Family photography is a widely offered service by many photographers although few have perfected it. In a candid setting with little children, grabbing the perfect moments is a challenge. There’s no doubt about it. First and foremost you need to hire the right photographer for you. One whose work and personality resonates with you. After that, there’s still many things you can do to get the most out of your family photography session.
1. Establish your family photography needs
What made you book a photo session with your photographer? You have a new addition to the family, need a family portrait or your little girl lost her first tooth and you want to catch her gummy smile. Each of these moments is as important a the next but by putting a focus on a single reason, it articulates your vision and helps the photographer prioritize the shoot. Consider the rest a bonus.
2. Discuss a story line or stylized idea with your family photographer
Good photography is technically correct with color, composition, lighting etc. Great photography is all of that plus the emotion that wraps the viewer in the story being told. Sometimes you can look at a photograph for a week and then never think of it again. Other times, you can look at a photograph for a moment and remember it for the rest of your life. The photograph that doesn’t have to be explained is the photograph that captures the viewers emotion.
Taking the time prior to your photo shoot to let your photographer get to know you and your family is a critical step that is directly related to the final product. The photographer has an opportunity to observe the family dynamics and personalities while you and your family also get to know (and therefore relax) the photographer.
3. Select the best time of day that suits your family’s needs
This is so not the time to be the hero. You know your children and family better than anyone and the best way to the best photos is to do what is best for your family. Skip a nap for the photo shoot? No. Push dinner later so you can have the afternoon sun? Nada. Mid morning after a good sleep and snack? That’s the one and now you are the hero. Stick to your routines and book the photo session around it. Every family is unique and every good photographer will respect your schedule and work within it.
4. The threads
Personally I’ve never been the person to lay my clothes out the night before. I’d like to be that person, but I’m not. However! Prepping for a photo shoot starts before the morning of. Pull together your outfit and try it on so there’s no surprises. Clean up your shoes and consider accessories. Don’t wing it, there’s no fashion divas in this conversation and looking good takes some effort.
5. The family photography must haves
The second part to that title goes like this…..and then let it go. Which means there’s no need to continue discussing it if you’re working with a pro. A skilled photographer will absolutely get the ‘shot list’ covered. It’s why you hire them and not your Uncle. Unless of course, your Uncle is a savvy shooter. To become a photographers dream client, take a few moments to fill in the blanks of this homework assignment and they’ll love you forever. More importantly though, you’ll get what you want.
a The “absolute” must have. For example, a happy photo of the whole family looking relaxed, natural and having a good time.
b The “would be awesome” must have. For example, different combinations of children playing together and children and parents playing together.
c The “we are full of it and our children are rock stars!” must have. For example, individual photographs of each child playing, smiling and having fun.
6. Do not overbook your family photography day
I’m a wee bit biased of course. What else could you possibly want to do on the same day other then focus on your family photo shoot? I know that’s not realistic though, life is busy and children get restless when they aren’t on the move which is also why time of day is so important. Also, pick a date that doesn’t have 5 others things planned sunrise till sunset. Keep it simple for the little guys and they’ll feel underwhelmed instead of overwhelmed.
7. Don’t prep the kids too much, it will backfire
Each child processes a new experience differently. Some get excited while others get nervous. Sharing the news of the upcoming photography session the morning of tends to work best for most families.
8. A little reward never hurt anyone
Alright, let’s call it what it is. Bribery. And as parents we’ve all “been there, done that” even though every expert will recommend otherwise. Aside from the usual bag of tricks to get the most cooperation, a promise of something exciting at the end always works well. And there it is. The bribe. Riding on the trails, ice cream or a picnic at the playground. Whatever will keep them happy cooperative and motivated.
9. Stop asking your child to smile
I will say this with the most love to all my parents, STOP ASKING YOUR CHILD TO SMILE. Put your faith in your photographer and trust that they will be able to capture your child most authentic, candid fun loving expression while keeping away from the static pose they have had to perform so many times at family gatherings. Trust me it will look way more natural and be a lot more fun.
10. Have fun with it and let loose
Enjoy yourself and make sure to catch yourself having some fun. And congratulate yourself for making it a priority in your life to capture your families everyday precious moments.