We all know what happens…
Every Fall it sneaks up on you and before you know the time is here and you have not gotten all of your family photo ducks in a row. You want the gorgeous updated family photos each year to hang on your walls and adorn your holiday cards… but what you have to go through to get those family photos seems like an impossible chore.
Here are a few tips for making the experience a whole lot easier and more enjoyable this year!
Tip #1- Start the process early!
It can take some time to shop around and find the perfect photographer. Start looking for someone that fits the style you are looking for and who makes family photography that excites and inspires you, and embodies the feel of your family. For most family photographers, Fall is our busy season and we book out weeks or even months in advance. By finding your ideal photographer and contacting them in the summer, chances are good that they will still have plenty of dates for you to choose from and you can secure a coveted spot on their calendar before the rush.
Booking a date earlier in the fall season also gives you a few advantages. The weather is often unpredictable later in the fall season with cold mornings and chilly evenings. California Septembers still have plenty of warm days. You also get the opportunity to get your family photos done before the busy holiday season when parties and events can make scheduling family photos a challenge and you are worn out. Additionally- you will get a photographer who is still fresh and full of creativity at the beginning of their busy season rather than at the end when they are worn out from 3 months of back to back shoots. You’ll have plenty of time to get holiday cards ordered and take advantage of sales that card companies often offer as incentive to get your cards ordered early.
Tip #2- Make a day of it.
When booking a date for your session, block out plenty of time before the session so you don’t schedule anything beforehand that will make getting ready stressful. Try to set aside the whole day if you can so that the day’s atmosphere is easy and calm and you enjoy the experience with your family. Take a nap! Eat a delicious lunch! Go out for ice cream afterwards! All of these elements will help you to make family photos a fun outing instead of a hated task.
When choosing a time for your shoot, keep in mind times of the day that your children are at their best. Don’t book a time that conflicts with nap times or meal times. Set the stage for success by coordinating all the elements that will make your children as happy and comfortable as possible so that you as the parent are relaxed as well.
***For best photos try to book the times closest to sunrise or sunset. If your children do better in the morning try to schedule closer to sunrise. If your children function better after a nap think about doing a session closer to sunset. These conditions will give you the most amazing lighting for your outdoor session.
(Below: An example of beautiful morning light which tends to be more soft and cool in color)
(Below: An example of gorgeous evening light which tends to be more dramatic and warm in color)
(Finally- mid-day lighting can work great if you have a location that is covered but still naturally lit like in the photo below.)
Tip #3- Wardrobe plan as soon as you have a date booked.
Plan your outfits early and start shopping when it’s fresh on your mind while you are booking your date with the photographer. That perfect dress you found online might take weeks to arrive and this will give you plenty of time to get everything you need without the mad last-minute dash to the mall or having to settle for something that is Amazon Prime.
My “secret sauce” for the perfect family photo outfits for my family is to pick one dynamic piece that I love for one person in the family and the coordinate everyone else’s outfits around that one piece. Pull colors or tones or overall style from that piece and use it as a connective thread in your choices with other outfits. Layer in a variety of textures and fabrics and patterns to give a sense of coordination without being too matchy-matchy. Throw out all the things your mama taught you about what to wear for family photos. Layers are good! Patterns are good! More than one color can be good! If you need feedback on your outfit choices it never hurts to touch base with your photographer. They usually have a lot of insight into what works and what doesn’t and they can give you the added feedback about whether your choices will work well for the location you will be photographed in. Coordinating and taking advice from your photographer can elevate your family photos from a simple family photo to art.
Pick clothing that fits your color or style theme BUT keep in mind your children’s personalities and what they like to wear. You may find a gorgeous tulle dress that you are dying to put your tomboy daughter in, but at the end of the day the fight to get her to wear it is not worth it. You will love the photos so much more if you allow your children to wear clothes that fit their style but that you choose to coordinate with your family photo vision. Children are likely to be more excited about photos if they feel they were involved and have a say in the process. (Same thing goes for the dads, mamas!)
Tip #4- Talk it up!
In the weeks leading up to your session talk to your kids about what will happen in a positive excited way. If you set a tone for family photos being “so much fun” and how excited you are, they will get into the spirit, too. Depending on their age you can promise rewards or incentives to prepare them for doing their best, but I always prefer to just make the experience of hanging out at the park while a photographer plays with us and takes our photos the incentive. My kids and I talk about secret funny inside jokes we can call upon during the shoot to elicit laughs. We talk about what they do want (hugs and tickles) and don’t want (kisses and having to smile for a long time) to happen.
If your kids need an activity in order to cooperate for photos- discuss options with your photographer. Children are not always born models and some march to the beat of their own drum. If that sounds like your child- think about what they enjoy and how you can incorporate that into your shoot. Maybe they love to chase bubbles, or ride their bike, or fly kites? Maybe your session needs to be somewhere they can play tag, or jump in the water, or play with legos. Your family is unique and your photos should represent who you are and who your kids are. That is what makes your family photos authentic to your family.
5. Leave it to the pros.
After all the preparation and scheduling and worry about if your children will behave…. after doing the best you can to prepare…. the moment you arrive at your session leave those thoughts and feelings behind. If your kids are misbehaving, let your photographer worry about reeling them in (within reason), try to have a light-hearted attitude, and enjoy the time with your kids. Your kids will take cues from your demeanor and will often behave accordingly. If you have selected a good photographer who knows how to work with kids- they will have a bag of tricks to get your kids to do what they need for great photos and that allows you to focus on yourself and making sure you have great expressions and body language. (Remember to keep smiling mom and dad – take a deep breath, no need to feel embarrassed, we’ve all been there). How many times have you gotten your family photos back and not loved how strained your smile looks? Focus on looking your best and let your photographer worry about bringing out the best in your kids.
No matter how busy you are, your family photos are always worth making room in your schedule for. So start searching for the right pro, grab your calendar, and get ready to make some epic memories!!!!