As the hills blossom with spring blooms, and the weather becomes more predictable here in the Pacific Northwest, I begin receiving the majority of my family session inquiries for the year. Such fun to reconnect with families I’ve captured for decades now…and such an honor! Quality family portraiture is an absolute art form…and I lean heavily on my years of experience as a photographer to pose and direct, as well as my own experience as a mother when working with children. Kids take a different kind of coaxing at each phase of their life, to feel open enough to show their true selves to the camera…which is vital to great family photographs. Here are a few tips I offer to guide my clients towards a picture perfect session...
My main mantra when it comes to wardrobe: Coordinate…don’t Match! If you are the rare parent of twins, by all means feel free to match just them. But barring that, coordinating the entire family’s wardrobe is key. My best advice for coordinating timeless images that don’t look dated hanging on the wall next year, is to stick to light neutrals with mixed patterns. Beige/tan mixed with white/cream and soft blues or delicately soft blush pinks are the most common combinations I see…but there are so many choices. Here’s a Pinterest board of ever-changing ideas to help you put some ideas together. Choose 2-3 colors to base your outfits on, and keep accessories to a minimum. Also consider your home’s decor…some clients love to make sure their wardrobe colors support the decor in their home where it will be displayed.
It might seem trivial, but investing in professional hair and makeup, especially for mom, is truly important. Talented professionals should know what to use and what not to use (did you know that most SPF’s can create a “ghost-like” look on skin in photographs?!) when styling for photographs. They should understand what looks best in natural light vs studio lighting as well, and plan accordingly. They also can set your hair to withstand outdoor elements and create a look and feel that is natural to your own style. I work with experienced professionals in most areas I shoot, so feel free to ask if you don’t already know of someone.
Depending on where you live, each season of the year usually offers very different light for photographs. Late summer & early fall, for example, will usually produce the deep golden evenings that can make imagery so warm & dreamy. While winter & spring tend to offer crisper, cooler light. Additionally, my clients in sunny San Diego, have a more consistent light source versus my Oregon & Northern California clients, with their less-predictable sun rays. But no matter the location or time of year, I usually aim to schedule sessions for the last two hours of sunlight in that area on any given day.
The only situation that alters that are the landscape we’re shooting in. If I’m deep in the forest with a family, I’ll shoot at the brightest time of day for that area. If I’m on a mountain top or out on the open beach, I’ll wait until the very last part of the day, or even the early light of a morning to photograph.
Young children’s schedules and bedtimes often dictate a deviance from my standard shooting time as well. Please never hesitate to let me know what time is best for happy little ones…because if the babes are happy, then everyone’s happy. :)
If there’s one thing that motherhood has drilled into my head, it’s that I can’t ask much of my children if they’re tired or hungry. A healthy meal right before you ask your child to be pleasant for 1-2 hours in front of my camera, is mandatory! :) And a nap beforehand is never a bad idea either. Taking out the hungry and exhausted variables has always proved a worthy investment of time in the case of family photographs.
With a parents permission, I will often have bribes on hand for younger children as well. You’d be amazed how much “happy” I photograph when I’ve promised a meager Tic-Tac to a child. Leftover flower blooms, a small stuffed toy and sweet treats come in handy when kids are losing interest in being the center of attention. Also, bringing along a simple snack for kids, does wonders as well. While I photograph mom & dad, the littles can sit under a shady tree and enjoy a snack. Prepare ahead and you’ll have vastly better luck helping me capture their genuine smiles…I promise!
NO CHEESE PLEASE
When involving children, please refrain from saying or teaching them to say “cheese”. For some reason “cheese” is synonymous with kids photos, but it truly pulls their little smile muscles up on only the sides of their mouth, which ends up creating a fake looking smile. A better option if you’re looking for a full family of smiles, is to have everyone yell YESSS. The word “yes” helps create a more natural ending smile, and shouting it together usually ends up in hysterics…which, let’s admit it, is perfection in itself. Alternatively, please feel free to just trust me to direct and let those kids be themselves…that’s what we really want to see anyway, right?
If you know my work well, you’ll notice that I don’t have subjects look directly into my lens often. Yes, I always aim to get a traditional full family photo of you all smiling. But beyond that, my focus is on authentic emotional connection…and grinning at the camera isn’t usually emotive unless it’s done in laughter. So please don’t worry about scuffed shoes or Junior stopping to pick up bugs. Run around & play with your kids, hug them tight, tickle them to tears and be real with them. They won’t dread the next photo shoot and I guarantee we’ll capture more of their true nature that way anyway.
Now let’s get on with memory making, shall we? xo