HOW TO PREPARE FOR FAMILY PICTURES || 10 TIPS FROM A PHOTOGRAPHER

I know that Family pictures are SO MUCH WORK!!!! No matter how young or old your kids are, no matter how much you prepare in advance or how much warning you give your spouse, family pictures are still STRESSFUL!!! {believe me, I get it!} I want you to walk away feeling like you LOVED your experience before you even see a single photo, if that’s not the case then I’m not doing my job!!

Here are 10 tips to help you have a more enjoyable photo session:

1 – Choose a photographer whose style you LOVE, if that’s not me, that’s ok. All photographers want you to love their work. We invest in equipment, education and many hours of practice to perfect our art. It’s our passion!! There are a million ways to edit photos and every photographer is different. Please don’t pick a photographer who edits light, bright and airy and then expect your photos to be dark, grungy and moody. Make sure that you pick someone whose work you LOVE!!

2 – Choose a location that will give you the look you want! I am a “people centered” photographer. I focus on people in my photos. Most of the time you don’t see a LOT of the background, but there is still a big difference in shooting out in an open field of grass, or with the skyline behind you in downtown Chicago. If you want an urban feel then the grass field with glowing sun behind you is not going to give you what you want, and vice versa. Make sure you and your photographer choose a location that fits the style you are going for.

3 – Think about where you want to display your photos! If you want to print a huge canvas of your photos for your large wall in the family room, you should make sure that the colors and style you choose will match your decor. I have been known to plan my entire outfit, colors and setting to match with my family room decor…and I LOVE how this wall turned out because I purposely planned my photo shoot to match the location where I wanted to display them. {those yellow chairs were the inspiration for this photo}. Wear clothes and pick backgrounds that will compliment your decor, not distract from it.

4 – Choose comfortable, flattering clothes!! I’m going to give you a couple tips about clothing, first choose clothing that is comfortable and flattering. Don’t try to squeeze into those skinny jeans, you know the ones that you can barely breathe in? Second, choose colors and styles that are flattering to your body. If you hate your arms, don’t wear a sleeveless shirt. If you don’t like your waist, don’t wear a shirt that hugs you tight and shows every part of your middle. 

Choose neutral colors and flattering styles. Think cream, soft pastels, oatmeal, tan, soft browns, gray and slate blue. Soft, flowing fabrics always look great in photos. Accessorize with hats, scarfs, jewelry, shoes or belts to add more color.  Accessories not only add to your outfit but they can be fun to use in photos. Necklaces for the kids to play with or hats to hide behind. Textures and Layers add dimension and personality to your photos. Avoid graphics, bold patterns, tiny patterns like pinstripes, really bright neon colors, and characters.

You should also try on everything BEFORE picture day. What you think should fit, might not be the right size or might be too scratchy to wear and be comfortable. Your photos will reflect how comfortable you are in your clothing, and there is nothing worse than hating every picture because you hate what you are wearing.  Also make sure that your clothing goes with the style you are going for and will enhance the background and not distract from it.

5 – Don’t do anything different!! Family picture day is not the day to drastically change your hairstyle, do your make-up completely different or ask your child to wear fancy clothes when they never wear anything fancy. If you need haircuts, make sure you get them a couple weeks before pictures so that you’ve had a chance to get used to them before pictures. I have a client who hired someone to curl her hair for pictures. She texted me about 30 minutes before the session and said she was having a “hair emergency” because she paid someone to make her look like a poodle (her words), so she pulled all her hair up because it wasn’t at all how she normally wore it, and she didn’t want to look like a poodle! PS: as you can see her hair looked adorable pulled up, so it wasn’t as tragic as it could have been!! 

6 – Plan your session around meals, naps and bedtime!! There is nothing more frustrating than putting in all the time and effort to make family pictures happen, and having screaming kids who won’t cooperate. I know that you can’t always control this, but there are a few things you can do to help make it a more pleasant experience for everyone. Make sure everyone has eaten, hungry kids are not happy kids!! Bring a non-messy snack if necessary and bring water, especially if it’s hot!! Make sure that you accommodate transition time for yourself and children. I plan a little extra time at the beginning of my session to give your kids time to get warmed up to me.

7 – Let kids be kids – Even the big kids!! I know that I am a new, sometimes scary person especially to little kids. But, I have a lot of experience with kids.  Little kids and big kids, even adult kids. I am the oldest of 7 and I have 24 nieces and nephews who I adore. I’ve photographed them all for many years and I’ve learned a thing or two about working with kids. Let ME be the boss during the session, unless you need to discipline your children, let me tell them what to do, where to stand and when to look at me. Let me tell them when to smile and where to look. Try not to direct them from the side, because then they will be looking at you in all of the photos.

I try to be flexible and make your session fun. If they want to run around and hide from me, let them. If they want to play with my squeeky toys, let them. If they want to see the back of the camera after every shot, let them. They are kids, they are curious and want to know what I’m doing, the more they trust me and can see what I’m creating, the more willing they will be to cooperate with me.  And sometimes, the best images are when you just let them be kids.

8 – Be Flexible and if necessary, use bribery! – Family pictures rarely go as well as you would like. It’s always the day that one, or several, of the kids decide they aren’t really into it and they want to throw themselves on the floor screaming.  This is one time when I encourage bribery. Sometimes they just need an extra push to cooperate for just a couple minutes. Sometimes they need to be distracted for just a minute. Feel free to bring candy or treats that you know will motive your kids. Just remember, Don’t bring candy that is sticky, melts or is hard to chew. Smarties work GREAT and I ALWAYS have some on hand!

Or, maybe you’ve been watching the weather all week and now it’s supposed to rain right during your session time. Try to Be Flexible. I want you session to be a success, I want the weather to cooperate. I don’t want to re-schedule 3 times because of rain, but I will do whatever is in my power to make sure that your session is a success. I can’t control the weather, but I will try to accommodate your schedule and mine to have an enjoyable session with good weather, and hopefully we can get the kids to cooperate for one photo!!

9 – Trust your Photographer! You hired your photographer to capture your family connections. Trust that she or he wants your session to be a success as much, or maybe more than you do. I will do everything I can to make sure that your session is a success. I will help guide you to find a style, location and outfits that will give you images that you love! I will work as hard as I can to get your spouse, and children to cooperate. I am invested in helping you capture your family connections and I want you to walk away from your session saying, that was more fun than I thought it would be!!

10 – Have Fun!! Interact and let me Capture you as a family! Some of my favorite pictures are not the ones where everyone is looking right at the camera, smiling. My favorites are the ones that everyone is interacting and having a good time. I will try to get a combination of both during your session. I will guide you and help you to know what to do to make your photos playful and show the love your family has for each other. Remember, family photos should not feel like torture, you should be having fun together and try to forget that I am there capturing your every move!

I hope these tips will help make your photo session a little less stressful and a lot of fun. When you book a session with me, I will send you a complete style guide with more specific tips and tricks. We will work together to pick a location, clothing and style that will capture your family connections for generations to come.

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