Monday, November 18, 2013

Successful Family Photos: 5 Tips for Parents

So...I've been a professional photographer for about five minutes.  

Kidding, it's been like two weeks.  

No but really, in these couple of weeks, I have been hitting it hard, doing photo sessions about every other day, photographing families with children all under the age of ten (mostly toddlers).  I still have a lot to learn on the photography side, but as a parent and on the coordination side of things, I have observed some best-practices (and some not-so-best practices) in family photo shoot planning.  I hope these tips are helpful for those of you who are coming up on your Fall family photo shoots! 

Five Tips for a Successful Family Photo Session

1. Pick out clothes way in advance.
This is a no-brainer, you would think, especially with all the clothing coordination guides you can find on Pinterest these days... but you would be surprised how many people procrastinate this.  I myself have FAILED at this BOTH times we have done family photo shoots since my daughter was born.  Literally, our ever-patient photographer once actually helped me decide what I was going to wear, I had like five outfits laid out on the bed when she got to our house.  She was so calm and easy-going about it, but I know we lost precious natural-light and we were wasting her time.  Sorry, Jane.  This year I already have our outfits all picked out... just need to make Penny's hair-bow. (P.S. Jane's my fav, you should check her out.).  Knowing ahead of time, and what's more telling your photographer, the colors and style of your attire, will help him/her suggest the best location.  Laying out your outfits the night before relieves stress for you on photo shoot day.

I love the way the browns and reds and creams all come together in this setting with her outfit.

2. Bring props, bribes, and baby wipes.
Best prop I've seen so far?  Lollipops.  Used as a bribe AND totally adorable in the photos.  Bring extra because the first few are bound to end up on the ground.  Other ideas: a ball for your little guy to chase or kick around.  A favorite stuffed animal that matches the style of your shoot in case it ends up in a few shots.  A tambourine to get their attention if their eyes start to wander.

For older kids, plan to do something fun as a family after your photo shoot so they are excited to be dressed up, and can be reminded of what's coming next if the shoot starts to feel boring for them.

And as for the baby wipes... we can edit out boogers and crumbs and dirt... sort of... but man oh man it's a lot of work.  Better to clean little's face before photog starts clicking.  Please and thank you.

how adorable is Lill with her lollipop?
You can't tell, but Brooklyn is staring at her favorite stuffed animal that is "dancing" above my camera lens.

3. Get there early. 
This lets your child(ren) get familiar with the area to fend off any anxiety (for the shy kids) or use up some energy before photographer starts shooting (for the rambunctious kids).

Nico loved running around, but it took him a few minutes to warm up to me at the beginning.
We got there nice and early, which gave him plenty of time for both.
I know.  This face.

4. Act Natural.
Be yourselves and relax.  Some of my favorite photos are "candids" of parents interacting with their kids.  These are the moments, the special sauce of life, which are so wonderful to preserve in a photograph!  Let your photog do his/her thing, and you just have fun with your family.

5. Keep Smiling.
Number one.  When you're there, grownups, you just keep on smiling.  It's natural to be preoccupied with your little one -- did her hairbow fall off? (guilty), is she smiling? does she have boogers? is she doing a nice face or a silly face? etc. -- so sometimes us grownups forget oh yeah I'm in the photo too.  I considered posting some outtakes of the many images I've captured wherein the little one looks flawless and it's the the adults who look a wreck, but I love my clients so I'm sparing them :)  I leave you with this: your photographer WILL get the shot of your kid(s) looking at the camera... we promise... that's our job... your job is to make sure you look good in that shot too. 

It took about forty shots in this staging to get this one photo where little Ryan (far left) was smiling and looking at me, but look how great the grownups did at making sure everyone was smiling when he did!

and one more just because she is so precious.

A few other things worth mentioning:

-Make sure you click with your photographer. Pun intended.  Did he/she come recommended by someone who has kids?  Not all great photographers are great with children.  Is he/she going to be patient if you have to breastfeed / change a diaper / console a meltdown?  Will your kids feel comfortable posing for him/her?

-Have your older kids practice their smiles for days before the shoot.  I photographed one little girl (about age six) whose mom told her ok now do your "laughing smile" and she immediately busted into this perfect vibrant smile like a little model.

-Make sure everyone is healthy.  Kids who don't feel well aren't "themselves" in photographs.  You make the call, but your photographer will understand if you need to cancel or reschedule.

Happy posing!

P.S.... Psssst! Speaking of family photos, did you notice that Tiny Prints extended their 25% off site wide discount and free shipping? This is the same great offer I posted last week that was supposed to be for one day only.  They keep extending it, but it's bound to end some time.  Click here to shop before the offer expires!  Use code SW1119 for the discount, and use code FS13 for FREE SHIPPING -- limited time only.   You're welcome.

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