Thanks so much for allowing me the honor of creating beautiful photos for your family. It is my hope that together we craft not only awesome memories, but gorgeous, timeless images as well.
THE FIRST STEP? WHATEVER PICTURES YOU HAVE IN YOUR MIND… LET THEM GO.
I know that’s much easier said than done. You’ve likely looked all over Pinterest and thought, “I want our pictures to look like that!” But even those families whose images you’re envying… they didn’t imagine it exactly that way. Because life unravels the way it wants to and really, no one can control it. No matter what happens during your session, the photos are going to be unique, beautiful and full of life – just like your family. I'm after YOUR story. It will unfold on its own.
PREPARING THE KIDDOS FOR THE BIG DAY
Preparing your kids for our session as much as possible often takes the timidness out of the evening. Tell your kids that this is going to be FUN! You’re going to go explore a cool new place in nature, you’re going to snuggle together and tickle each other, and maybe you’ll go get hot chocolate or ice cream afterwards! And oh yeah, there will be a lady there taking pictures of it all and she may ask you to sit or stand a few different ways. Your kids will pick up on your attitude about the whole process. If you’re stressed, they’ll be stressed too.
Make sure that they are fed and rested. We have likely talked and I said we have to shoot in the evening to get the best light and that can be a tricky time for kiddos. But this can be remedied by putting them down for a late nap that day or if they don't nap, like my children, clearing your schedule on photo day to allow them to rest before the shoot. Feed them dinner or a big snack before the session so they aren't "hangry." Hungry kids are never easy to work with, as all parents know! :)
No threats, as they usually bring about tears and added stress. Don’t even bother telling them to "be sure to smile!" or “be good!” My goal isn’t to get a picture of your child “being good” or just “smiling” but having fun and interacting. Some kids who have been coached to smile for the photographer get so nervous that they have trouble relaxing because they are so worried about having their picture taken or making their parents happy! Our goal is to capture your child as they are :)
Mom is usually the last to get ready because she has spent all day preparing everyone else. She typically arrives to the session quite frazzled and exhausted. There can be legit anxiety around having family photos taken! Take a deep breath. Or two. Remember I’m a mom, too. I’ve been there and I understand what it’s like. When you look back at the photos, I want you to remember an evening of snuggling your kiddos, laughing together, and exploring the outdoors. No matter how good the photos look, you won’t really love them if they always remind you of how stressed out you were that day. Let go and have fun! And don’t get frazzled if you feel like things aren’t going well. Let life unravel as it may. Life is beautifully messy and crazy and that’s so okay!
YOUR TURN, DAD
Moms, I’m looking at you here. Because I know. Oh how I know! Is dad feeling less than thrilled about your upcoming photo shoot? Totally normal. I once did a shoot for a family and after the first (FIRST!) shot I took, the dad, serious as can be, stood up and said “we’re done, right?”
A little bribery seems to work well here as well! Kidding! Kind of. But seriously. Dads: the shoot will be relatively quick and painless and try to just focus on having an hour to play with your kids, relax, be yourself, hold your wife's hand and just savor the moment! All I want you to do is be with your family. And the above goes for you, too: don't get frazzled if you feel like things aren't going well.
Let's be real here. Having your photos taken can be uncomfortable. It’s strange at first to have a camera pointed your way and almost ALWAYS the first 15 minutes of a photo shoot are a little awkward and unnatural for EVERYONE involved. It's just the way it is and we'll get through those 15 minutes of awkwardness together :) Everyone will warm up eventually, so try not to worry that you’re not doing the right thing or that you should be doing this or that your kids aren't doing what they should and so on and so forth. It may take your child(ren) time to warm up as well; it's okay if they aren't giving big smiles right off the bat. Trust me and trust the process. And now that *that's* out of the way...
DURING THE SHOOT
I don't want you to sit and look at me and smile the whole time. In fact, I will likely tell you more than once to pretend I'm not even there. These photos are about you and your family and that's who I want you to focus on :) I know it may feel a bit silly at first, but just try your best to be yourselves. Snuggle your kids, do the things you do at home to make them laugh, whisper in their ear how much you love them or whisper something funny, dance with them, tickle them, stroke their hair, just breathe them in and enjoy the time with them. Give your husband a kiss, kiss your wife on the forehead, snuggle in close. Just be together! We’ll try to do the posed shots with everyone looking at the camera too, but those will go better if your kids get to laugh and play in between and we keep things relaxed. I’ve had quite a few kids who want to make silly faces at the camera. While the silly faces may not be the photos you want to hang on your wall, the kids often crack themselves up and then I get some real smiles from them right after the silly faces, so let those silly faces fly!
