You finally nailed down a date that works for you and your family for your photography session. Now what? Well, you might be thinking, it can't be that hard, we'll just show up, right? WRONG! Family photography sessions can be the best kind of experience or not so much. It really comes down to how much planning you put in BEFORE THE BIG DAY. Think about it. You are paying a professional photographer to take beautiful, long-lasting images of your family. You don't want to leave it to chance, do you? Believe me, I've seen it happen.
Here are 10 ways you can ruin your photography session and what you can do to prepare instead.
Children are not well rested- Think about the age and needs of your children. Different ages have different needs. When you schedule your session, start preparing for that time of day. The younger the children are, the more important this point will be to you. A tired child typically will not want to listen, be instructed, meet new people or try something new. Answer this: What are some ways you can work in play time, nap time, quiet time before the session, so the children are not too overwhelmed or tired during the session?
Someone is not onboard- This is a tough one, but there are ways to deal with the issue. Not everyone feels comfortable being photographed. Maybe there was a bad experience once or someone is feeling self-conscience. Forcing a spouse or tween into a session without their fears or feelings being considered may not be the best. A better way to handle this is to discuss feelings well before session and keep things on a positive note. Talking through concerns, expressing why you think this is important, and giving some encouragement can get everyone in a better mindset.
Wrong season- If you are looking to have a beautiful outdoor session, choosing the right season is essential. Think about what kind of artwork you want in your home. What does that look like? The last thing you want to is to stand out in the cold, bundled up during your session if you were hoping to wear that new summer dress. This is a personal choice, so give it some thought. What about the rest of the family? What season would be best for everyone? Does someone really hate the cold? And, what background would look best for your wall portrait in your home? It's better to reschedule for a time of year that suits you, than to have regrets. This or That-Spring/Summer with fresh scenery, lighter clothing, dresses, sandals OR Fall/Winter with rich colors, darker hues, sweaters and scarves.
No vision- As a photographer, I know that when it comes to families, time is everything. I may have only 45 minutes of good, cooperative, happy people, or if I'm lucky, I'll get 90 minutes. For me, this is why I like to have a plan of action for the session. During the consultation, I'll find out what my client wants to do with the photographs, what style, poses and other ideas there are to make the session customized and memorable. What's the goal? Think about your vision for the session and what's most important. Is there a certain pose you want captured, a specific size wall portrait, a family pet included, or a fun idea to get the kids "silly faces"?
Stomachs are growling- Remember that time you thought you'd have time to eat, then ran out of time because you had to be at your appointment at a particular time. You were sitting in the waiting room, stomach growling and you realized it will be 2 more hours before you can leave and get something to eat. How happy were you to wait those two hours? Yeah, that probably wasn't a real great time. Be sure to schedule enough time for a good meal before the session, while still allowing time to get ready. Also, it doesn't hurt to bring water and snacks for everyone during the session, especially if there are little ones.
Matchy, Matchy- Ever seen those family portrait memes and you just had to laugh (you know you did). Well, what made us laugh many times was the surprising ways the family was styled, over styled or not styled. Everyone wearing a crazy pattern, the same colors, or worse- everyone in leather or feathers... Yikes! These are the things that will lead you to not love your photographs. DON'T DO IT! Choose a style that best reflects your family in complementary colors and soft textures. Your photographer and Pinterest are a good resource for color and style inspiration.
A new look- True story, in 5th grade I made the tragic mistake of cutting my own bangs the day before picture day at school. Fast forward a few weeks- You would have laughed at my horrified expression as I pulled my school picture out of that large envelope to see my handy work- slanted bangs that were far too short. Sigh... The time for trying a new hair style, beauty product, skin care line, and piercing is NOT the week of your photography session.
Overexposed- no I don't mean the photograph is overexposed- I mean the model is. One of the most uncomfortable issues with clothing for both the photographer and the client is when a family member isn't covered appropriately. Skirts, shorts and tops that are cut too high, too low or too tightly fitted will not photograph well for a family portrait. During the session the family will be asked to sit, stand, kneel and move into many different poses. Tip- while wearing the outfit, try sitting in different positions in front of a mirror and then stand up. Check to make sure that undergarments are covered at all angles and the process of moving around is not difficult due to clothing choices.
Getting dressed too early- for those of you with young kids, this will be a challenge, but really, it's a challenge for most of us. When is the right time to get that outfit on so we can get out the door on time? It's different for everyone. What worked for me is to start with the oldest and go down to the youngest. Chances are an older child will keep from tearing, dirtying and complaining about an outfit longer than a younger child. Those tags can also be an issue for sensitive skin. Choosing clothing that is easy to wear, comfortable and soft will also help the children stay comfortable throughout the session. Schedule a "practice" to get everyone dressed, letting the family wear the outfits ahead of the session to be sure everything fits well and is comfortable.
Arriving late- photography sessions with families, especially with those who have youngsters needs time to get in "the comfort zone". Like I said before, not everyone is comfortable meeting someone new, going to a strange place, or being photographed. As a photographer, it's my job to bring the best out of everyone, find those natural expressions and make the session fun. It's the client's job to show up. Set an early reminder on the calendar or a mobile phone so everyone
will be ready and on time for the session, ensuring you can take full advantage of your time together.
BONUS TIP- Choose a photographer you trust and can build a relationship with for years to come. The best photography sessions are those in which everyone is ready, engaged, gets along and can trust each other.
If you have questions or want to get started, I'd love to hear from you.