Family portrait day is rarely something people look forward to – the day they see the images? That might be something to enjoy – but choosing outfits, keeping hair bows in and shoes on, making sure baby is fed and dry and toddler is happy and parents are out the door on-time with no spit up on shoulders… it’s a lot.
Then add the pressure of having a perfect family memory in a limited amount of scheduled time with paparazzi present. That’s a lot of pressure on a parent and truck-loads more than a child can be responsible for.
There’s no magic to make sure thing will go right every time I photograph a family (which is why I offer a free reshoot for anyone who feels like they didn’t get the images they’d hoped for) but there are a few tricks to give everyone the best chance at a beautiful portrait.
Let them be little. Make the portrait session time for play with a few look-at-the-camera moments. Follow your children’s lead, throw them in the air, tell silly stories, sing your favorite songs. Let the little things go and save discipline for moments when you need to redirect their behavior to keep them safe rather than just keeping them obedient. Sometimes I ask kids to be silly and I’d hate for them to do what I ask only to have a parent tell them to calm down. I want you to remember a happy time in front of the camera, not a frustrating fight to keep kids in order. The goal is not to have kids running wild, but if you give them little freedom to make some memories I bet you’ll love the result.
Smile. Sometimes it will be at the camera but mostly I want you to look at your child and just smile – take in the little features that you want me to capture. These are the moments you want to keep. I’ll ask you to talk to each other and what I mean is look into their eyes and tell them you love them and you’re proud of them. Tell them what they mean to you. Then turn to your partner and do the same. Make this moment one you want to remember – it’s more than just a picture for you wall, it’s a memory you want to record.
Trust me. I see kids of all ages and stages, I’m an expert in their developmental stages, I study their expressions and I hope to anticipate their needs. You want the images to be perfect so it’s tempting to step in, but it takes a little time for me to build a rapport with your baby. Let me direct your kids. It’s hard for little ones to stay focused and when they have well-meaning parents calling them to my left and right, it’s tough to get their attention and eye-contact. I’ll defer to your expertise if I can’t get the smiles I’m hoping for but let me give it my best shot first.
Laugh. Laugh so hard at things that that are hardly funny that your kids can’t help but laugh with you.
Play along. Sometimes I ask kids to dance or scream or wiggle – it’ll be much more fun if you play along. If you’re in the image holding them for one of these moments, it’s best to keep smiling and don’t give me that “What the heck did she just say?!” look 😉 If you’re lucky I won’t have to resort to using my terrible singing voice, but if I do just sing along.
Communicate. I send a lot of information before your session and you’re busy so reading through the wall of text is not exactly a priority on the endless to-do list. Listen, you booked the appointment and you get gold stars for getting that far!
But the more you know about what to expect and the more I know about you, the more accurately I can record your story and capture the essence of your family. Tell me what your kids call you (Mom, Mama, Mommy, Pop, Papa, DaDa, Daddy?) If your child has a favorite song or story, if they recently had an illness or shots at their well-visit, if they missed their morning nap, if they have a developmental or behavior difference, if they have a preferred way to communicate, if they were born prematurely, if they have sensory processing issues – no detail is too small. The more I know about your child, the better I can accommodate their specific needs. I have experience with children of many different ages and abilities – and if you have a situation that is new to me, I look forward to learning about it so I can best serve your family.