking at the camera and smiling
The best photographs are often the ones where everyone is engaged or interacting with each other. Understand that not every picture needs to have everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. If you are engaged as a family and loving on each other, your eyes will be on your family members and your smile with be natural. These are the photographs that you will cherish most because they depict your family connection and your love.
Go with the flow
Go with the flow, and let your photographer do the work. Your kids will get overwhelmed with too many voices directing them, and so will you. Just relax, enjoy your family, enjoy the moment, and try to refrain from shouting smile before every shutter click. And if your kids don’t want anything to do with a camera, that’s ok too! Journalistic or lifestyle photos can be very captivating and beautiful, many people end up preferring those images to the posed shots anyway!