With every photo shoot, I always have three main goals:
To me, that is what photography is all about. It’s a chance to stop and preserve the beauty of everyday moments. And I strive to send clients’ galleries that I myself would want of my own family. And this is the yardstick I use to rate my own work.
And so in order to accomplish that … to truly accomplish that, it’s my job to put clients at ease. To make them forget about the camera. So here’s the big secret… time. Simply time. (Well.. kid bribery never hurts either!) It takes time for people to feel comfortable in front of the camera. And it takes time for me to extract true, genuine emotion. The most successful shoots are always the ones where clients approach the session relaxed with the idea of making memories as opposed to capturing perfect ones.
Lots of us (me included!) aren’t all that comfortable or confident in front of the camera. It’s understandable. The mere sight of a camera often floods people with all their insecurities. I get it. I’m not all the different… I’d like to loose ten pounds first too! But the fact remains… this is me and I want to remember and preserve these family memories for years to come. And I guarantee you, what I see as a photographer and what the camera sees is love, connections, squeezes + hugs, smiling eye wrinkles, wind-blown hair, fantastic freckles, sweet dimples, tooth-gaped smiles. We should all celebrate the uniqueness that is us. Those are the images I strive to capture, and those are the memories I hope you’ll want to decorate your homes.
So with all that being said, here are a few of my tips for you to help your family’s truest emotions shine through in your session.
1. Relax. Just try to relax. It will make all the difference. The kids may be crabby, they may be sick, they probably will skip their naps and spit up on your clothes, but try to take it in stride. Dads and older brothers won’t want to take pictures. There will be a big fall with a gash on someone’s face ten minutes before you leave the house. I wish I could say this enough . . . to be very honest . . . the colds and lack of naps won’t show up in their images. I can make those go away, but the parents gritted teeth smiles will remain.
2. Time – give yourself plenty of it. Don’t rush yourself. Get clothes ready in advance and have everything ironed and ready to go. And don’t try to squeeze in a session between a million other plans. Kids pick up on the tension. And it won’t be fun for anyone.
3. Think of it as a time to make memories or adventures. Approach a photo shoot as a time to have fun and spend time with your family in a new setting. Tell your kids a great story about this adventure. (As opposed to saying that they MUST take photos and they MUST smile). When I took Halloween photos of my little guy as a fighter pilot and he didn’t feel like cooperating, I told him a story. I told him that we were clearly lost in the woods after he crashed his jet fighter and had to eject himself. Now he must sit down and wait (on a very specific log with good lighting) for the rescue helicopter to spot him and take us home. Not only did he fully cooperate, we both had fun, and he loves and often asks to see his “real” fighter pilot photos. And, even better, (fingers crossed) I hope to be fostering a life long love for creativity, imagination and adventuring.
4. Wear something you’re comfortable in. Wear something that makes you feel good and then rock it. It’s like being dressed up at a wedding, everyone can tell when that dress doesn’t fit and makes you uncomfortable. Of course, they can’t actually tell from the dress. They can tell from you. (Jump over here for some super helpful tips on what to wear for your photoshoot).
5. Get close – Get really close together when taking photos. Photographers don’t always tell you the truth… they tell you to squeeze in so they can get everyone in the frame. They just can’t truly say “squeeze in so that you look like you like each other.” Gaps between people (even though they may seem small at the time) actually create a huge disconnect in photos. So squeeze in close. Look like you love each other.
6. Watch your Hands – Hands are so important when photographing families. Hands are what show connection and relationships. While it’s my job to generally direct posing, keeping this in mind will help a great deal. Said another way, make sure both of your hands are doing something. When your children hold on to you, hold them back. I often have to remind myself of this when I’m taking self-portraits with my kids. Since no one’s directing me, I always ask myself where are my hands and what they’re currently doing? My kids, like yours, have very different personalities. My oldest is my snuggler. He curls up and gets right in there snuggling away. He always hangs on to my arm or shoulder or something. So I just have to remember to grab him back. My youngest is a typical boy. He doesn’t like to be snuggled at all. Instead he just sort of launches himself at you and lands wherever. For him, I make a conscious choice to bring him in closer and keep the connection. And you can see all that in our images. And I love that. Because not only does it give me a chance to see how my kids look at me, but it also shows their individual personalities and individual relationships they have with me. What a gift to be able to see all that in one image and preserve it.
7. And my last piece of advice… LAUGH – because this should actually be fun. (Or at least not too painful).