Planning for your family photo session can be really fun, but let's face it, for most parents it can be stressful too! Especially when planning photo sessions for families with young children it takes the pressure off when we plan together and set expectations. When you are planning for a family photo session, I think picking a good photographer goes without saying. You want someone who's work really speaks to you. The style and feel of the photographer you choose should reflect your own style. Pick someone who you are absolutely in love with. When you shop for someone only based on what they are charging you will likely not be satisfied with the final result. Let's assume for argument's sake that you have picked your photographer. If it is me, then thank you so much! I am super excited to be working with you!
The next steps in preparing are these.
1. Pick a place. If you have a place that you love to go with your family that would be the perfect place to start; the beach, hiking in the woods, the park, even a carousel or a theme park would be super fun places (you or your photographer would need to ask permission for those). If you are unsure, ask your photographer if they have any suggestions on the best place to do portrait sessions. If your photographer is anything like me, they probably have a list of many places they like to work or would like to work in the future and they would be happy to share those ideas with you.
2. Pick your clothing. Start with a color palette. I usually suggest starting with neutrals or colors that match the color palette of your home. You want the outfits that you choose to reflect you but not be overpowering. Remember that you are the subject of the portrait not your clothes, If you choose bold patterns and colors, the viewer's eyes are drawn to that not to you. This is why we suggest staying away from those types of clothing. If you would like to infuse some fun into your images and still have something current, you could consider looking at Pantone color of the year palettes.
3. Pamper yourself! definitely make sure that that basics are covered in getting ready like getting your hair cut and taking off old nail polish for a more in depth look at that part, check out my blog post on How to style yourself for your next photoshoot . If you are spending all this time and money do capture your family at this moment then why not give yourself a little extra care. Get your nails done, get your hair done! Make the process and the experience fun for yourself and your kids.
4. Bring snacks and water with you. If your photographer is like me, they will have snacks and water. They will want your photo session to be a fun and stress free process. You know what your kids favorite treat are. You know what would make them happiest at a low moment. Setting some things aside so your session is not stressful due to a cranky two year old with an empty belly is always a good plan!
5. Have a special treat and prize set aside for afterward. I also have little prizes and snacks set aside for afterward. It helps to give kids something to look forward to. In the moments where small children start to fade, I can call them over and whisper in their ear,"If you do a really good job for mom and dad, I have something set aside for you afterward." It perks them right up and it helps to get them excited. As a parent myself, I am not above bribery when something is really important to me. It helps to change the tone and get kids excited and interested.
6. Make sure to leave plenty of time to get ready. Things happen and you are less likely to forget things and to be relaxed if you leave plenty of time. In my own experience, kids have no sense of urgency and things always take longer. You will be more likely to show up stress free if you fee like you have had time to take care of you.
7. Plan a time that works with your eating and sleeping schedules. Most photographers like to schedule their portrait session closer to sunset. Sunset portrait sessions provide that warm golden light. Warm golden light will not matter one bit if Junior is having a tantrum on the ground because he is starving and over tired. As professionals we are trained to work with any type of lighting. I am always tweaking things in photoshop to make them perfect, lighting is no different. If you and your family are happy, well fed, and well rested that makes all the difference in the world to a successful family portrait session.
8. When talking to kids about your upcoming portrait session, keep it light. Use phrases like, "We are going to take some pictures on the beach with Kathy today! It is going to be so much fun! We will play a little. I also think she might have a surprise for you at the end of the session!". If you pressure kids by forcing them to be on their best behavior by saying things like "This is really important to Mommy, so no fooling around, or else...". It puts the pressure on and sets the wrong tone. If kids are excited about something then it because an event. Who doesn't like to play at the beach or walk in the woods?
9. Create a Pinterest Board with your photographer. The feature to be able to have a private board is one of the greatest things for portrait sessions if you want yours to be a surprise to people. I usually ask that people post some of their favorite ideas from other photographers as well as some of the images from my website or Pinterest profile. That way I have an understanding of not only which of my work speaks to you but also what other ideas you might have on your own.
10. Relax and Have Fun. We have dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's. The best portrait sessions I have are the ones where people are relaxed and enjoying each other. If you have those elements, it shows through on the camera. You have done all you need to do to make your session a success!