It's that time of year again! Fall is the busiest time of year for photographers, especially in Northern Virginia. Why? Because it's family portrait time! Everyone wants to get those family pictures done for their Christmas cards, so I've prepared some tips for you. I have a separate blog post with more tips about family portraits and another post about choosing a newborn photographer, but this one is specifically geared towards those of you who are planning on doing portraits of their family this fall.
1) Decide the look that you want. Do you want candid moments? Do you want more posed family portraits? Or do you want a mixture of both? This is important because it will help you make your next big decision....
A more candid moment vs. a posed moment.
2) Choose Your Photographer. If you ask around to 10 different people, you'll likely get 10 different photographers recommended but before you feel overwhelmed, there are a few things to help you decide:
- Do they fit your style? Do you love candid moments or posed portraits? Is their work something that you are dying to have up on your walls? If not, you can take them off of your list.
- Are they experienced? To find this out, you need to look through their work. Are the images in focus? Do they have good lighting? Are the portraits consistent? Do the people in the portraits look well-posed? All of these things add up to a photographer with experience.
- Are they in your budget? This is definitely something to take into consideration, but keep in mind that *sometimes* cheap equals poor quality. This is why it's important to look through their portfolio and get a feel of their experience.
- One of the best ways to choose your photographer is to actually talk to them. Call them! See if you click! Discuss your expectations and let them explain what they do. This is a great time to ask questions, too!
** One more note: If you post online for recommendations for a photographer, please be specific in your post. If you're not specific, you're going to get 90+ responses from photographers who are at a variety of skill levels, business models and price ranges. SO, in your post, include the following:
- Size of your family. There is more planning that has to go into a large family session than a small family one. There is also sometimes an extra fee for families over a certain size.
- What kind of portraits you want to have done. (Lifestyle vs. posed)
- Your budget. And no, "doesn't cost an arm and a leg" doesn't count as specific. What is expensive to you may not be expensive to someone else.
- When/where you want to do the session. If you're flexible, say that. But, if you want to do the session at your amazing property, say that! We love new locations!
2) Choose a location look. Do you want the leaves at their peak change? Do you want greenery? Flowers? Snow? (Although, that last one can be tricky around Northern Virginia, you just might be able to get it done if you're flexible and work with your photographer.) This leads into location ideas. If you have an immaculate backyard, take a look at the light and take a snapshot with your phone about an hour or so before sunset. Share that shot with your photographer and suggest a session in your backyard. If you're like most of us, who have given up on the weeds we used to call flower beds, a professional photographer should have a few locations to suggest for your session. Loudoun County has so many gorgeous locations, but please keep in mind that certain places require a fee and/or a permit to shoot there. Your photographer should know which locations have requirements and which don't. In an upcoming blog post, I'll be listing a few of my favorite spots for sessions, so keep an eye out!
Do you want this kind of look?
Or maybe this?
3) Decide what to wear. This is usually the hardest part, but over the years I've been able to narrow it down to a few simple tips:
-The 4 C's: Complimentary, Clean, Complementary, Comfortable. The clothing should compliment you and your figure. Make sure that the outfits for everyone in the family is complementary. Each outfit should "flow" with the others. They don't have to be (and shouldn't) be too matchy-matchy, but they should all look good together as a group. It should go without saying that clothing should be clean. With children this is sometimes hard to do, especially when you're trying to get a snack into them before the session so that they'll cooperate. So, if you know that you need to feed Billy/Jane/your husband/yourself a snack before the session, try to wear something to cover your clothing or eat before you get dressed. Each person should be comfortable in what they are wearing. If someone is wearing an outfit that they hate or that is itchy or too small, they're going to be unhappy and that is going to show in your portraits. They will also have a hard time relaxing and cooperating. Put them in something that they like wearing and is comfortable and things will go much smoother! This is a good lead in to my next tip...
- Figure out who the most difficult person to dress is in your family. Does that particular person immediately pop into your head? Great! Figure out what THEY are going to wear first. Once you have their outfit figured out, you build off of that in order to be able to follow the 4 C's. For example, if they'll only be comfortable in jeans and a blue button down, find the next pickiest dresser and put them in a gray dress with a mustard yellow bow in her hair, then the next person can wear a mustard yellow skirt and white top and the next person can wear a gray button down and jeans. Pick 3-4 colors and go from there. BUT, be careful about patterns and please, pretty please don't wear neon colors (they reflect off of your skin and you end up with neon yellow/pink/orange skin).
- Once you have picked out outfits, lay them out on the bed next to each other to see how they look all together. You can even take it one step further and snap a picture on your phone and send it to your photographer! Personally, I l-o-v-e being a part of this process with my clients, so feel free to send me those previews!
- Lastly, if your three year old absolutely INSISTS on wearing her pink Peppa Pig rain boots to the session, that's okay. Bring the shoes that you want her to wear and we'll try to get a few with the "right" shoes on, but honestly? You will always remember her obsession with her Peppa Pig rain boots, so why not document it?
4) Read one of my other blog posts. It has some handy tips for your family session that I didn't include in this post. I hope that it's helpful to you!
5) R-E-L-A-X. This is one of the tips that I put into every single blog post about preparing for a session. Crabby, anxious parents make for crabby, anxious kids, so it's a cycle that's hard to break. Plus, sometimes parents get so wrapped up in telling their kids to behave that when the kids DO look at the camera, the parents often aren't. Photographers that work with children will know what to do. Just relax and have fun!
I hope that this blog has helped you feel a bit more prepared and that you all get amazing fall family portraits! Do you have any other tips that you'd like to share?