Advice for getting the most out of your family portrait session

Life seems to speed up as we get older and busier. One minute your little ones are cute gurgling babies and the next they are teens! Luckily family photographs can take us back in time and preserve these precious moments that we are experiencing now for generations to come.

There are so many different types of approaches to family portraiture and you need to decide on the right style of photography and photographer for you and your brood. As for me, I would aim to create you a set of images that will tell your unique story. I’m not that sausage factory type of photographer that does the same old boring pictures at every single session. Nope I would love to work with you to create something special that you will hang on your walls and be proud of. Personal pieces of art that are emotive, artsy and out of the box!

Here are a few pointers to get the best out of your family portrait session

Choose a location that suits your family and tells your story

If you love the beach and that’s where your family loves to spend time, this totally makes sense as a location, however if you’re more of the city slicker types and hate the sea sand then perhaps an urban environment would work better? I’ve shot family sessions in private homes, on farms, in factories and rice paddies! If you work with me we will chat through different locations but the more information you give me about yourselves the better I can serve you

Time of day

If you are going to be doing an outdoor location session it is best to shoot either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. This is when you get that golden, soft and flattering light. When the sun is directly overhead Ie Noon it creates nasty shadows under the eyes which isn’t very pretty. I call it panda eye! A good photographer can of course use external lighting and other means to correct this, but it gets tricky with small kids who are running around and want to have fun and not sit in one place! The best time to take photographs is generally 90 minutes before sunset and 90 minutes after sunrise. If it is cloudy, the light is softer and it is actually a bit more forgiving.

Plan your outfits

If you are going to all the trouble to commission a family portrait session best you plan your outfits so that they work well in the photos and with the location that you are using. The outfits you choose will also determine the over-all feel and style of the shoot. I would advise wearing something that suits your personalities and wont date in years to come. If you’re super casual it wouldn’t make sense to pull out that suit that only gets worn to weddings and funerals but if you love to dress up a family portrait session could be the perfect occasion. Definitely don’t include any crazy branding on clothing or wear outfits that will date terribly. Pick colours that work well together, you don’t all have to match but you don’t want to clash. Be careful of sideways stripes as they can make one look bigger. Click here to read more about this and see some examples of outfit combinations that have worked for my past clients.

What do you love to do together as a family? Perhaps use this as a theme for your session. 

If you want to make your session really meaningful for you and also alot of fun, it might be an idea to actually include an activity that your family engages in on the weekends or free time. Bring out the surfboards, horses, bikes or even the chess-board if that’s a memory worth preserving.

Have your hair and make up done

I always advise my female clients to get their hair and make up done for family portrait sessions. Unless of course you are into doing a totally real “day in the life of” documentary style session. But if you want to look your best a make up artist and a hairdresser will definitely help you along the way!

Prepare your kids for the shoot 

Talk to your kids beforehand about the session but don’t train them to do that awful “cheese face” It’s way better to have them relaxed and natural and ready for some fun. Bribery goes a long way for small kids I have found, but only if they get their reward after the session is over!

Have lots of fun and be natural

The more relaxed you are the better the images will be – so play, run, jump, throw your kids in the air. Have fun with it! The more you interact with your kids the more natural and emotive the photos will be.

Make sure your kids and you are well fed before the shoot and have some snacks on hand 

This goes without saying but hangry is not a good look! A full tummy will definitely result in happier pictures and less time waisted on snack delivery but it is always an idea to bring something along for just in case! Also don’t give your kids too much sugar beforehand – sugar highs and sugar crashes are real!

If your kids are tiny tots here’s what I advise

You know that bag of tricks you have to haul around everywhere for just in case. Bring it along! This should include an extra change of clothes, some snacks and their favourite toys. Bubbles, and toys which make a noise that will delight them and will get them to look in a particular direction can be a great help!

Get the Grandparents involved

If Gran and Gramps are close by why not invite them along to get a few pics. This will probably cost extra as most photographers charge more for larger groups, but the photos will make wonderful gifts and will become a priceless treasure one day.

Get your pets in on the action

If your pets are very special to you and your brood why not get them involved? Our fluffy friends don’t last as long as we do so it’s a great way to get some beautiful images of you all as a family.

Make sure you have enough time to get ready

Don’t arrive late as you will be wasting precious time especially if the sun is going down!

Make sure you give your photographer all the information they need to make your shoot

A professional photographer will always ask the right questions but ensure they have the right address for the location of your session, the names of your family members along with ages and gender and any other information that might be important. I once photographed a family that had a little girl who was petrified of dogs – they wanted a beach session and unfortunately a dog arrived and it became a bit of a drama. These are important things to know.

And lastly. Don’t put this off for when you are thiner, fitter, more tanned, in a different house etc etc etc. Life goes by too quickly and there is absolutely no time like the present. We are more likely to regret the things we didn’t do than the ones we did!

If you would like to do a family portrait session with me drop me a line here

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