Family photos are a treasured keepsake that everyone loves to have. The trouble is getting your dream pictures to become reality. I reached out to my friend Kim Monson of kim j photography and she shared her insights as a mom and a photographer and together we have put together this guide for you. If you are dreaming about getting gorgeous photos of your family, here are some tips and tricks to help you plan the perfect family photo shoot and get the images you are hoping for.
Start with a goal
Are you hoping for a Christmas card image or a wall art? Knowing this in advance will help you plan your photo shoot so that you end up with the right image for your needs.
When choosing your photographer there are three main things to keep in mind:
A) Budget - Find out in advance what your photographer charges for sitting fees, editing and prints. Do they offer an option to purchase a print release or do you have to order your images through them? Plan out what images you will need so you can calculate all your costs and stay within your budget.
B) Style - Each photographer has a distinct style. Do a little research to see what types of photos they share on their website and on social media. Do they match the ideas you have in your head for your own photos?
C) Qualifications - It is tempting to ask a family member or friend to take your photos and sometimes that works well. Be sure, however, that they do have the skills you need to get the photo you have in mind. Many photo shoots, like senior pictures and baby photos, are a once-in-a-lifetime event and you want to make sure to get a variety of photos that you will treasure.
Choose clothing that reflects your family's personality. You will also want to avoid being too matchy matchy with colors and styles.
Pinterest is a great source for inspiration for your wardrobe. Be sure to choose a color scheme and style that is flattering for everyone. You'll get more genuine smiles if your family feels good about how they look. I made a Pinterest board on wardrobe ideas to help you with color schemes and clothing options. Check it out!
Also keep in mind where you will be using the photo. Are you hoping to hang prints on the wall in your home? Then you should choose a color scheme that will look good with the colors of your home.
Think about meaningful locations for your family photos. We always take our family pictures on our land so the setting is familiar and reinforces the feeling of home.
Are you a sporty family? If so you could take some pictures at your favorite ballpark. Or is there an aspect of your heritage you'd like to capture? My friend requested family photos taken on her family's farm. We were able to capture this photo, which is extra special now because the barn has since fallen down.
Time of Day
There are a few reasons that time of day is important. First, if you have small children you will want to avoid nap times. Choose a time that works best naturally for the children. If they are happiest in the morning or early evening choose that time.
Second, if you are shooting outdoors, the angle of the sun will have a dramatic impact on your photos. You will want to avoid shooting in the afternoon when the sun is directly overhead. When the sun is high it can cause unflattering shadows and harsher lighting. Shooting in the morning and in the hours before sunset will give you more flattering light and warmer tones.
If you do have to take photos in the afternoon, choose areas of shade. And if you're really creative you can make the shadows work in your favor.
Show your personality
Be you. For example, if your family is more casual don't try to dress everyone up in clothes they will only wear once. As mentioned before, choose outfits that reflect who you are in real life.
The same goes for your poses. Choose relaxed, casual groupings instead of stiff, formal shots. Be aware of space between people. Everyone should squish together more than they usually would, because empty space between people in photographs reads as awkward.
Sometimes it's best to skip the poses all together. Lifestyle photography is a style that allows everyone to just interact naturally during the photo shoot. This captures photos that reflect your relationships and real life family dynamic.
I like a combination of relaxed poses and lifestyle shots in our family's photo sessions. Think about which shots you would like before the shoot and communicate that with your photographer so they can be sure to capture those moments for you.
Props can be a useful and fun addition to your family photos. Choose props that reinforce your theme or color scheme so they tie in with the look you are trying to achieve. You don't want the prop to become the focal point of your shoot instead of your family.
Seasons add a beautiful backdrop for your photos. We love taking our family photos in the fall. There is something about the warmth of the autumn colors that resonates with us. Do you have a favorite season? If you are a lake family you may want to schedule your pictures in the summer and choose the lake for a setting. If your family loves downhill skiing perhaps you will want to schedule a winter shoot. Schedule your photo shoot for a season that reflects your family's personality.
If you are planning an outdoor photo shoot, be prepared for any possible weather issues. Have a backup location in case of rain. If it's a hot day have plenty of water on hand.
