Best case scenario, meet the photographer to ensure there is mutual chemistry between the two of you. Even better, bring your kids with you to see how they and the photographer relate to each other. Most photographers perform better when they have a good connection with a family… and it shows in the pictures. Also review a photographer’s online portfolio, pricing and policies, and look at their social media pages and customer reviews on third party websites. If you want a large portion of your session to be in black and white, find a photographer who loves black and white. If you want a natural, candid session with minimal posing, find a photographer whose existing work reflects that. Don’t waste time and energy hoping that the photographer will understand your vision, rather, find someone whose work communicates that.
All too often people spend the day(s) before their photo session running around to the dry cleaner, hair stylist, and novelty stores for last minute purchases and props. Instead, plan the look you want a few days before and don’t be shy about asking your photographer to help you prepare for your session. He or she knows what to expect during a family photo session and will be happy to share their tips with you so your family will be comfortable and relaxed the day of the shoot. Have everyone try everything on beforehand. It is often hard for families to recover from a day of being nagged, so set expectations ahead of time. And try to spend time enjoying yourself and your kids a few hours before your session.
Instead of looking for top-to-bottom looks for everyone in your family, look in each closet for color themes. For a soft, elegant look, choose neutral colors with soft, flowing fabrics. Want to showcase the fun and spunky side of your family? Choose coordinating colors with bold accent colors to complement each other (but not matchy, matchy which would make you compete with each other). Including fun accessories like scarves, headbands, hats, etc. can add a modern twist and sassy flair to your images.
Kids are smart and they love feeling big and informed. Tell them a “professional photographer” is coming over. Show them the clothes they will be wearing, involve them in the discussion of what you will be doing and where you will be doing it. New people and places can be unsettling to kids especially to toddlers melting down in the afternoon hours. So do what you can to turn your photographer into a new friend familiar to your kids before the session.
Bring your kids’ favorite toys or treats and give them to your photographer to use when he or she needs to get their attention. But don’t overuse them or they’ll lose their magic. Kids need far less prompting and are much better at candid expressions than adults. Don’t needlessly bribe them, it, too will lose its magic. If the photographer gets to say that your family goes out for frozen yogurt afterwards, your kids will be far more apt to cooperate.
Pick a time when your kids are usually well behaved. If they’re grumpy in the morning, don’t plan a morning photo shoot and expect them to be pumped about it. Bring their favorite snack as long as it’s not messy and they can eat it hands-free (no red teeth or chocolate chins needed!). But bring an extra set of clothes and some paper towels just in case!
All too often parents get nervous when their child isn’t looking at the photographer or smiling “right”, causing their child anxiety and robbing the photographer (and themselves!) the chance for candid portraits. Seasoned family portrait photographers know how to make your children feel comfortable so let them work their magic. After all, you’re paying them to create just that, right?