I know you’ve invested your precious time and money into this experience, and you want it to go perfectly. And I know that sometimes family photos can be sooo stressful! But they don’t have to be! With the right preparation, it can be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Timing is everything!
The ideal time to do outdoor photographs in order to get that beautiful golden glow is an hour or two before sunset. Another good option is in the first hour or two after sunrise. But… I know that sometimes those times don’t work with your children’s sleep / nap schedules. While I definitely prefer to shoot at those times, we can make almost any time of the day work, based on your children’s needs. Happy, well-rested kiddos will make for a better photo shoot all the way around! If possible, try to clear your schedule for the rest of the day, so that your children aren’t wiped out from soccer games and errands before the session even starts!
What to wear!
Coordinate outfits well before the shoot, and lay everything out the day before. (All of my clients have access to my style guide, as well as an online styling service… and I’m always available to answer questions and help pick your outfits!)
Be sure to leave plenty of time to get ready!
Moms are usually the ones rushing around trying to get everyone in the family dressed and ready to go! This often leaves you feeling frazzled and like you didn’t have time to get yourself ready like you would have liked to! Enlist some help if you need to, so that you have time to take a relaxing shower, do your hair and makeup, and have time to put on your outfit and accessories without feeling rushed. Even better – let this be an excuse to pamper yourself a little bit – and go get your hair and makeup done professionally!!
Dads… this is NOT going to be painful… I promise!!
Most of the husbands and dads I’ve had the pleasure of working with have been phenomenal, and they have truly enjoyed taking pictures with their families. But… I know, I know – a lot guys would rather be stabbed in the eyeballs with flaming spears than do family pictures. But… these pictures are SO important to your wife and children! These will be the pictures your family will have to look back on and remember these moments in your life – and you’ll be so much happier to look back at pictures where you were smiling and laughing and letting loose with your kids… instead of pictures where you looked as if you were being tortured. It’ll be over before you know it… and your wife will be eternally grateful to you.
How to prepare your children…
Please, please, please – don’t threaten your children with statements like “I expect you to behave for the photographer” or anything along those lines! That instantly gives them control over the session, and they will come into it expecting it to be no fun. In the days leading up to the session, tell them that a friend is going to be taking your family pictures. (You could even show them pictures of me from my website so I’m not a strange face to them!) Get them excited about it. Tell them that we’re going to a really fun park or beach, and that we’re going to play and take some pictures to hang on your walls / send to Grandma / etc.
Some children also respond well to the promise of a treat… so you could even say something like “after we’re done, we’re going to go get some ice cream”… (or burgers, or to a movie) – whatever! This just helps make it sound like the whole process is going to be a fun experience…. instead of something they have to do. (But even if you do tell them that they’re going to get a treat after the session – please don’t use it as a threat DURING the session … as in “I’m not going to give you that treat unless you behave”… otherwise the rest of the session will go downhill – I promise! I’ve seen it happen.)
(I might even follow you to the place where you take your children for treats afterwards… and continue taking pictures like the paparazzi!)
Snacks, Props, Etc…
Kids with full bellies are happy kids! Make sure your kiddos are well fed before the session. This might be the day to eat an early dinner. Or if you’re planning to go eat dinner after we’re done – at least make sure that they have a really hearty snack before we start! And bring some of their favorite snacks with you!! We can definitely stop for a snack break if needed!!
You don’t need to bring a ton of toys or props. But if your child has a special toy or stuffed animal that always makes him smile… that might be a helpful thing to bring! I typically always have a blanket with me for families to sit on – but if you have a special blanket that you’d like to use – by all means, bring it with you! (A change of clothes for the kids is always a good idea too!)
During the Session…
Please just relax and enjoy the ride! Once we’re there – I love to interact with the kiddos and get them feeling comfortable with me. As much as possible, let me try to get the smiles out of them. Your job as parents is just to keep smiling yourselves, and keep interacting with your kids playfully to keep it light. I’ll get the shots of them smiling, (without them having to say “cheese”)…. I promise!
I will mix up our session between doing some posed shots with more candid shots. And we’ll alternate between the two a lot – that way the kids don’t get sick of the same old thing. Don’t worry – I don’t expect you to know how to pose yourselves, and I will give you plenty of direction for the “posed” pictures.
And then there will be moments when I ask you to just play and interact with your children… Don’t be afraid to pick up your kids and toss them in the air! (As long as you’re good at catching them!) Give your wife a sweet kiss on the cheek. Tell your husband how much you love him and how much you appreciate him for taking pictures with you! Laugh. Tickle. Hug. Snuggle. I love capturing these authentic moments between families… so don’t be shy!!
Finally – please know that I have two toddlers myself. And I know that they can be sugary sweet one second and in full-out melt down mode the next! Please don’t worry or start panicking if your child isn’t being “perfect”. They will pick up on your stress, which will only make it worse. You know your children better than me – so if you feel a melt down coming on – just let me know – and we can take a break for snacks or water or cuddles or whatever they need.
Your children don’t need to be perfect. They will want to run and play and explore and that’s great! The camera only captures little milliseconds of time – and in between all of the wiggles and the crankiness… there are always sweet moments as well.
My goal isn’t to get your children to sit up straight with a stiff smile on their face. My goal is to capture your children exactly as they are – to capture their unique personalities – at this moment in their lives – and to capture the love between all of you. Even if it’s a little messy and chaotic. So don’t worry – we will get beautiful pictures of your family!