Take breaks to allow people to cool down or warm up. I recently took photos of a family on a cold autumn morning. It was a three generation family with lots of people and quite a few children. We took turns photographing different groups giving each time to go inside and warm up between their sessions. This kept the children happy and comfortable and helped everyone in the photos to look more relaxed.
And sometimes you can use the weather to your advantage like Kim did with this photo shoot...
Schedule in advance
Start planning your photo date as early as possible. Photographers are often booked up well in advance, especially during popular photo months like July through October.
It can be especially tricky to find a date that works if you are planning a photo shoot with extended family. Plan as far in advance as possible to find a date that works for everyone and then lock it in with your photographer and have everyone add it to their calendars.
Get Everyone On Board
If you are lucky your family LOVES having their photo taken. If your family is like mine, though, they probably aren't very thrilled about the whole thing. Try to be understanding. It helps to communicate how you are feeling, too.
We had family photos taken a few years ago and I was dreading it, mainly for the reason that I knew my family would complain about it. Finally I told them how I felt. I explained that I wasn't very excited about the photo shoot either but that I really wanted nice photos of our family to remember this time in our life. Once they knew how I felt they were more understanding and cooperative and we ended up having a fun time.
Tips for the day of the photo shoot
Here are some things to keep in mind the day of the photo shoot.
Head to toe check
Check out everyone's clothing to make sure nothing will be distracting in the photos. For example, watch out for white socks with black shoes. The focus should be on everyone's faces.
Watch for distracting elements in the background. For example, you don't want a tree to look like it's growing out of someone's head. Scan the background before taking photos and watch everyone's placement.
Glare from the lenses in glasses is something that is nearly impossible to fix with editing software. Transition lenses are especially difficult. Your best bet is to remove the lenses from the glasses before the photo shoot. (I recommend having your eye clinic remove the lenses to avoid damage to the frames.) That way the person with glasses will still look like themselves but the lens glare will not be an issue.
Pay attention to where everyone is placing their hands. A random hand on a shoulder can look a bit like Thing from the Addams family. Watch out for awkwardness showing in the hands, too. You want everyone to be relaxed and natural, or at least look that way.
If pets are a special part of your family you may want to include them in the photos, too. They can, however, be a handful to photograph. Have treats and toys as incentive for them. Also remind everyone else to continue to look at the photographer and not the pet while she catches the animal's attention. And try to capture some spontaneous photos of everyone interacting with the pet, too.
Have something planned for after the shoot as a reward for everyone. The family I discussed previously promised their grandchildren's favorite pancake breakfast as a reward once the pictures were taken. What would be a treat for your family?
End with an activity
Sometimes it's not about capturing a memory - it's about creating one. My friend, Kim Monson, is a professional photographer who encourages her clients to relax and enjoy the photo session. She loves having her families end their photos shoots with an activity.
For example, you could have a picnic and get photos of the kids eating eating watermelon. In the winter you could all make snowmen together. You could even get wild and crazy and have a water fight in a lake or even a mud fight! The family below did this and it resulted in spontaneous, high energy photos that they will treasure for years and a fun story to share with their friends.
Getting your photos taken isn't the last step, though. Once you have your pictures make sure you use them. That's the whole point of the photo shoot anyway.
If you are planning to use the photos on Christmas cards make them up right away. You will thank yourself in December when you are busy shopping, wrapping and baking.
Think about wall art, too. If you have a nice collection of images from your photo shoot you may want to create a gallery wall in your home.
You can also choose your favorite photo and create a special canvas print from it. Custom canvas prints with a family's photo and special wording added are some of my most popular requests. The wording can be a name or a saying - whatever suits that family best. Here are three examples:
To get started, simply send me your photo and wording and I will be happy to make you a proof so you can see how your photo could look on canvas.
Canvas prints also make excellent gifts. While you are making one for yourself consider making one for grandparents or parents, too. That is one gift they will treasure for years.
I hope these tips and tricks will help you capture family photos that will showcase your family's personality and make lasting keepsakes for years to come. A special thank you, again, to Kim Monson of kim j photograhy for sharing her photos and insights for this article.