This is what photography is all about! Capturing memories that you will never forget. Whether your family makes a ritual of getting your photos have done annually or this is the first time in far too long, your family photos will be cherished by you and your loved ones. I would suggest planning your session at least a couple of weeks before your planned photoshoot date. Leave a few decisions to the last day as possible.
If you have not picked your photographer yet, do that soon. I am sure there are outstanding photographers near you, find one you love and get on their schedule. No matter how amazing our phones are nothing replaces the skill, knowledge, or style that a professional photographer brings to your portraits. Sure I adore my family selfies, some are even framed in my office but a photographer can capture moments you can't, pose you to look your best, and provide creativity and skills you may not have. Consider it an investment in your family because it is.
What else makes your portraits great? Your family! None are like yours and that is why each detail is different for each of us. Keep in mind that every family and every session is different so be sure to speak with your photographer when making a plan for your session I have no doubt they would love to help.
These tips will help you prepare for your family session and help reduce any stress that you may associate with family photos.
What to wear
This one is the most asked question and should be planned for sure. You can never go wrong by selecting one or two coordinating colors to use when choosing outfits. Here are some more things to consider:
Season. Especially if you will be doing your photos in an outdoor location you need to be sure you consider your comfort level. Shooting in a studio? Then you may have some flexibility.
Theme. If you are planning to do a theme for your pictures then be sure to communicate that with your family and your photographer. Common themes like holidays, TV shows, & moment recreation may take a little more planning.
Consider your home decor. Strange one I know but if your goal is to hang these photos on your wall (and it should be LOL) you may want the colors to blend well with your home.
What do you want the images to say about your family? Fun and spunky, choose a bright accent color and bold accessories. Elegant, soft fabrics and soft neutral colors work well.
Limit distracting patterns. Strong prints can overpower the photo and distract the viewer from your family. This also includes a slogan or logoed shirts.
Discuss accessories. In some families the men tend to wear hats like an extension and seeing them without their hats may be weird. For you wearing a hat may be a big no-no. My husband often wants to wear his hate but I strongly encourage him to style his hair (which most of the time he does).
Just don’t forget the accessories! It is a great way to add personality and can also be used to create a connection without being too “matchy” For example, let's say dad is wearing a black shirt with a salmon-colored cuff or tie, you may want to find a similar color pink dress for your daughter or scarf for mom.
If you still are not sure, consider picking classic looks that will be timeless. Styles come and go but your family photos last forever.
There are some wonderful places around you to take photos and where you go can very well determine the feel of your images. What type of images do you want to have? Where you shoot often determines the backdrop for your pictures. You will want to consider the time of the day for lighting in that location too. A great photographer can shoot in a variety of locations and will likely have suggestions. Here are some thoughts to take into consideration when deciding where you want to shoot.
In-studio - I think of these as classic family photos. Like going to a department store to have your family photo taken. That is not always true though so be sure you chat with your photographer about backgrounds, props, and editing options that they offer.
In your home- these are often journalistic and lifestyle time images that look mostly candid and capture your family in and around your home.
In a park - a very popular choice for outside portraits because they often offer a few different backgrounds and tend to be easy for both the family and photographer to meet. I look for locations with beautiful skylines, tall grass, brick walls, or other visually interesting elements like bridges.
Gardens and Museums - these may require permission but man do they offer some beautiful backdrop options! If you have one in mind your photographer may know the rules already, it doesn't hurt to ask.
Libraries. In both states that I have been a professional photographer the local libraries allowed me to come in with a family and shoot. They did have a few small rules and asked that we let someone working know what we were doing, other than that they were very cool. Libraries are a fun way to shoot young kids who like to go to storytime, seniors studying for the next big exam or just a unique backdrop that means something to your family.
Personal Locations. Think about areas that are personal to you like the first place you met, favorite activities, or favorite ice cream spot. These locations may just be fun & personal location to do your family shoot at.
This is one that I say- YOU DO YOU! I want you all to look your best and that means you need to be comfortable. That being said I have a few tips that you may want to consider.
Be sure to rest the night before. This will help how you look and feel.
Haircuts. These should be done at least a week out unless you are confident in your hairdresser or barber.
Facial Hair. Ladies if you wax, shave, or pluck do it in advance, day of may not work out well for your skin. Men probably have this down but if you have a mustache or beard make sure it is trimmed and combed for the shoot.
Nails. no matter how you like to keep your nails be sure the day of the shoot they look great. Clean, clipped and if you want fresh paint, just avoid the chipped worn look.
Makeup. My recommendation is to keep your make-up natural in look and avoid trends that may date your photos. If you don't normally wear make-up don't feel pressure start now.
Some photographers love props and some don’t, personally I go through phases with them. I think that props can add personality, capture trends in your family, or help you mark items with significance. Props like blankets, chairs, and signs might even be practical. On the other hand, less is more if you want to be sure not to distract from the point of the photos. Discuss props with your photographer beforehand, they might even have some you can use or suggestions on where to get what you want. Some prop ideas that I love:
Your kiddos favorite toy/s
Signs, mostly for announcing things like new baby, engagement, or graduation but can be fun for many occasions.
