“This ain’t your first rodeo!” a dad once said to me after his family portrait session with little ones.
After ELEVEN years and over 1900 sessions, I’ve created a long list of TIPS for my clients to help them prepare for their session.
I wrote these for my clients BUT enjoy sharing them with everyone, no matter who they are using for a photographer.
My FIRST TIP IS …..Parents GET IN THE PICTURE!!!- “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” – Clint Eastwood
You won’t regret it! If you don’t like the pictures with you in them, don’t display them but at least you (and your kids) will have them!
Plus you don’t want to miss out on this chance to bond with your kids. It’s truly a gift!
BONUS: I’m always looking out for mom first when composing my images that include her! Trust me! You will look great! It doesn’t have to go on the holiday card but at least you have have it for YOU and THEM to enjoy!
SECOND tip of GREAT IMPORTANCE is to MANAGE your OWN EXPECTATIONS.
Children are unpredictable, especially kids under the age of FIVE. You can hedge your bets by picking a time of day they are “usually happy” and making sure they are well fed, hydrated and dressed for the weather. Don’t worry about “the best light”, let your photographer do that.
Also come expecting that they will NOT “behave” the entire session. They are little. Make it fun and try to go with the flow. Expecting them to sit still and smile at the camera on command can stress you out and they will feel it. Try to relax and allow your photographer to capture your family connections and the personalities of the kids as they are now. Not a forced fake version of them. I promise you that (even if you don’t appreciate it now), photos of those moments when they are “misbehaving” or expressing their emotions will be priceless mementos in just a few short years.
I’ve got a lot more to share on this topic but first check out my advice on your wardrobe.
DO NOT WAIT for the LAST MINUTE to plan a wardrobe!
Get buy in ahead of time from the kids. You might even want to let them help you pick it out.
The last thing you want the day of the session is a fight about what they are going to wear.
Clients: feel free to TEXT ME your wardrobe selections to get my feedback. 203-434-2525
Keep it SIMPLE with SOLID COLORS.
A light pattern on one person is ok and can work nicely but avoid BOLD patterns or MULTIPLE PATTERNS on different people! The human eye is drawn to points of contrast. Patterns will distract from your faces.
Stick to MUTED TONES or colors of nature- Colors like cream, grey,brown, blue, light mauve, light green, light pink.
Try shades of grey and cream if you want timeless neutrals. I’m not a huge fan of white unless you are doing portraits at the beach. Remember, the eye is drawn to the brightest part of the image and you want that to be your faces not your clothes!
Keep in mind the BACKGROUND COLORS. That’s green/blue in Spring/Summer and brown, grey, yellow, orange, red in Fall and cream in my natural light studio.
Your wardrobe should create COLOR HARMONY with nature, not not clash with it.
Here is my PINTEREST PAGE with the COLORS I think work BEST! You will also see sample wardrobes for inspiration!
Additional Wardrobe TIPS:
IMPORTANT!!! Dress for the weather! If it is cold do NOT expect the kid to come to the session in a coat and “take it off for pictures”. It will show in their body language, face and mood. This will ruin your session! Don’t do it!!!
Test out your selections together by laying everyone’s outfits out on your bed and ask yourself if everything coordinates.
Clients: Email me a photo of your wardrobe (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can tell you if it works and what you need to change if not.
Buying new clothes? You could shop online and use the shopping cart to lay out clothes and make sure they create color harmony.
Mom- pick your outfit first! If you don’t like how you look, you won’t like the pictures!
Oh and MOM- if you don’t like your arms, don’t wear a sleeveless or short sleeve shirt! Your arms will be wrapped around your kids and showing. Long sleeves are best!
KIDS clothes? Have a picky dresser? Please allow them to HELP YOU. Give them a few options so that they feel like they got to pick what they where! It might avoid a conflict on the day of the session. If they have something they insist on wearing then suggest they were it for a few pics and then put on what you picked out (compromise).
Stressed out about what to wear? Go casual and pull things from your closet. You would be surprised at what you can pull together.
Baby GIRLS (especially if not walking yet)….Dresses with or without TIGHTS are a BAD idea!! Those little dresses ride up and all you see is TIGHTS or DIAPERS. Not so pretty! Try leggings under a dress!
SHOES!!! Don’t forget nice shoes! YES they might be in the pictures!! Consider going barefoot in the warmer weather!
Nice BOOTS are best in cold weather! They cover socks when pants rise up when seated. Or shoes with nice socks.
NO BRIGHT COLORED SNEAKERS or SOCKS! They are unattractive and distracting.
MOM- do not wear a tight or short skirt that makes it hard to sit or bend your legs on the ground. Jeans or darker pants are best.
Also remember we will be walking in grass so heals don’t work but wedges are great! Pants or a long flowing skirt (if flattering) are best.
Additional tips to help your session go smoother!
Please…..PREPARE your KIDS & SPOUSE!
Get them INVESTED in the session just like you are!
Do NOT make this something they “have to do” because you want a “nice picture for the holiday card”.
I know in the end you ultimately want the “perfect holiday card photo” and you WILL get it BUT let’s focus on the REAL VALUE of the session…. CONNECTING with your FAMILY and CREATING MEMORIES!
Kids are smart! Take the pressure off of them to “perform“. Do not say “You better smile and be good or else….”
Make this about FUN and the FAMILY CONNECTING!
Talk about how the photographer likes to be silly and get natural smiles and laughter. No stiff poses and “smiling for the camera”.
Tell them which pictures are your favorites and talk about what kind of pics you would all like of your family.
