So you’re ready for family portraits?

I myself am a parent of 2 wonderful boys. They are the light of my life and the reason I get up in the morning. Honestly, they are also the reason I’m aging so fast. I know how difficult it can be to prepare and execute a successful family portrait. Let’s face it, family photo sessions can be challenging for not only the family, but sometimes the photographer as well. I’ve decided to help out with a few tips and tricks to help make the day easier for everyone.

1st: Try to be well rested and fed. Be certain not to schedule your photo session around your child’s nap or bedtime. The best time for lighting is the morning around 8:00 am and evening around 4:00 pm. If this is a bad time for your children, talk with me. 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. 

2nd: Choose your clothing carefully. 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? If they are soft and elegant? Choose 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, such as hues of gray with yellow or bright red accents. Adding fun accessories like scarves, headbands, hats, etc. can add a modern twist and sassy flair to your images. Although the kiddos may like them, try to avoid clothing with printed figures, characters, or shapes. They may want Batman or Elsa on their shirt but it’s not best for your family photos.

3rd: Pay attention to the details before your session. Things like chipped nail polish, chapped lips, and dirty glasses are not going to help your photos look the best. I like to think of going head to toe beforehand. Spray down flyaway hairs, patt down oily forehead and nose skin with tissue or powder, noses are clean and wiped, nothing in your teeth, chapped lips have Chapstick, no stains on clothes, clothes are wrinkle free, no hair bands on wrists, no chipped polish, use a lint roller, zippers are up, nothing in pockets, shoes are clean, etc. Doing a lookover of your family before you start is a guarantee to get great portraits.

4th: Leave plenty of time to prepare before your session. Although I arrive 20-30 minutes early to every session, this is not the time to prepare the way you can before I show up. Parents 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 done right first beforehand. 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.

5th: Do a little research and communicate to aid in your session. I as a photographer have spent years getting my degree, doing internships, and have years and years of experience behind me. I know how to do my job but I still cannot know what you don’t share. Communicate with me the feel you want. The look you want. What you want to feel when you look at these photos. Maybe you can even google some family poses you may want me to know before your session. If you see a cute posing idea, share it with me and I will do my very best to make the session satisfying. 

6th: Relax and don’t force children. 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 family. 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.

7th: Have fun with your time. 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 me to capture the emotion and true beauty of your family. Leave the stiff “cheese” faces for Aunt Marge at the next family reunion. Show me who you really are, so that I have the opportunity to capture your love through my lens.

8th: Don’t worry if you all are not smiling at the camera. 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 each other, your eyes will be on your family members and your smile will be natural. These are the photographs that you will cherish most because they depict your family connection and your love.

9th: No stressing the family. All professional family photographers have seen their fair share of meltdowns, from children as well as adults. Still we work through them every time! Please don’t get mad at your kids if they’re “not behaving.” The best thing you can do is model positivity and let me interact with them naturally. A great image only takes a millisecond to capture, so we’re probably getting a lot more great material than you think! Kids (and even babies) pick up on their parents’ stress levels, so laugh it off and know that happier moments are soon to come. Sometimes, that temper tantrum ends up turning into a hilarious image that you’ll cherish for years to come!

10th: Focus on the love. It may sound cliché, but after all, your love for your family is probably the reason you wanted family photos in the first place! In the end, it’s not about what clothes you wore, or what location you chose, or how much you weighed. It’s about capturing what life is like right now. It’s about snuggling, tickling, and playing. It’s about showing your children how much you love them so that they have these memories 20 years down the road.