As a family photographer, there are some things that we (as photographers) want you (as clients) to know. We know that you want gorgeous, perfect family portraits and we want to be able to provide them for you! We know that you are stressed about what to wear, how your kids will behave, what the weather will be like, etc. But here's a little insider tip: Those perfect family portraits? They don't really represent your family.
Your toddler doesn't regularly sit with their hands on their laps with a huge smile on their face, do they? Family portraits are about capturing this specific time in your lives. That "goofy face" that your 4 year old insists on making all of the time? You want to remember that. That favorite blanket or toy that your 2 year old carries around with them everywhere? You want to remember that, too. You want to have portraits taken of your family to show who you are. (By the way, if your toddler really does sit around with their hands on their laps with a smile on their face, please contact me and tell me all of your secrets!) So, although that perfect family portrait is really nice to have (and we WILL try to get it), it's not the most important shot of your session.
So what IS the most important shot of your session? That moment that your toddler gives you a kiss on the cheek. That moment when you and your spouse relax into each other and gaze at your children adoringly. That instant that you and your child look at each other and begin to smile in an unspoken message of "I love you". THOSE are the moments that we want to capture, because those are the moments that you'll want to have portraits of. Those are the moments that 20 years from now you will look at and smile. Those are the authentic moments of you with your family, and they're priceless and beautiful.
For example, this image is one of my favorite images of all time.
Yes, she's adorable, but that's not why I love it so much. I love it because it's authentic. It's truly who she was in that moment. A goofy girl who loved to make faces for the camera. So how do you get images that reflect your family?
Here are 7 quick tips for you:
1) Trust your photographer.
And by that, I mean find a photographer whose work you LOVE and don't pick photographers based on their prices alone. Their portfolio should show you images that you wish were yours. We are confident in our skills as photographers. We've spent countless hours learning our craft. We've dedicated ourselves to learning everything possible about how to create the portraits that you will cherish as the precious heirlooms that they are. Trust us to be able to make those beautiful images for you.
2) Choose clothing that follows the 4 C's: complimentary, comfortable, clean and complementary.
Nope, that's not a typo. Your clothing should compliment YOU and your body. You should also use complementary colors with your family members; matchy-matchy outfits often date the portraits and don't compliment everyone's look/style or personality. You should also be comfortable in your clothing. If you choose clothing that is too tight or too loose, you'll look uncomfortable, which is not what you want. If you Google or Pinterest "What to wear for family photos" you will get TONS of responses. For the fashion challenged (like yours truly), Pinterest can be a big help in understanding this concept. When I say that your clothing should be clean, I mean that it should actually be clean and I also mean that it should not be too busy. The patterns should be simple, if there are any patterns at all. If there are 5 of you and you all show up wearing plaid or stripes, it's not going to be a very flattering image. Your eyes get distracted by the clothing, when we want all of that focus to be on you and your gorgeous family. (Side note: If you are doing any kind of maternity session, please wear something that will compliment your beautiful belly! We want to show you how gorgeous you look with that precious baby awaiting their birth!)
3) Show up on time for your session!
I don't think that I can stress this enough. Remember #1 and how it talks about the amount of time that we have spent learning how to do what we do? Well, a part of that is learning about light. As a natural light photographer, I plan our session according to the sun and its best light. If your session is scheduled to begin at 5 (because sunset is at 6:00) and you show up at 5:30, you are not going to get the best light and you are going to have to cut your session short.
4) Rewards for children should not include things that will make their faces dirty or candy colored.
If you want to bring a reward for your child to offer encouragement with participation, you are more than welcome to do so; however, I highly recommend that said reward is not a huge lollipop or candy that will turn their mouth blue. It WILL show up in your portraits and it won't look very good. Those rewards can be awesome AFTER the session, but during the session, try to use rewards that will not have to be Photoshopped later. If it's a toy that they've been raving about for weeks, some photographers (*cough, cough*) have even been known to place a toy on their head to get some giggles!
5) Speaking of Photoshop: Try to have everyone clean and presentable once you arrive for your session.
A helpful hint for this one is to bring baby wipes with you to give one last quick cleaning of kids faces. This is especially true for toddlers, who tend to have everything from cracker crumbs to yogurt to boogies on their faces. It's easier to get this right ahead of time than to have to Photoshop it out. (This is my son during an impromptu photo session because I couldn't resist his adorable face.) If you are like me and you almost always have a hair tie on your wrist, be sure to slip it into your pocket/purse or into your hair prior to your session.
6) Don't feel like you have to get your child to smile!
Is your child not smiling? No problem. Let the photographer build a relationship with them. You don't need to stand behind them and try to get them to laugh, that's part of your photographers job. Part of the reason why it's important to let your photographer build that relationship is because if you are being silly in the background, your child is watching you and you will get tons of images with your child looking off to the side. Images of your child with a serious face can be amazingly beautiful.
Sometimes those images are gorgeous (like the one above), but you also want images of your child looking directly into the camera.
When parents get stressed, children get stressed. Just go with the flow and trust that your photographer knows what they are doing.
7) Have fun!!!
Again, if you're stressed, your kids will be stressed and your spouse will be stressed. Just try to enjoy being with each other without phones, or computers or work or any other distractions. When you allow that relaxed mentality to happen, gorgeous images can be the result!