7 Tips For Great Family Photos

Over the past few years I've been both the photographer and also the client (during my own family's sessions), and I can tell you from experience that these 7 tips will help your next session go much more smoothly...

1. Choose the right photographer.

Let's just be honest. I'm not the right photographer for every family. Whenever I receive an e-mail from a potential client, I always ask if they've had a chance to look through my work. if they haven't, i encourage them to grab a cup of coffee & peruse my portfolio. They can do this on my website (in the galleries or blog posts), or they can check out my business Facebook page. I truly hope clients hire me because they love my work and trust me to creatively capture their family connection, and I believe most other photographer's feel the same way. 

2. If your session will be outdoors, plan for it to take place during the Golden Hour. 

Shooting in the first hour after sunrise or 1-2 hours prior to sunset will give your photos that warm, glowing feel. The photos below illustrate a lovely family photograph taken closer to mid-day in open shade, and then in contrast, two other family photos taken during the sunrise and sunset golden hours. It's easy to see that lighting plays a huge role in adding dimension and interest to your images.

Another note worth mentioning: certain locations work better during golden hour than others. As a photographer, I'm constantly scouting locations in the early morning and late evening so that I can offer the best possible spots to my clients.

Below are examples of different lighting, both good and bad....

HARSH, mid-day lighting. Taken around 1 pm in a sea of green. Notice the hot (light) spots on both the grooms head and shoulders, and the brides's face and shoulder. Contrasty shadows and bright/dark spots take away from this special moment.

HARSH, mid-day lighting. Taken around 1 pm in a sea of green. Notice the hot (light) spots on both the grooms head and shoulders, and the brides's face and shoulder. Contrasty shadows and bright/dark spots take away from this special moment.

Taken 2 hours prior to sunset in open shade, near a large forest. Beautiful, even light that helps highlight this sweet girl's stunning features. Notice the catchlights in her eyes.

Taken 2 hours prior to sunset in open shade, near a large forest. Beautiful, even light that helps highlight this sweet girl's stunning features. Notice the catchlights in her eyes.

One of my top 10 favorite personal images, taken about 30 minutes prior to sunset. Plenty of foliage in the background to help diffuse light. It's noteworthy that shadows can give depth and mood to an image if used properly.

One of my top 10 favorite personal images, taken about 30 minutes prior to sunset. Plenty of foliage in the background to help diffuse light. It's noteworthy that shadows can give depth and mood to an image if used properly.

This was taken right at sunset. This perfect, golden glow can only be achieved for a few minutes, so timing is everything. Rim-lighting (the highlights on the outer edge of their heads) highlights their features and the emotion in the image.

This was taken right at sunset. This perfect, golden glow can only be achieved for a few minutes, so timing is everything. Rim-lighting (the highlights on the outer edge of their heads) highlights their features and the emotion in the image.

Taken about 20 minutes after the sun set behind the trees in December. Cool, moody, even light.

Taken about 20 minutes after the sun set behind the trees in December. Cool, moody, even light.

3. Start planning your wardrobe for the session about two months in advance.

My best advice to moms: start with your own clothing, and start early in case you need to order items online (praying that the last piece of your wardrobe makes it off the FedEx truck before you leave for your session is never a good plan;). So, find an outfit you feel incredible in. Then build the kids and your spouse around the colors you're wearing. 

Imagine this: it's a couple days prior to your session. You found a cute dress for your daughter, so then you found your son a coordinating button up shirt, and your husband already had a great textured sweater in his closet. Then when you get to your own outfit, you're not sure WHAT to put yourself in, so you grab a solid colored top and throw it on. It feels tight in all the wrong spots, and you hate it. Since you're not comfortable in it, you're (dare I say it?) a little grouchy, and it throws everything off at the session because you don't feel like yourself & know you'll hate what you look like in the photos.

Lesson learned. Start with your own clothing choices first! The build from there. Coordinate, don't match. Avoid being matchy-matchy in any way, shape, or form. The days of black or white tops with jeans are gone. It just doesn't photograph well. Think layers, texture, and accessories to make your photos pop. When you book with me, you'll receive a great little what-to-wear guide link that will assist you as you decide what will work best for your family, because every family has a different style. 

4. Have no expectations of your children at your session. Trust me when I say they're completely fine and normal and we *will* still get great images. After all, we're documenting REAL LIFE. And kids aren't perfect. 

This is the hardest one for parents (and by parents, I mean me, too, because this happens at my own family photo sessions). 

It never fails -- the day of the session your children suddenly become the grumpiest kids on earth. My best advice is to just go with it. I tell parents not to ask their children to smile or look at me. Instead I like to give them their space and get to know them by just following their lead. During your session, we'll play, tickle, laugh, run, jump, and make funny faces. I'll ask if they want to look at a few images on my camera or push a button or two. Usually by the middle of the session, they're in a much better mood, and, bonus for you, by the end they're worn out and ready for bed! :) 

5. Bring snacks & water. And don't forget some wipes! 

It's amazing what a snack and sip of water can do for a hungry, thirsty child. I always recommend something small and clean, such as a cheese stick, apple, or almonds so that they don't end up with a messy face. In the case that they do end up with food around their mouth, baby wipes will be your best friend.

Other things you might want to bring: a comb or brush, bobby pins for long hair on hot, sticky days, bug spray, sunscreen, extra diapers/pull-ups.

6. Snuggle (& decide that it's okay to push their bedtime a little bit this one time.... because it's worth it for awesome photos!)

Late evening sessions often run into bedtime for children. I realize most parents see this as an issue, but I actually see it as a positive since your children will likely be in the mood for snuggling, and snuggling = great images. Simple, right? 

Just do your best to give your child a good, solid naptime the day of your session, and if possible, maybe push it a bit later than normal if they're going to be up a bit later. 

7. PRINT your photos. 

When you receive your gallery from me, download the photos, & back them up to atleast two different spots. 

But then take it a step farther.

PRINT those babies! 

Put them on your walls.

Here's what happened at my house after I printed 6 of my favorite images on professional canvas:
"Mama, look! That's me! And Daddy! And baby! Wow, we had so much fun that night. Remember that animal we saw in the woods while we were getting our photos taken? And the pizza you let us have after the session? Can we do that again?"

And then on another day...
I caught my oldest just sitting on the couch staring at our giant family photo on canvas above the couch. He loves looking at it. I imagine that by printing my images, I'm showing how much my family means to me. That they're what matters most to me. And I love seeing the images admired. Because it's true, they ARE what matters most to me. 

 

So there you have it -- 7 tips for a smooth family session. Now you just need to book one, right? If (after sipping a cup of coffee and perusing my work) you decide I'm the photographer for you, head over to my Contact page and send me a note. I'd love to hear from you!