We are coming up on warmer weather and sunshine soon, and this means Family Photoshoots! As a mom of three, I know first hand how stressful family sessions can be and all the planning that comes into play! It can be like herding cats. Mini sessions are ideal for family sessions because it's a limited amount of time that doesn't require a lot from the littles, but, with mini sessions time is limited, and you may not be able to get all the pictures you had envisioned. An hour photoshoot is more common for family sessions. The time allotted allows the photographer to get pictures of the family, the children, the individual children, the couple, and then any other extra pictures you have in mind. There are family session checklists that some photographers give out to their clients. This can be helpful when getting the client and photographer on the same page. I've put together some tips to help your family session run a lot smoother.
The Outfits and Location
The number one question I get after someone books a shoot is, "OK! What about our outfits?!" The very first thing to look at when deciding on outfits is location! Location is crucial when deciding on your outfits. The next thing is your surroundings. If you are having pictures taken in a forest, you probably wouldn't wear a grass green formal gown. That's probably a bad example, but you understand what I'm saying. For a laid back woodsy vibe, you would probably wear jeans and a color that goes well with that type of environment. If you are looking for more of a barn rustic feel, you could easily do jeans and cowboy boots. For a boho vibe, you could do cream or white boho dresses. Have fun with the options available to you. The other HUGE thing is DO NOT MATCH!!! You want the colors to coordinate for sure, but putting everyone in matching shirts isn't a good idea. You want to add some variety and character to your family photos. So, you might put dad in a plaid shirt, and two boys in solid colors that color coordinate with the plaid. Color coordinating is key. I have a few of my go-to blogs that I will link. This one here gives some options on color coordinating for Spring and Easter. This post gives some great options for the beach. There are also a ton of other options on Pinterest! In all, think about the location and the surroundings, pick a color that represents your family or the feeling you are trying to emulate, and color coordinate some options. Here are some color palette options. These are typically used for home decor, but can easily be used for photography as well.
Calming the Littles
Asking a child to stand, pose, look this way, stay this way, etc can be a lot on them. Their natural instinct is to play and explore. There are several ways to prevent the meltdowns. For starters, you can bring a toy, blanket, stuffed animal, or something similar to calm them. These familiar items can help them stay calm and focused. For really small children, this can also be used as a distraction when the photographer is trying to grab a shot with them looking in a certain direction. Snacks and drinks help keep their bellies full and keep them happy. It's ok to take a quick break from the pictures to allow them to calm down, eat some crackers, and get back to it. As a photographer, I don't mind this, and I encourage it. Also, take breaks from the posed pics and let them explore a bit. Most of the time, this is when I capture the best pictures. These are usually candid shots with kids in their natural element with natural smiles. To keep the kiddos calm, one of the MOST important things is DO NOT RUSH. I do not recommend planning your session on a day you also have something to get to immediately afterwards. When kids feel rushed, they get stressed out, which in turn causes meltdowns. These meltdowns stress out Mom and Dad, and can prevent a smooth, fun shoot. Instead, do something as a family afterwards. It can be a simple as going to the park or getting ice cream. This brings me to my next suggestion. A reward system is also a great way to get kids to engage. These rewards can be stickers, candy, or an activity after the shoot. If you plan on doing a family activity afterwards, the kids will be excited and looking forward to something after the shoot is over.
Let the Photographer Lead
I know, I know...but hear me out. Sometimes kids respond to a person they don't know better than a parent when it comes to doing an activity. When I first meet your little, I usually let them spend the first 10 minutes exploring (this is also when I grab some candid shots). During this time, I ask them some questions like, what is your favorite food, movie, etc. Then, I give them a "job." If we are on the beach, I ask them to find a shell for me. If it is the oldest child, typically the younger kids will follow suit, and they will sometimes engage with the sibling or siblings. This also makes for great candid shots. There is a method to my madness. This does several things...they are exploring and getting to know the area so they feel more comfortable in their surroundings, they are engaging with me and I'm getting to know a little about them. They are also working off some of the energy they have pent up from the car ride. So, by the first posed family shot, they are ready to listen. Remember that shell I asked them to find? I have them hold a shell they find in their hands to "keep it safe." This prevents a lot of movement from their hands while I am photographing. After the family shots, I usually capture the couple and allow the kids to explore and take a break, once I'm finished with mom and dad, the kids are usually ready again. I grab those shots, and then I get some candids of them. They love this! I may add a game like jump over the stick, or puddle, etc. If you allow us to take the lead, it will take stress off of you, and, in turn, reduce stress for the kids. It's important to know that kids are like sponges. If you are stressed, they are stressed, and it shows.
Choosing a Photographer
There are so many of us out there now, this can be somewhat of a daunting task. So, here are some simple tips to help you identify the right photographer for your family. First and foremost, if you have kids (especially multiple kids), make sure you find a photographer that is comfortable with kids, and experienced with photographing kids. If you choose a photographer that has little experience with kids, he or she may not know how to engage with them and make them feel comfortable in front of the camera. This is not to say that it can't be done, but it definitely helps. If you hire a photographer that specializes in Editorial Fashion for Adults, you may not get the same results as you would with someone that does a lot of family and child photography. Again, not saying it can't be done, there are several photographers that I know can easily make this happen, but you want to know this up front. Check out their work. Each photographer has a different style of shooting and editing. If you are wanting a light and airy feel to your pictures, you wouldn't hire someone that typically edits with a dark and moody feel. This is also where Pinterest comes in handy. If you send a couple of Pinterest Inspo pics to me, it lets me know what style you are wanting and whether I am a good fit for you and your photography needs. With all the presets and editing options available now, it allows photographers to hone in on their specific editing style, and this is very important to know before hand. This is also not to say that someone that typically shoots dark and moody can't do light and airy, but you want to look at his or her work and communicate those expectations to your photographer. This is also where that family questionnaire I mentioned above may come in handy. Here is a blog that I really liked on choosing a photographer. Check it out here.
Most of the time a family session will be scheduled later in the afternoon before dinner. This means the kiddos are going to start getting hungry. A snack before is a good idea, but it's also not a bad idea to pack a small cooler with a few snacks and juice boxes or bottled water. Prep the kids before hand so they know what is going to be happening. Grabbing them out of play time and putting a nice outfit on them, and then taking them to a field or beach can be confusing and overwhelming. Let them know that tomorrow we will be taking pictures, it's going to be fun, we are doing blah blah afterwards. Let them pick a toy or something they want to bring. It's also fun to grab a couple of shots with them and this toy. It can create a memory for them later! Hang your clothes up the night before as to take stress off of you the next day, and, if you can, let your kids be involved in the outfit planning. Sometimes, if they have some input in the clothes, they will be proud of themselves and more likely to be excited for the photoshoot. If you have family sessions done every year, it's a great idea to keep them consistent in the same month. This does two things...the kids expect it once they see the weather change, and you can see the change in your family from year to year more consistently.
These are just a few tips for family sessions. To keep the order and peace, and prevent the aforementioned cat herding, take these tips into consideration. Planning and preparing can make a huge difference in a family session for everyone. If you have some extra tips, drop them below! I'd love to hear your thoughts. Cheers to your next family session going off without a hitch!