Furniture. I am a sucker for a high back chair or beautiful bench, especially when it is someplace it normally wouldn’t be.
Remember that your kids are just kids. Hopefully, you chose a photographer who works well with kids. Even if you did it is helpful to remind yourself of this too. A toddler is unlikely to participate in a full photoshoot without needing a break every now and again. That is a reason I recommend a full session when you have little ones, it gives you time to let them relax, have fun, and still get the images you want. No one knows your kids as you do so when planning your shoot here are some tips to help.
Time of the day. If your kids are younger, plan around nap time and eating habits.
Bring mess-free snacks and a drink that won’t stain clothes.
Get silly, what makes them laugh? Share that with the photographer so she has an idea or two that will be sure to surprise and delight your little one.
I am not above bribes. You may be and that is ok too but if you offer a reward for good behavior it sometimes helps. This info may be helpful to your photographer. I have found if there is an ice cream trip planned for after the session, talking about it with them can help keep kiddos focused.
Playtime. Your photographer will likely direct you into some situations to get good images and may even pose you specifically but if kiddos are getting bored and can’t seem to sit still it is ok to take a moment to play. It is a fantastic way to keep kids involved, don’t be afraid to toss a little one into the air or twirl them around a little. This may just get some adorable giggles and true smiles.
In our home, our pet is a part of the family and we include them in our family pictures. If you want some family photos with your pooch, kitty cat, or turtle (no judgment) I think it is a fantastic idea but recommend that you check with your photographer first. Even if they are cool with it there may be restrictions at the shoot location or other concerns to discuss in advance. Adding a pet can be a challenge but not as bad as you might think, here are some tips to help it go smoothly.
Exercise your pet before the session. You don’t want them to be exhausted however they will be more cooperative if they have burned off some excess energy first so they can focus.
Bring treats and toys.
Know their trigger words to make them perk up, for my pup, it is “Where’s daddy?” but try not to overuse it. The same can be said with squeaking their toys.
Consider your clothing color choices to be sure they coordinate with your pet's coloring. Neutral colors tend to work well.
What about pet accessories? A collar, scarf, ribbon, or sweater that matches the family outfits will help your pet look the part.
Be mindful of your shoe choices, having a pet with you may bring attention to your feet because that is likely where they will be.
The magical lint roller is essential, especially if your bet tends to shed a lot, may not be necessary if you are bringing a turtle.
Don’t forget to groom them too, if needed.
Bring an assistant. If you have a friend that can mind the pet for shots that won't include them or if they don’t want to corporate it will make your life a lot easier. They may also be a huge help to the photographer when trying to keep their attention on the camera.
Smiles and family memories are the goals so as important as these photos are to you should do all you can to relax. Some of the best pictures I have ever captured of families have been the ones where someone was goofing off or refusing to cooperate. I promise a photo session with the expectation that family members will act out of character rarely go smoothly. So how do you get great photos when you have young kids, uncooperative teens, or camera shy adults?
Have fun! Bring a fun family activity, like bikes, board games, books, and favorite toys. This will help keep younger family members occupied and happy. If your kiddos are not too young I suggest letting them help you plan this. Getting them to buy into the planning of the session will make them want to be a part of it.
Attitude is everything and it starts with cheerful parents. Often there is one parent that doesn’t really want to be there and one that feels like they are pulling teeth to get the images they want of the family. If you don’t want to be there think about your partner and how happy the pictures will make them. Even if you are miserable, don’t show it, try to have fun. If you want these images so bad but you are terrified that your family will not cooperate unless you force them, you run the chance of fighting with them, snapping orders, and getting very upset. Neither situation makes for family photos that you will love. So have each other back, play to participate, and go with the flow.
Avoid the “cheese” I don’t know where “CHEESE” came from but it doesn’t really help get real smiles. I don’t know about you but I can normally tell when my kids were “cheesing” in a photo. Despite knowing it I fall into that trap sometimes too so I did a little research and have found that words that end with “uh” do a much better job in producing a natural-looking smile. Words like tapioca, mocha, and yoga, only one of those actually makes me smile for real but that's not the point. The point is natural smiles, so if you find yourself saying “cheese” save it for crackers and try one of those words instead. You might even try laughing out loud. When one person laughs it can be contagious, even if it was fake.
Do you have photos that you can get lost in? I absolutely love family portraits because I know that in the years to come they bring back real memories and cause spontaneous smiles. When I see a photo of my mom, who my heart aches for it brings me joy and my heart just melts whenever I see a picture of my babies when they were small. Your family photos will be so much more than images they will be something you and your family will cherish for many years to come.
Have more questions? That’s ok, comment below or contact me, I am very happy to help.