I looked at family sessions with a whole new perspective the moment I became a mom. It’s a lot harder than I envisioned from the other side of the lens. Why were moms stressing so much the day of family pictures instead of happily focusing on each other? It’s because family photo sessions can be quite challenging to be honest. I remember having all these perfect ideas of how our newborn session would be once the twins came home from the hospital and quickly changing my mind the day of our session. Picture this: The boys had given us a “hell of a night” and my husband was just not up for being all sweet and loving. He wanted to sleep and I was two blinks away from passing out myself. So so tired. But we managed to wake up long enough to cuddle in bed together, all four of us. The first time I took a break from it all to admire our new family in our home. Just like that we have fast forward a year into our lives and it hasn’t gotten any better. Milk, dog food, poop and “what in the world is that?” somehow always become a part of our getting ready family routine. Not to mention the tantrums over having so much to wear. And the infamous, “do we really have to do this today?” So, I have come up with ten mom-friendly tips to ease the stress of family photos. No more freaking out because your little one had a pee-pee accident on his new pants on the way to the park.
1. Choose everyone’s outfits beforehand and carefully.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend scrambling through your drawers and closets the morning of wondering what you will be wearing. Pick out clothes that will coordinate with one another but won’t look as if you all have the same matching outfit. We want to achieve a natural appeal without trying too hard, if that makes any sense to you. When choosing color pallets, think about what emotion you would like your photos to have. Bright colors are fun and pop in any photograph. Neutrals and whites are soft and elegant and have a more timeless feel. Make sure everyone is comfortable in the outfits selected. We wouldn’t want them crying over something being too tight or warm. Clothes too big also seems to “hide” our kids. Trying everything on a couple days before will also help you envision what your group photos will look like the day of the session. I am also available for outfit consultations if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask!
2. Set aside plenty of time to get ready.
It never fails, something will always happen while mom is getting everyone ready. Moms are always rushing to get the kids dressed and they leave themselves for last. They quickly put on their outfit, brush their hair, and put on their make-up on the way to wherever we coordinated to photograph the session. But by then the kids have already “messed up” what they were supposed to wear. Or they’re already thinking that this is going to be the worst day ever because we have “warned” them about behaving, not getting dirty, and… remember to SMILE. Instead try this: Why doesn’t mom get ready first? This would be a great day to get your hair/make-up professionally done. When you look beautiful, you’ll feel beautiful. We’re already one step closer to having a happy family session. As far as the kids, try showers and grooming at home and getting dressed with the picture outfits once we arrive to the location of our shoot. Or if it’s at home, once I’m already there. Dad can take over while mom makes any final arrangements with the kids. And voila, everyone is looking great and ready for pictures.
3. Snacks and meal time. No one should be hungry during family photos.
Have you ever been somewhere, anxiously waiting until you can leave so that you can eat? We definitely don’t want that to happen during our session. Eat before or bring snacks. We can always take a break to munch on something that will make everyone happy.
4. Come well rested.
Although I have ideal lighting times during the day, I wouldn’t want that to interfere with nap time. When we are planning your session, please be conscious of picking a time that your children will not be too tired and ready for a nap. We want them to be alert and ready to play. Granted I know sometimes they skip naps and have off days. But having a plan will help us coordinate this better instead of purposely scheduling a session right when they’re used to taking an afternoon nap. Sometimes families will schedule a sunrise shoot although no one in the family is a early morning person. DON’T DO THIS. Stick to what works for you and let me worry about the lighting.
5. Dad’s can help too!
I’ve mentioned how mom is the one running the show, but for picture day, Dad can make an effort to relieve mom of some of her duties. Whether it’s behind the scenes of getting ready or during the session, dads, be present! We have already gotten the kids dressed and your wife is looking fabulous, this is the time to have fun with your family. Be cheerful and loving. Hug and kiss your kids like you do when you come home from work over and over again. These pictures will forever be a memory that your family will look back to, and we would all love it if you enjoyed yourself during the session too.
6. Pick an activity or two that you can all partake in together.
I love it when everyone just looks at me and gives me the, “now what?” look. An activity will give you guys something to do together instead of waiting for me to pose you. Bring something that you love to do together. Do the kids love building Lego blocks? Do you read to your kids every night before bedtime? Do you guys ride bikes or race toy cars? The ideas are endless and are best chosen by your family, not me. You know what is fun for all. This gives the opportunity to capture the genuine YOU as a family.
7. Break loose.
I know it can be quite intimidating to have your picture taken. Sometime we hide who we really are because we’re afraid it won’t make a pretty picture. FORGET ABOUT MAKING PRETTY PICTURES. I’m so tired of hearing the term. Let’s focus on making real, fun and authentic family photos. HAVE FUN! Let’s do the kind of things we did when we were teenagers at the park. Carry your kids and your wife. Jump on your husband’s back. Have a tickle war. Think, we’re just going to ignore our photographer and be us. Yes, ignore me, and be YOU!
8. Don’t focus on the camera.
Often families will feel that a family session means everyone sits around and the photographer tells you how to place your hands and feet and on the count of three everyone says CHEESE! That’s so old school that it doesn’t even happen once during my family sessions. I don’t want you guys to feel stiff or pressured to get every single person making eye contact with the camera. Instead, try to focus on each other. Take turns being the center of attention. Play a game of, I love mom because… or I think little sister is special because… This won’t work on the little ones but if you engage with them and worry less about the camera, we are sure to make the kind of family photographs you’ll love.
9. Reward yourselves.
We want picture taking to be a fun and rewarding experience. Go out for ice-cream sundays after the session. Give your hunny lots of kisses and hugs after the session too! The time spent after the session should be fun too. My husband doesn’t like taking family photos, so when he gives in and does so to please me, I make sure to be extra thankful. I don’t believe in any form of bribery, but when it comes to family photos, I definitely give in. It’s my exception!!
10. Don’t compare your love to others.
I find that it’s human nature to compare ourselves with others. Compare our family to another family. We do it without even noticing. Once you are looking at your family’s photographs, don’t judge your images according to others you’ve seen online. Or your sister’s family. Or that pretty couple you know that has an amazing house to shoot in. I am 100% guilty of this all the time. Maybe it’s because I love to stalk other mom’s blogs and see a bit into what their everyday life is like. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But then I quickly recover by admiring my family and everything that we’ve been through to be here today. My husband may not be the laugh-out-loud guy that shows how much fun he’s having. His smirk is more of a, I’m secretly thinking that you look like a piece cake and I want to eat you kind of guy. And that’s ok! I love him that much more for being who he is all the time than for acting in front of the camera. The chaos that happens during your family session is real life and there is nothing quite like honesty in images. Be in love with your family. Your mess. Your people. Your love. And however it is that you choose to show it.