Family photo: It’s the time of year when when we practice our perfect smiles and get the kids new perfect outfits for a family photo, right? Well, not in our case. We try to do a professional family photo shoot every few years (for holiday cards, or to frame in the house, or to simply capture some moments of all of us together, without seeing me with a triple chin since most of our shots are family selfies taken by me and my long arms from that awkward angle where I for some reason pull my head back and end up with multiple chins. Does that happen to you, too?), but we have been most successful in not taking these too seriously. Here are my top 5 tips for a stellar session with a photographer, followed by another 5 tips from professional photographer, Cara, at BabySky Photography.
- Coordinate, but don’t force matchy-matchy. Don’t overdo it with matchy-matchy clothes! Yes, I know those matchy-matchy pictures can be adorable, but for our style, we try to be somehow coordinated but not the same. For example, “everyone wear something blue” or, in the case of this year’s shoot, we were all tied together with some neutral-ish color.
- Forget the fake smile. Most of our favorite pictures capture a moment in time when there was actual emotion, and if there are no smiles in those pictures, that’s ok! Capturing real moments helps to bring back those feelings every time I see the picture, whether it shows laughter or frowns or sleeping babies.
- Relax your bodies. I remember having a family picture taken with my grandparents when I was 8 years old. I had to stand nice and straight, interlace my fingers as the photographer told me to, and place them gently on my grandma’s shoulder as she and my grandpa sat in the middle of a sea of their grandchildren . . . because that’s how I stand . . . never. Again, there is a time and a place for this type of more formal picture, but — especially with my three silly sons — that time is not now. I love it when the photographer captures genuine hugs, real silliness, giggles, and kids in motion.
- Respect your photographer. I assume that if you’ve hired this person, you know the quality of their work or they have been referred to you by satisfied customers. Respect that. Let them change lenses or dictate what background to use when, because while you’re working on keeping your kids from wrestling in a mud-pile in the beautiful park you’re shooting in, the photographer is going through a mental checklist of shots he/she is hoping to capture, gauging the personalities of the family members, all while accessing a universe of photographic knowledge on lighting and angles and time of day and shutter speeds. Let them work their magic! That said, I think it’s fair game to also ask for a specific shot if there’s one you want, but I have more often loved the pictures I didn’t ask for than the ones I dictated myself.
- Bribery is OK. No, not bribing the photographer in any way! Bribing your kids. Nothing major, but I will say we all enjoyed some yummilicious ice cream after our recent family photo shoot with Cara from BabySky Photography, not because it was a hot summer day (it wasn’t!), but because we promised the kids that they could have ice cream (after dinner, or with dinner, or for dinner . . . whatever was going to work!) if they’d just cooperate and have some fun getting the pictures done.
Those are my tips as a Mother of Boys who loves to capture moments. But let’s hear from a professional photographer! Here are 5 more tips (some similar, some not!) for a great family photo shoot from Cara at BabySky Photography:
- Dress for the elements. If it’s cold, add sweaters, vests and even hats and mittens look adorable. If it’s hot, don’t wear flannel shirts, lose the tights and cardigans, switch out boots for sandals. If it’s windy, tie your hair back. If it’s muddy, wear rain boots instead of suede shoes. We can’t control the weather and outside photography is always going to be unpredictable (especially here in New England!) so the more prepared you are for the weather, the more cooperative everyone will be.
- Make sure your clothes fit properly and anything you’re wearing is okay to see in the photo. If your bra strap keeps showing, pin it to your shirt. If your pants are lose, belt them. If you don’t want to see your husband’s hot pink socks in your photos, make him change them. If you don’t like the Nike logo on your son’s shirt, don’t wear that shirt. You will be running around and chasing your kids and chances are you will not remember to keep adjusting or hiding the things you don’t like.
- Make sure your kids eat BEFORE your session. It’s okay to promise ice cream and treats after your session but I promise you the kids will do so much better if they have a full belly. I think kids are always happier when they’re not hangry. Plus all they will be thinking about is getting the session over with so they can eat instead of relaxing and having a good time. Doesn’t have to be a full meal, pretzels and a cheese stick will go far.
- Don’t ask your kids to say “Cheese.” It does work for some kids but most kids will think that as long as they are saying the word then they are doing all they need to do. Then you end up with forced smiles and roaming eyes while saying “Cheeeeeeeeeese.” Give them a tickle instead or my favorite…say a potty word, works every time 😉
- And most important, do family photos for you and your family, not the Christmas card. Try to make your session about your relationships with your children and magical things will happen. Don’t feel the need to only do photos in the fall since that is closest to Christmas. Try a different season. Remember that one day these photos are going to be your memories and memories of laughing and fun will mean more than the perfectly posed photo with everyone looking at the camera and fall foliage in the background.
With all those tips, you’re ready for a family photo shoot now, right? Let me know how it goes!