Can you feel it in the air?
The temperature is dropping. Depending on where you are located, the sunflowers may have bloomed, and the pumpkin patches or Christmas tree farms have called your name to come with your wild children and stand amongst them in color coordinated outfits.
It’s Family Photo Season, friends.
The season where we all flock to wheat fields, beaches, and any other dreamy looking landscape and stand with our arms around our children, half in love and half in desperation: Please. Please just look at the camera with a normal face for just one photo, I beg of you.
I do family photos every year as long as my time and budget permit. And because I love to do them in hopes capture my family’s sweet (and sometimes not so sweet) faces, I wanted to bring you some advice. Not from me, but from real photographer friends.
First, let me introduce you to our photographers. Both are my dear dear friends. Both have taken MULTIPLE family photo sessions for me. Both have given me style advice on what my family should wear. And both have given me some of the most important and lovely photos I’ll ever own.
Bethany Kidd is a photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. She is a military spouse, wonderful friend, and amazing artist.
Kristen Fondon is an Austin, Texas-based photographer, mama of two littles, and will make your family looked like they are bathed in actual sunlight.
Both are my lovely friends and the perfect people to set us all up for success when it comes to our family photos.
Manage Those Expectations
Listen ladies, I get it. We are paying good money for these sessions. And we have this idea in our heads of what we want our photos to look like. But Kristen says “My personal and professional advice is to not have many expectations on exactly what the session should be.”
This is hard when we want nice photos that we can cherish forever. It’s hard when your kids are uncooperative and sometimes having a bad day. I get it. But Bethany is quick to remind us, “Remember, they are children and be gracious with yourself and them.”
Ah, grace. Show them grace. So who cares if they make a silly face? Who cares if your baby cries? Let’s lean into capturing our family right where we are: in the middle of chaos and the wild. Let’s look back at photos of our children as they are and not wish them to be any different.
This advice makes me laugh because it’s not something I’ve ever considered. What if the kids *gasp* are holding food in the photo? But both Bethany and Kristen recommended this, and I think it’s ingenious. Kristen says they can be used as a “last ditch effort to make everyone happy… but I say do it right and have a family picnic!” So this year, I’ll be packing a few favorite bribes, *ahem* I mean, SNACKS, to keep spirits high. And I’ll vow to not sweat it over a lollipop stick in a chubby toddler hand if you will, too.
Timing is Everything
Trust me, I’ve seen the mini-sessions (particularly in sunflower fields, as we are currently stationed in Kansas) offered at my kids’ bedtime. I’ve seen giveaway sessions that fall right during nap time. And I never jump for them. Why? Because my kids would be absolute nightmares if I chose those times.
Bethany says to, “consider when your kids are the most attentive and joyous.” Joyous. Friends, even if it costs more, find a photographer that fits into your schedule or is willing you work with yours. I want to capture my kids in the middle of their joy. I want have a memory of a sly smile, a belly laugh, and a giggle.
Kristen says, “When talking with your photographer, trust and value their professional opinion on timing and the best light, but don’t be afraid to voice times that will and won’t work well for your family.” If that means a morning session when your kids are the happiest or an in-home session with your kids at their most comfortable, go for it. Remember, you want memories, not perfection!
Find the Right Fit (Not Just Your Clothes)
My biggest ponderance when it comes to photos is always the clothes. I want my family to look vastly more put together than we are, but I don’t want to be too matchy-matchy.
But when I really think about it, the photos I love the most are when my family is the most at ease, when things aren’t forced.
I am never looking at our clothes; I am always looking at how we fit together. And even though clothing choice is important, Kristen says, “Wearing more muted colors and staying away from bold patterns will help you compliment each other and keep the focus on the most important thing, which is your family…wear something you feel beautiful, confident, and like yourself in!”
But “the right fit” is more than just about your clothes.
I’ve always felt most at home during family photos when I feel comfortable with the photographer. This takes some research and some digging. I never go with the most “price is right” photographer. Bethany says it’s important to choose someone who you can lead the shoot (like an actual vacation from parenting?). She says, “3 adults telling kids what to do causes confusion and frustration. Sometimes when parents take a step back or a few feet away, the kids will open up better with the photographer.”
Don’t be afraid to ask to meet the photographer in person or chat on the phone. Don’t be afraid to send a few suggestions for photo-must haves (tiny little newborn baby feet, anyone?). Don’t just jump into a session with someone who fits the right price, even though that is important. Choose a photographer who you can relax with and who will chat with your husband and get a photo with his eyes actually open. Someone who will make your kids giggle and avoid that dreaded Cheshire-Cat forced smile.
Remember to Smile
I have been so blessed to have great photographer friends who are so near and dear to my heart. And because of that, I am thankful to have their advice spanning years of family photos.
They have continually reminded me to not threaten my kids during or before a shoot, as tempting as it may be.
They’ve talked to my kids and asked me to step back so they could capture my kids totally at ease.
They’ve told me to walk, talk, and even whisper a secret to get a natural smile and easiness we all want in our photos.
But let’s remember to smile, ladies.
Even when the kids fight and our baby has a blow out right in the middle of the session. Let’s pour over our imperfect families with our imperfect children and not wish them to be any different or better. Let’s print photos of the belly laughs where it looks like we have double chins. And lets sit back and remember these moments just as they are: tiny bits of imperfection bathed in beautiful light.