HOW TO // Family Pictures

A lot of clients have turned to me in the past for advice on what to wear and how to prepare for family pictures before our scheduled session. While I wish it was just because they think I have amazing fashion sense, it's only because I've been behind the camera enough times to know what does and doesn't photograph well. I thought putting together a little list of 'photographer tips' would be a beneficial resource for families (read: stressed out moms) before the Holiday photo season fired up, so here you go. (Psst! People who have already booked mini sessions with us for this year, listen up!)

1.) Don't match, coordinate

This is a no brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people still have a hard time with this one. (I blame the 90's, when identical white T-shirts and jeans were the family-photo-uniform.) Pick a color palette, pair it with a neutral base, and go wild. Stray from graphics and super-trendy prints, and consider which tones best complement your skin and hair color. Lastly remember that different patterns within your color combination, contrasting textures, and added accessories are strongly encouraged to keep things visually interesting. If you don't know where to start, pick one statement piece and go from there. Since kids look cute in just about anything, I personally always start with one favorite dress or shoes that I love for myself, and then build from there.

2.) Be yourselves.

Don't play dress-up on a day that is supposed to capture your own family, being their own selves. It's very easy as a photographer to spot a grumpy husband who was forced to put on a bow tie or pants that he would never normally wear in real life. (Besides, husbands are typically grumpy about family pictures in the first place, don't give them more reason to be!)  I kinda blame Pinterest for this. Obviously it's a great place to go for inspiration, but be careful if you're wanting to emulate a gorgeous image or outfit you've seen on there. Whatever you do, make sure it's you. Obviously it's okay to go more formal than you typically would for pictures if that's what you want, but remember to keep true to your own style when doing so. This goes for hair, makeup, location, etc. If you don't feel like yourself, chances are it will show through in your pictures and make for some not-so-great images.

3.) Be comfortable.

This kind of goes back to rule number two-- if you don't feel completely comfortable, it will show through in your pictures. (Unless of course your entire family has an impressive background in modeling that I don't know about, in which case-- keep smiling beautifully while wearing those 6-inch heels and restrictive sleeves! You go girl!) It's important to take a 360 degree look around with your selected outfit on before your shoot. If you're insecure about your booty in those pants or your arms don't look greeeeat from that angle, chances are that's all you'll think about during your photo session and all you'll see once you receive your photos. Photographers tend to take pictures from a lot of different angles, and while they do look for the most flattering ones, don't limit their creativity by wearing a strapless dress if you don't absolutely love your shoulders and arms being that exposed. (An extreme example, but one that has happened before.)

4.) Plan.

Wether you're planning a photo session for you and your husband, or for you and your 9 kids, just plan. Kids are totally unpredictable and you'll thank yourself for being prepared for anything. Lay out all your clothes and shoes and physically try them on everyone beforehand. If you think you'll be able to grab the shoes, baby wipes, car keys, or headband on your way out, you're wrong. They will be nowhere to be found. Get everything packed up beforehand, and if you have a baby on board, go as far as to bring a backup outfit for him or her. (They do still poop and spit up all over themselves, after all.) Bring clean snacks for toddlers (puffs, cheerios, etc.) and if you do bring toys or a pacifier for your baby, bring ones you're willing to claim as family on your next Christmas card. A small sentimental teddy bear or simple sweet blanket doesn't ruin an image if it's the only thing keeping your child happy, so remember that. (Examples above and below.) Talk with your children and prepare them for what's to come, also make sure to coordinate a good time of day with your photographer so your kids will be well-rested and as happy as possible. On a side note, know that your photographer typically chooses a time with optimal light to give you the highest quality of images back, so being late is not only annoying to your photographer, but is also doing a disservice to yourself by limiting the amount of good light you have left. (You're welcome for that one, fellow photographers.)

One more tip, (and I know this may be considered bribing), but the promise of an ice-cream run or a toy-trip to Target goes a long way. I've seen a 4 year old kid stop dead in his fit-throwing tracks when he heard the word, "YOGURTLAND."

5.) Set low expectations. 

Now that you've heard all my bits of advice, remember this upmost important one. Set zero expectations. In all my years of shooting family pictures, I've encountered zero children who were perfectly well-behaved enough to sit and smile and laugh for a straight hour. (And if I did, I would've  assumed they were robots and been totally bored and a little bit scared.) Your three year old will most likely have a tantrum beforehand because she wants to wear a different dress, your teenager will probably be pissed about the entire thing in general, you guys might get a speeding ticket on the way to the session, and you will most definitely have the worst hair day of your entire life on the day of the scheduled shoot. Either way, just go with it. A screaming baby photographs much cuter than a screaming Mother. Keep your cool and remember that they are just pictures. I almost guarantee that you will look back and love the images of your teenage son giving stink eye, your kindergartner smiling in that creepy new way she's been smiling, and your toddler running out of the frame with only one shoe on; because it's real and it's you guys, dammit! If you don't believe me or disagree, then I guess you could always take comfort in knowing that you have the following year to redeem yourselves. ;)

**All photos by Sloan Photographers or Ben Christensen. I used all our own photos as examples as to not embarrass any past clients. Just lookin' out, guys.


Unknown said...

Loved this! So this means I am coming over to show you my dress for our family pictures in Nov. and youre right about one thing...always have 0 expectations. I am always so dissapointed because my expectations of myself are so high!

Katelin said...

I appreciate this..ESPECIALLY #4. Being a photographer myself, I am amazed at how so many people don;t understand that I cannot make a good picture out of thin air...with 15 minutes of sunlight left...Please, tell me how I am supposed to do your full bridal session in 15 minutes...which HAS happened. My heavens. Great tips!

Katelin said...
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Lynsi said...

Great tips, now all we need is you guys sometime in the near future to take them for us!

Topsy and Havoc said...

Oh. I needed this. Thank you!

kylie said...

well said! loved this haha.