You've decided to invest in a family photo shoot with a professional photographer. Congratulations! I know it may seem as if it is a big step and a lot of money, but even if you are a great photographer in your own right, you won't regret stepping back to let someone else take the reins this time.
I try to budget for family photos every year, although sometimes life gets in the way. We've been fortunate to have at least four sets done in the past six years and I'm itching for the next one. I love seeing how our family changes - particularly the kids - from year to year, and it's so much easier to do that with someone else behind the lens.
Our experience with multiple photo shoots over the years has led me to come up with a few tips and tricks to help make the session go more smoothly:
1. Pick a location close to home. This one applies to those with small children. Work with your photographer to come up with a location that doesn't involve driving for an hour. Long drives = cranky kids = uncooperative kids = crummy pictures.
2. Find a time that works best for everyone. Your photographer will want to shoot when the light is best. Unfortunately, this may not work best for your family, particularly if it lands at nap/bed/dinner time. Talk to your photographer in advance to come up with a time that balances natural light and your family's schedule.
3. Wear comfortable clothing. I believe that people who feel comfortable in their clothes are more likely to look comfortable in their pictures. Pick out clothes (not too matchy-matchy, no big graphic prints) that complement each other but that everyone is happy to put on. Everyone's smile will be a little more genuine if they are wearing something that's more in their comfort zone.
4. Come prepared. Think about the people-combinations that you want to have captured in photos, particularly if your family is larger or if you're including extended family. Make a list of these combinations and give it to the photographer at the start of the session.
5. Trust your photographer and look at the camera. This one is tough for most parents. Instead of focusing on your kids, make sure YOU are looking at the camera. All the time. Let your photographer worry about the kids. When she or he clicks that shutter at the moment that your child finally smiles or looks right in the lens, you don't want to be the one looking in the other direction! Your photographer is a professional - trust him or her to do the job well and to let you know if you need to help.
6. Let your kids be themselves. This is also known as "manage your own expectations." While I'm all for the posed shot with everyone looking the same way, leave some room for what else may come naturally. Often the "outtake" pictures that reflect reality (like the photo of my daughter pouting with her hands crossed at the beginning of this post) will become your favourites.
7. Don't let anyone get hungry. Pack a bag of snacks. No matter when you feed them, kids will get hungry as soon as a session starts. Also, don't be above a little bribery - a small pack of Smarties can go a long way. :)
8. Relax and have fun. Enjoy the hour or two with your family. Get silly. Have fun. Be happy. All of this will shine through in your pictures!
Have you had a great family photo shoot? Feel free to share your favourite shots with us in the comments below.
Image by Heidi Ram Photography