First... Take a Deep Breath
As a mom and photographer I have the unique privilege of knowing what it's like on both sides of the lens. I empathize with the frenzy of doubt and questions; "What are they going to wear?", "Will he actually smile?", "She's teething, this is going to be a nightmare", "We haven't had a good family photo in years". And while I empathize with this line of questioning (because I've been there), as your photographer I know that everything will be okay. Capturing authentic moments is what I do best. If your toddler only like to run around and can't sit still, I will chase her and meet her where she's at developmentally. If your teenager won't crack a smile for the life of him, I have a couple jokes up my sleeve that's guaranteed a least one grin.
At the end of the day this shoot is intended to capture your family authentically where they're at. The forced and posed photo isn't going to represent you as a family in 10 years. It's the little moments, the side eye smirks from a teenager and a can't-sit-still moments from a toddler that make up you and your family. So let's capture the beauty.
Making the Kids Comfortable
To provide you reassurance, my undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education. I spent summers in college overseas working as a kids camp counselor on military bases. I am a mom to a very independent toddler and an Aunt to 14 nieces and nephews. I share that to let you know I know kids. As parents we often feel apologetic for our children's behavior, but rest assured that you don't need to in this space. Let your kids be your kids and let me capture them in their pure youthfulness.
I know I can say all of that until I'm blue in the face, but as a Mama you want some tangible things you can do to prepare. So, here's a list of some tried and true tips to help your kids feel comfortable and prepared for the session.
- Make sure they're fed. Whether they're 3 months old, or 13 years old snacks go a far way. Prior to the session make sure all the kids' bellies are full. Pack a couple of their favorite snacks in your purse (without them knowing otherwise they'll be begging for them the whole session) to bring out if someone gets cranky. After all, the fastest way to someones heart (kids included) is through their stomach.
- Let them help pick their outfit. Narrow down the choices to 2-3 options and let your child pick the one that they fill most comfortable in. Giving them this choice gives them a sense of ownership and pride in the experience and will help avoid a last minute battle getting dressed.
- Let them choose a pose. While you may not want to frame the shot I get of your son "dabbing", let him suggest it and let me take it. Your kids will be a lot more cooperative for the shots you want if they feel like they're contributing and not being forced. Let them express their own creativity.
- Don't stress. I get it - easier said than done. But, if you're stressed your kids will be stressed, and if your kids are stressed then your photos won't be authentically you. Treat this as a fun family activity that you're doing together rather than a task you need to check off your every growing to-do list.
Creating the authentic "you"
Prior to your session I will send you a pre-session questionnaire that gives me insight to your family and what makes you "you". But, during your session it's your job to let the "you" authentically unfold. I will often gives prompts; "Give the kids a tickle attack, "Kids - run to your mom and give her a hug", "Who farted?" (I know, I know - but just trust me on that one, it gets the real laughs). These prompts are meant to create a moment that you and your kids can decide what to do with; live in that moment and stop trying to pose for the camera. Let your kids hug you, think about how time is a thief and hold onto them a few seconds longer. Close your eyes, breathe them in, let this photoshoot be a memory you don't want to let go of. Doing this will ensure the most authentic of pictures that represents your love and not a posed image that represents a forced smile.
Yes, yes. I got here. The ever looming, somewhat infamous, family photo outfits. How do you choose what to wear and if it will look good? I've compiled a couple of tips for you to use as you pull together your family's wardrobes. As always, I am here to bounce ideas off of if you're a little unsure. Use me as a resource!
- Coordinating, not clashing. The key to a cohesive family photo is to complement one another without copying one another. Choose a complementary color and pull it throughout everyone's outfits. Share the same color somewhere in everyone's outfit - just enough to make a cohesive look, but nothing too overt.
- Avoid clashing patterns. Patterns can bring a necessary dimension to photos, but you want to be careful about how you pair these patterns with others in your photo session. If there are too many patterns it will be too distracting from the true purpose of the photo - you. The key to the success of pattern pairing is to have one-two people commit to a pattern while the rest commits to solids that complement the pattern.
- Be authentic to you. When choosing what to wear, make sure that you're selecting an outfit that you would wear, and complements your natural style. Choosing something that you saw on social media, but wouldn't normally wear, won't reflect your authenticity in the photo. We want your photos to be a representation of you and your style, not someone else and their style. If you're comfortable in what you're wearing, that will show in the photos. As the saying goes, "If you look good, you feel good" (and I'm taking the liberty of adding this last part) "and if you feel good, your photos will be good."
As always, I am a resource for you. If you're uncertain, or need to inform me of some tips and tricks about your particular children, I'm all ears! Just remember this session is meant to capture you're family at this stage of life so that you can share in years to come. It's not meant to display a false sense of perfection that never actually existed. Trust that as a mama and a photographer - I've got you!