Other things you can do if you feel awkward standing there in front of the camera:
Use movement. I really encourage movement during my sessions to keep everyone relaxed. Most toddlers really don’t love being held still for photos for very long. If they’re getting antsy, you can try throwing them in the air, swinging them around, flipping them upside down, dancing with them, tickling them, holding them and then pretending you’re about to drop them, etc. If you do these things, it’s helpful if you can do the movement, then hold still for a second while they’re laughing so I can grab the shot. I may ask you to repeat. You didn't know this photoshoot would double as your workout for the day, did you?
Yes, I'm throwing this out there. Tell poop jokes to your kids. We’re keeping it classy here, guys! But they work. Especially when you whisper them in your kid’s ear like a super top secret joke, they elicit the most adorable giggles. Often times I have no idea what the parents said to get their kids to laugh, but you know your child’s sense of humor, and I would recommend thinking before your session about a few things you could whisper that would send them into fits of giggles.
If you have a snuggler, hold them close! Breathe them in and just be with them.
Mom and dad, as you focus on your children, don’t forget about yourself! Keep your posture good as well as ensuring your chin doesn’t pull in - we all just LOVE those double-chin photos of ourselves, don't we? Something else to keep in mind is to be watchful of your own expression as you’re trying to get baby to smile. Remember you are in the photos as well!
Please avoid scolding your children during the shoot as well. I have found that it's nearly impossible to bring a session back after it's gone south due to a child being scolded. Rather than scolding, let's find ways to distract your child so the shoot can carry on in a positive light. Sometimes if kids are acting up they just need a playtime break or a change of scenery. I'm okay with and encourage as many breaks as we need to take!
BUT WHAT DO I WEAR?
Ah, the age old question always associated with photo shoots. Styling is one thing I try not to have too much of a hand in, since I want you guys to still be you, not Laura Boggs’ idea of fashion. But here is my 2 cents anyway:
I encourage people to wear complementary colors, but not to match completely. As you think about your color palette, imagine your family being one complete piece of artwork. Each person/outfit will bring together a feeling of formality and coordination. Instead of everyone wearing the same shade of blue - think about what accent colors might look nice with said blue. Perhaps blue plaid shorts for your son with a t-shirt, vest and hat. Pull some of the colors of his plaid shorts to find a great skirt or dress for your little girl. Dad can wear some jeans and a shirt that coordinates with the plaid shorts and skirt on your daughter, and finish it off with an awesome jacket. Mom will round the entire family out with some great boots, leggings and darling dress that (again) coordinates with the family color story.
Think layers. Layers are probably the biggest difference between sessions that look great and sessions that look wow: little boys in a t-shirt, with a button up over it, along with a blazer. Throw on a fun hat (bowler, fedora, stylish ball cap) and you're set! Little girls: same thing, leggings, fun skirt, tank with a sweater and a tasteful (not too big and neon and overwhelming!) headband.
Head to toe. Remember to dress down to you and your family's feet! No scuffed Reeboks for boys, but fun shoes like Converse, "boat" shoes, or boots. Same for girls, no Dora crocs, but more traditional Mary Janes or boots work best!
What NOT to wear. Remember the Olan Mills look of everyone in khakis + white button down shirts? That isn’t the kind of matching I’d like you to do. Again, think coordinating without matching perfectly.
Dads, instead of defaulting to a plain ole polo - look for fun colors, stripes, plaids. Texture photographs amazingly. Get creative!
Helpful tip! Head into your local GAP (or the like) and mention you’re styling for family photos. They are happy to direct you - and free of charge! No need to pay a stylist when you have knowledgeable fashion advice right there in the store.
In my opinion, the bottom line when it comes to what to wear is this: coordinate and be comfortable and be you.
A FEW ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
If your little one brings along a "lovie" (stuffed animal, blanket, etc.) I’d love to use some time to capture some memories with that special piece of their childhood!
It is my pleasure to be able to photograph your family and I look forward to the fun we will have and the images we will create! Thanks for taking the time to best prepare for your session. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns!
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