Is there a special picture they want to get? Maybe just them with mom and dad so they can put it on their nightstand.
Try to plan a special outing or treat for AFTER the session. Something you can do if the session goes well and you all have fun together.
Make sure they are not only mentally ready but physically. Tired, stressed out and/or hungry kids do not photograph well.
Schedule the session at the best time for your child, not the best time for easy photography light. That’s my job to figure out.
Don’t schedule a session at a time you are going to feel super rushed to get there and that might stress everyone out.
Feed your kiddos a snack before coming. (Hungry kids get cranky as you know)
Pack ice water for them! It’s hard to relax for portraits if you are thirsty.
What to BRING & other tips:
Bring wipes for CLEAN FACES! (Do a last minute check of faces UP CLOSE! The camera catches every detail on close ups.)
Bring a sweater if it might be cold! You never know if it is colder at our location than at home! Be PREPARED!
Cold children do NOT photograph well! You can’t expect them to just tough it out!! That NEVER WORKS! Cold shows on their expressions and body posture. Pack one even if you think it is warm enough. You never know. It’s often colder than you think, especially in the morning when it can be damp too!
A few things about preparing for a session with little girls:
Check your NAILS and their NAILS too! Your hands WILL be in the photos! If you don’t have time for a manicure be sure to at least remove all old polish and trim nails!
PLEASE Consider putting their HAIR BACK (at least out of their face) if it tends to fall in their face a lot or is long, especially if it’s windy. Stray hairs flying around can ruin a great shot and a lot of time is spent fixing hair too.
NO HEADBANDS-They are pretty BUT they fall off and move a lot and we end up losing time and ruining great shots.
Bring hair brush/spray just in case you need to fix your hair and a mirror for last minute self check.
Include accessories, such as scarves, jewelry, jackets and hats can really add to your look and give the image an artistic touch.
Pack some of their favorite toys. Things like a favorite stuffed animal (Lovey) or a ball. Anything that makes them happy for calms them down if upset. Just make sure it is something you don’t mind having in a few pictures as taking it away can only make it worse.
Offer them a bribe/reward! Yes I said it! Bring their favorite treat for AFTER the session if they are good!
Be sure to keep the treat OUT OF SIGHT and try not to give it to them til we are done. Kid aren’t so cute chewing or with lollipop sticking out of their mouth or crying because it got taken away!
FYI-If they are really young, a bribe will not work. They don’t know how to delay gratification. It might even make it worse. Use the power of distraction with them! Get silly, have fun! Make them laugh and forget they are upset.
Let them know Ms. Andrea also has “rewards” for them if the session goes well!
Consider bringing your dog(s)! If it is an outdoor session your dog is welcome at every location. This is the member of the family who will be with you the least amount of time. You will treasure image captured with this beloved family member!
Pay attention to the WEATHER forecast!! DRESS accordingly! Wear/bring layers. Do NOT expect a child to arrive on a cold day, take off their coat and pose pretty in the freezing cold. You will NOT get good pictures!!! Pick your battles and plan accordingly!
Little boys’ hair grows fast! Check the boys’ hair a week ahead of time and get that haircut if you think he needs it!
Don’t buy OVER-SIZED shirts with sleeves that are too long! Missing hands are pretty distracting in photos. Be sure to roll them up ahead of time if they are too long.
Don’t be afraid to bring wardrobe options if you aren’t sure. It’s best to have them with you in case you want to change (or someone needs to change).
Creating a positive experience for everyone….
Come to the session planning on having fun!!
Remember, the only thing you can truly expect with children is the UNEXPECTED! Set aside your regular expectations of your children. When we go into a portrait session by demanding perfect behavior from our children we get fake stiff children who don’t look “themselves”.
Manage your own expectations! I say that as I know how stressed I feel when we get our portraits done. Try to remember that each session is UNIQUE! Have an idea of what you would like to capture but understand that depending on the mood of your child(ren) at that given moment, you may or may not be able to capture those dream images. Just stay positive, make it fun and try to go with the flow and I will get something beautiful.
RELAX and ENJOY the session!!! We will play games and use gross/funny (age appropriate ) words to get you laughing and having fun! Let go of the stress of gettingthe perfect portrait and just have fun! Let me worry about getting the shots!
If a kid is upset, comfort them (please don’t yell at them, threaten them). Use the power of DISTRACTION to get them happy! Stop and give them some personal attention and get them to laugh again. I can capture that with images you will treasure! Sometimes those are the BEST shots!
Please don’t tell the kids to smile! We can get them to laugh by doing/saying silly unexpected things or by you tickling them. THOSE are the smiles you want, not the cheesy ones you get when you tell them SMILE or say CHEESE!
Bring your sense of humor! I have 20 minutes with your kids and will do what it takes to make them laugh and get those NATURAL smiles! If things like potty jokes offend you, put that aside for 20 minutes! Be willing to do totally silly things your children won’t expect from you! That gets the best laughs from little ones!:-)
Get ready to CUDDLE and LOVE on your kids! A session with Andrea is about CONNECTING with the kids. I don’t do stiff posed portraits so if you are looking for that old fashion stiffly posed portrait, you have the wrong photographer.
Trust ME! I’ve photographed hundreds of families! I got this.
What YOU see and what I see can be VERY DIFFERENT. Don’t worry about the location I pick or the angle I shoot from. Let ME worry about that!
I do what I have to do “to get the shot” and I LOVE IT!
I love it when clients’ bring their dogs but I like to get pics of them without the dog too. Normally my assistant holds them but when in need, I can do it too. One of many silly things I do to get the images I want to capture of your family!
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