Sometimes, the thought of family portrait is overwhelming—deciding what to wear, bribing the kids (and hubby) to smile. So we just don't do it. Years go by and the only photos we have of our family are our kids' yearly school pictures and snap shots on Instagram.
But your family portrait session doesn't have to be stressful. Follow these 10 tips to plan a stress-free family session and get the most out of it. I'll write more in depth about each of these tips in upcoming posts. So be sure to check back.
1. Find the right photographer.
I wrote a blog post for brides looking for and choosing a wedding photographer but much of it applies to family portrait photographers. Takes some time to find the right photographer. Stick with an experienced pro and you'll much happier with the experience and the results.
2. Decide what you want from your session.
Prints, digital files, albums, coffee table books. It’s important to get an idea now because not all photographers offer the same products. Also, knowing what you want before the session means your photographer can shoot with those products in mind.
3. Decide on a session type (full or mini).
Do you want a full session or would you be happy with a mini. Not all photographers offer mini sessions and those that do typically offer them only once or twice a year. There are trade-offs with minis sessions. Know the difference between mini sessions and regular sessions so you get everything what you want out of your family portrait session.
4. Schedule as early as possible.
Fall, spring and summer are the most popular times for family portrait sessions. Many photographers limit their sessions to only a few a week because of the amount of post-session work required of each session. This means that they can book up fast and often months in advance. You also want to make sure you allow enough time to order products if you plan to give them as gifts.
5. Choose a session location.
Think about where you want to do your session. Do you prefer a natural location or an urban location? Or do you prefer to do your session in your home? Once you know what you want, your photographer can help you choose a specific location. In general, avoid parks and playgrounds unless there are natural areas nearby. If you prefer and in-home session, eliminate clutter as much as possible and expect your photographer to move things around to position you in the best light.
6. Choose a session time.
Early morning (the first few hours after sunrise) and early evening (two to three hours before sunset) are the best times for portrait sessions. These times—known as Magic Hour or Golden Hour—are the times when the light is the prettiest. But these aren't the only good times for a portrait session. A good photographer will seek out the best light regardless of the time of day. Keep in mind that low-lying locations and those surrounded my trees, mountains or tall buildings will lose light earlier than open or higher areas so you will need to adjust your session time accordingly. And consider your family when deciding on a session time. If you have young children with early bedtimes, it may be best to schedule an earlier session time.
7. Decide what to wear.
The best way to pull together outfits for your family portrait session is to start with one outfit with which to coordinate all other outfits. Stick with three or fewer colors and pull in pieces in different hues, weights, textures and patterns. Add layers and accessories for visual interest. Use complementary colors for a bold, colorful palette or similar colors for a harmonious, monochromatic palette. Consider the colors at your session location when choosing a color palette. And don't match too much. Allow each personality to come through. You can see my What to Wear board on Pinterest for examples.
8. Pack a bag.
If you will be shooting your session in several locations, it's a good idea to bring comfortable shoes like flip flops that you can change into quickly for walking. Bring wipes for keeping kids clean, small toys and clean snacks for keeping them content, and bug spray.
9. Prepare your kids.
Plan your session around meal times and nap times so your children won't be tired or hungry. If they are starting to show signs of independence, get them involved by allowing them to have some say in the clothes they wear for the session. Make sure they feel comfortable in the clothes they are wearing or it will show in the photos. Most importantly, don’t try to control everything. If your kids aren't cooperating, step away and let your photographer work with them one-on-one. Often, kids behave differently when they are with an adult other than their parents.
10. Have fun!
Have fun and enjoy the session. Trust your photographer and follow his or her direction. Don't think that you always have to look at the camera and smile. The best family photos are those that capture the love and connection in your family. Let that shine. You can't see that when you're always looking at the camera.