We’re diving headfirst into the fall family portrait season, and slots are booking up fast and furious. At this point, almost every weekend between now and the week before Christmas is completely booked up. It’s inevitable that people wait until the last minute to do this, because the holiday season creeps up on us SO fast. Didn’t summer just end? Didn’t the kids JUST go back to school? When did Thanksgiving get into view?
And as much as you can count on the leaves changing every year, you can count on families dragging their children kicking and screaming to their portrait session. That train is just never late…and I am always on the platform waiting for it to pull in.
Family portrait sessions have gotten a “used car salespeople” vibe to them over the years. For the last 30+ years, unless you had a local photographer whom you had a relationship with, most people would go to Sears, JC Penny, etc. to get their family portraits. My family included….tell me that 70’s bowl cut didn’t rock?
Of course, many of those images in the 21st century have made it up to Awkward Family Photos. (Ed. Note – you have to take a free moment of your day and check out that site. It’s totally worth it. Just don’t drink anything while you do it.)
Anyway…time marched forward and now you get these places in the mall that hire people with little to no experience with using a camera. They offer “great” deals only costing you $9.99 (provided you don’t want any prints) and a marvelous family bonding experience. Some will go so far as to promote the experience as “once in a lifetime”.
But anyone that’s gone to one of these places knows better. It’s long lines, crying children, the smell of fried whatever wafting up the noses of said crying children and so many bright and shiny things that what little attention span they had for this endeavor is LONG gone. All of this for one halfway decent posed picture?
STOP THE INSANITY! IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!
We strive to make a family portrait session a TRUE family portrait session. Our number one rule is to let KIDS BE KIDS! Think about every picture you have ever taken of your childre. Are they posed, or are they genuine candid shots that automatically take you back to that day? If you’ve ever looked at a posed picture with a child surrounded by a million props, did it ever evoke the same feeling?
Kids want to run around, jump in puddles, throw leaves on each other. So why not let them? We hardly ever book family studio sessions. They just don’t work as well as being outside in a park, or even in your very own backyard where the child is comfortable just being themselves. The only “prop” I tend to bring is an old camera that I don’t use anymore with an old lens. Whether there is only one child, or multiple children…they get to become a “photographer” for a little bit. We involve them in the process! When the client gets their proofs, they get all of the pictures their children took. The only potential caveat (for the parents) is that chances are, their child is going to want a camera! Even your family pet is encouraged to be a part of the session. They are family after all, aren't they?
Here are some other tips to help make your family portrait session stress free:
- Make sure your children are well rested! A tired kid is a cranky kid! Schedule the shoot around THEIR sleep patterns. It makes a huge difference.
- DO NOT give your children any type of hyper-energy boosters. Kids are already a natural source of energy. Giving them a sugary cereal in the morning, or a soda and cookies in the afternoon before a shoot is a sure fire way to decrease their already short attention span.
- MAKE SURE THEY’VE GONE TO THE BATHROOM SHORTLY BEFORE THE SHOOT! ‘Nuff said.
- Kids are still kids, no matter WHAT you scheduled for them. If before you leave for the shoot, your child is in a “mood” (fussy, crying, won’t listen to you at all) don’t force the situation. Reschedule your shoot. This is not only for your sanity but for better images. If a child doesn’t want to have their picture taken, that’s the last word. It’s so much better to reschedule than to try and make something happen that has no chance of being a success.
- FINALLY – let us do our job! I truly mean this in the nicest of ways. It’s a natural instinct to want to help corral your child and try to get them to laugh. And it’s appreciated! But when you’re standing to the side of us, your child is going to instinctively look at you, and not at us. So now they have two adults vying for their attention. Not only does it confuse them, but it inevitably gets them upset. We know tons of tricks to get them to smile. I’ve eaten my fair share of leaves to get a kid to smile and it works every time.
The most genuine advice we can give is make the experience as memorable as the pictures themselves. Life is full of spontaneous, wonderful moments. Your family photo session should be as unique as you are. The environment, location and photographer you choose will have a huge impact on the final product.
Sometimes, we just keep shooting as we're setting up the shot because they turn out just as good, if not better than the posed ones.