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Oh, family photo day…you
stressful sweet rollercoaster of an experience. 🙂 As a photographer, I can tell you I have SO much fun capturing all the crazy with my camera. As a mom…I know exactly how exhausted and tense I have felt when the role has been reversed and it’s my own temperamental family in front of the camera. I admit I usually have far less fun, ha! So know that I share these thoughts as an empathizing parent and not just as a photographer. But believe me when I say photo day really does not have to be stressful! There are absolutely ways you can plan the day, prepare your kiddos, and adjust your mindset that will truly make your family photo session a fun event (which will in turn result in the best possible photos)!
I KNOW this is so much easier said than done! But when it comes to setting yourself and your family up for a fun and successful photo shoot, the absolute most important thing is your mood and mindset as we begin the session. In my own experience, feeling rushed and disorganized leading up to leaving for any important event really affects the way I feel and the way I interact with my family.
“But what do we wear?!?”
This could be a post in itself, of course! For now, I’ll first say that if you prioritize nothing else, prioritize comfort. This is true ESPECIALLY for kids. I always love when families wear soft, flowy fabrics that don’t look too tight or stiff or wrinkly. Mixing up textures always looks amazing, just make sure no one is hot and itchy!
Try to choose colors that coordinate rather than match exactly. If two family members are wearing the exact same color top, for example, it limits our options for posing because I will avoid putting those two people right next to each other if I can help it. Speaking of color…it’s always good to consider the spaces in your home where your photos will be displayed and featured. What colors look great on your wall? What styles of outfits would compliment the design aesthetic of your home? Focus on that vibe and color palette when choosing outfits!
Mom — start with your outfit first! Pick out something you KNOW will make you feel comfortable and confident. A dress or top in a flattering silhouette with a little movement to it will look amazing every time. Then design the rest of the family around that style and coordinating color palette.
If all else fails, you can never go wrong mixing muted solids and textures with a subtle pattern. And please, don’t forget to check the weather forecast! Layers are your friend in Indiana!
Check out my Family Photo Wardrobe board for a little inspiration to help you get started planning outfits!
Set kids up for success
Keep your day chill. Photo day is probably not the day to cram in extra activities and appointments. Tired and overstimulated kids just don’t quite light up for the camera, believe it or not! Obviously, you’ll want to do whatever you can to ensure naps happen whenever they should happen in order to help kids last a bit longer in the evening (summer and early fall sessions usually don’t start until around 7pm). Maybe just push nap time a LITTLE bit later if that helps your kiddo make it through for a later bedtime. Try not to let toddlers fall asleep in the car on the way to the session as that can make them grumpy and groggy for photos! It can be helpful to give kids a non-messy snack on the way to the session to help keep them perky and content.
Hype it Up!
Talk about the session (do this before you’re unloading them from the car at our location!). Frame it as a fun activity you all get to do as a family, and that they will only need to hold still for a couple photos and will get to play and be silly a lot of the time! Show them a photo of me (there’s one right on the home page of my website) and describe me as a friend!
A note on bribes — please remember that kids under the age of 5 or 6 really don’t understand the whole delayed gratification concept. Not to mention it communicates that photos will be a chore that they need reimbursed for! DO feel free to give them quick, non-messy treats every now and then throughout the session whenever they start to fade. A tiny handful of a favorite dry cereal, mini marshmallow, or gummy bear can sometimes make all the difference in the moment. Then go out for a fun treat after the session just as a continuation of your fun evening!
DADS. Honestly y’all usually need hyped up more than the kids, ha! I know family photos are not exactly on your list of things you’d like to be doing with your evening. But remember that you play a HUGE part in setting the tone. Pretend you’re having the time of your life, and your kids will be far more likely to cooperate. HINT: this often results in a shorter session. 😉
Let it Go
Relax, and be in the moment! You’ve spent the day preparing everyone’s outfits, getting the littles as presentable looking as you possibly can, and hyping up all the fun we’re about to have taking photos. Now is the time you get to relax and let me do the work! Please try to resist the temptation to micromanage your kids (hi, I’m a fellow micromanager mom, preaching to myself too). Standing by the camera and yelling “Smile! Say cheeese! PLEASE JUST SMILE!!” usually ends up backfiring. Remember that my goal is to elicit authentic emotion and real smiles. Whenever you start feeling yourself get that urge to jump in and coax/bribe/scold, take a breath, step back, and savor the moment. How often do you get the chance to just stare at your cuties while someone else corrals them? This is that moment. Enjoy it!
Don’t worry about lugging out the whole diaper bag. Definitely have it in the car along with a backup outfit for babies! But aside from your fully dressed selves, you really don’t need to bring anything else. I will have plenty of blanket options for you to sit on, bug spray/natural bug repellant stick for the littles, boogie wipes, bobby pins, and hair ties. And more boogie wipes. 🙂
DO bring an activity your family loves to do together, if you want! Sometimes this is a great thing to pull out at the end of the session when littles are starting to get restless. Often favorite picture books work amazingly well for these shots! And if a comfort item needs to come out for a few shots, don’t stress it. Remember that when you look back on these photos once your babies are grown, you’ll never regret seeing them just being their unique little selves in the image.
Embrace the Crazy
Above all else, remember that kids will be kids — and that is a GOOD thing! My career prior to photography was full-time social work in a preschool and elementary setting. My job was basically to be a behavior coach for kids with severe emotional and behavioral challenges. All this to say…your kids’ silly/defiant/hyperactive antics will likely not scare me. 🙂 After introducing myself to each kid, I will usually start with photographing siblings together and then each kid individually. But if we need to start with someone being snuggled by mom, that is perfectly ok too! The posed shots of everyone together will also happen toward the beginning of the session, and you will notice that the structure of the session will become less and less formal as we go! By the end, I fully expect to be photographing your kids literally racing in circles around you (this is actually one of my favorite shots to capture, ha!)
Remember that we are preserving memories of the people you are at this moment in time. Embrace that authenticity, even if it means accepting a little craziness!
Ready to book your family’s photo session? Contact me here, I would love to get to know you!