Monday, May 27, 2013

The Anatomy of a Perfect Family Portrait Session

In my last post I described the steps to achieving a successful newborn shoot.  Just like in newborn photography there are certain steps that we can take in lifestyle photography to achieve a wonderful family portrait session.

First step is to find the right photographer for your family.  There are so many wonderful photographers out there, and while I hope you all like my work, I may not be perfect for everyone.  If you poke around a bit on this blog you'll see that my background is in documentary photography.  I like to tell stories with my photographs and capture authentic beautiful moments.  Which means staying away from the traditional sears or couch portrait.  Instead I strive for the photo of everyone laughing, having a good time and just being themselves.  That doesn't mean I don't like photos of everyone looking at the camera smiling- as long as we can get real smiles I love them!  But my focus will always be on capturing beautiful moments.  After all, if photo taking is a horrible process that leaves your kids upset, and you exhausted that's what your going to remember when you look at those photos.  So if you like my style and are interested in a session here are some tips for a perfect session (and you can also use these tips when your taking photos of your own family).
RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-2 RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-1

  • Beautiful Light.  I am a natural light shooter and to achieve the beautiful creamy tones you see in my photos we need to shoot when the sun is low in the sky.  This means either the very beginning or the very end of the day.  I know it may seem annoying to have to get up early in the morning- and trust me I get it, I like sleeping late too- but it is so worth it when you get the incredible golden light of the morning!  Plus when we shoot earlier there tends to be less people around and photoshopping people out of the background of photos is one of the most common requests I get, and it's not always possible, and when it is it's costly.  So lets pick a time of day when the city is beautiful and quiet and full of dreamy light! RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-11
  • Pick the right time of day for your children.  It's good to have beautiful light, but if we have a cranky kid we won't have anything to photograph!  So tell your photographer when the right time of day is for your child and plan accordingly.  There's nothing worse than having a child have a temper tantrum during a 4pm shoot and one parent turning to the other and saying "why did we schedule this around nap time?" When I hear that I know we will not be getting any more photos that day.  So please think ahead to what time of day will be best for smiles, giggles and fun!  I always try and balance my shoots between best time of day for children and best light.RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-9
  • Have patience.  Lots of it.  Kids can be frustrating.  Any parent or professional who works with kids can tell you that.  When a child is running around or refuses to sit down I know it's tempting for a parent to snap at them and tell them to sit down and smile, but that will most likely end in tears or a tantrum (or a fake smile at best).  So we just need to have patience and (just for the shoot) try to do things on your child's terms.  Obviously if one sibling is hitting the other then some parental intervention is needed, but otherwise if your kid wants to run around I'll run after him and if he wants to sit and read I'll take some photos with his book.  It is some of these natural moments that make the best photos.  RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-20
  • Bring along some toys and a non messy snack you don't mind being in the photos.  Kids' attention spans are very short and picture taking will not hold their attention for very long so having a couple cute toys or books that you like can be a great distraction and give your kids a little breather during the shoot.  Plus they make for really cute photos if you bring along a special toy that is really meaningful to them.  They will probably stop playing with that toy in a year or two and now you have a great photo of them with it!  A snack break can also work wonders, but bring something that's not too messy and won't get all over their clothes or stuck in their teeth for the photos. RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-32
  • Fashion choices can really change the feeling of a picture so give some thought before the morning of the shoot to what you're all going to wear.  Laying out all the outfits together on a bed is a great way to see if they all look good together.  I am all for colors and patterns, but just make sure everything fits well together and look at all of the outfits as a whole.  When coordinating outfits try to look like your all going to the same place- if the kids and dad are dressed for a casual day in the park, mom shouldn't look like she's going out for cocktails.  The family in the picture below got it perfect.  While you definitely want your kids to be in clean, nice clothing, don't put them in anything that you don't want them to run around and play in.  If we're photographing on the streets or in a park I may ask you sit down on the steps, sidewalk, and sometimes even in the street so if your afraid to do that in a white sundress leave it at home for the shoot.  I make style boards for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter to bring some inspiration to my family shoots so you can always check those out on pinterest.RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-35
  • Keep your kids positive about the photo shoot.  My shooting style is very casual and I'm at my best when kids are just happy and having fun.  Sometimes kids can get anxious when they're told there's going to be a photo shoot and when we meet they're already upset and don't want to take photos.  If your kid is camera shy or has anxiety try telling them we're going on a walk, an adventure, a scavenger hunt, a day in the park- really anything they enjoy.  If you tell your kids we're having a photo shoot and they need to look nice in the pictures they may feel pressure and could end up upset, cranky and rebellious.  The best photo shoots are when you really forget I'm there and you just remember a fun day in the park! RYALE_RiversidePark_Family-48

Your session should be relaxed and fun, but keep in mind that it is an investment, and an important one that perhaps you’ve been saving for.  With a little bit of extra thought and planning, you can be assured you are more than satisfied (and perhaps a little amazed!) with the final results!

When planning your session, think about these 4 key “W” questions:
1. When (time of year),
2. Where (beach, city, park, meadow, home),
3. What time (time of day)
4. What to wear (casual, traditional, preppy, trendy, etc.)

Once you’ve thought through those items, you will want to consider your family’s personality, your style, and the decor of your home.
• What type of family are you (sporty, preppy, beachy, traditional, casual)?
• Which room(s) are you most likely to display your images (foyer, family room, hallway/staircase, living room, bedroom)?
• What is the style, decor and color of that area (warm, cool, formal, modern, beachy, cottage, traditional)?

Remember, it’s your session.  You probably don’t have time (or energy) to repeat it at this exact stage in your life, so make sure that you stack the deck in your favor the first time!  Your planning, preparation and communication will surely pay off and you will have personal art in your home that makes you smile every day, for years and years to come. Isn’t that what custom photography is all about? We think so. And when in doubt if you have any questions just ask.   I am always happy to help.

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