FAMILY PORTRAIT GUIDE
First things first, THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity and honor of create archives for your family. My intent is to capture your children's spirit and individual personality, as well as your family’s magic, authentically. For your children, I want to record all their little nuances, their big world, their funny facial expressions, and, of course, their huge love. For your family, I want to photograph the heart of your connection, to create a lasting record that will stand the test of time.
All that raw beauty and magic, as naturally as it unfolds throughout our day-to-day, can also be hijacked quickly by a number of issues. However, many near-disasters can easily be avoided, and the magic can be finessed, if we work together to plan and prepare for the best possible photo session for your family. My hope in making this guide for you is that it will help you be the most prepared for our time together, which will in turn help me ensure that you walk away from our session with both beautiful images to enjoy now, as well as an authentic record of your most cherished times together, years from now; a story captured that you can pass down to your children and their children and so on.
Thank you so much for investing in preserving your memories, and for selecting me as the person to help you do so.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Through phone conversations and emails, we will decide together the best time and place to meet for our photo session. If we are meeting at your home, I ask that you not worry about turning on lights for me, as I prefer working with natural light. Instead please spend a few minutes before I arrive opening curtains and making the home as naturally bright as possible. White and light neutral bedding also helps reflect the natural light from the windows (though I’ve never met a colorful quilt I didn’t like!).
I will arrive without much fanfare, and greet your children as if I am just a friend coming over to play. I will get down on their level and talk to them without letting on that I have any expectations from them (and I don’t, really, other than for them to be themselves). I will take a look around – I may even ask your kids for a tour, depending on their age and receptiveness – and will then decide where we will start.
I generally like to begin with a more classic family shot, as kids tend to be their most cooperative right when we begin (when they haven’t yet figured out that I have a goal!). This photo may be the more posed family portrait, if this is something we have discussed you wanting. What it will not be is stiff or formal; we will play games, laugh hard, and enjoy ourselves even at our most serious moments. There is no screenplay for our session; if your kiddos or I decide we should start off just with one of them in their rooms, or doing whatever they were doing when I arrived, well so be it. We will casually roll from one situation/pose/area to the next, and if all goes as planned, it will feel natural and effortless as we move through our time together.
If you’re thinking Okay I hear you, you’re making me feel better, but what if I just absolutely despise being in front of the camera?OR My partner would rather mow the lawn/watch the game/DO ANYTHING other than be photographed,well then here’s my advice: talk to him/her about how important this is for you and for the family, and assure them that we will make it as much fun as is humanly possible. I will guide you into good light and ask you to readjust if something looks awkward, you will not be expected to just know what to do. But I will not push you around (too much!) or make you feel staged or awkward. My approach is very easy-going, and I assure you it will not feel strange once we start rolling. You will not be modeling; you will be parenting, while I stand by with my camera. It is hard to be uncomfortable or nervous when your kids are being themselves – because they don’t know how else to be! They will force you to pay attention to them, and in turn, you will (hopefully) forget I’m even there.
I promise to give the grown ups (and kids) breaks throughout the session, as needed, and to make it as painless as possible for everyone involved. If it would ease tensions to crack open a beer before I arrive, or better yet, serve mimosas with breakfast, well then I say go for it!
SLEEP + FOOD = HAPPY KIDDOS
I’m here to state the obvious: make sure your children get a good night’s sleep the night before. Ha! Easier said than done, I know. Kids so often do the unexpected and pull a late-nighter on the nights we need them to sleep the most. I have PLENTY of experience with this phenomenon; just try not to do anything that will cause a late bedtime the night prior to our session (ie please don’t schedule a sleepover, or host an event that night!).
Obvious point number two: Feed your kids! Really, like a nice big meal right before our session. Hungry kids are so not interested in cooperating with anything other than eating.
Also parents of babies who are on a vaccine schedule, make sure you don’t schedule your baby’s well visit in the two days prior to our session. I say this from experience, a post-shot one-year-old is NOT a happy camper at a family photo session.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
I know that "getting ready" for the shoot is daunting to the family being photographed--particularly the parent(s) coordinating the whole thing! (This is one reason I feel the need to state the obvious, because it’s those day-to-day things we forget to do as soon as we become stressed!) I’ve been there before and I know what it feels like. Of course, the last thing children need though is to feel is your stress; you may not even realize they are picking up on it, which is why I gently offer: Be mindful of the way you approach and talk about the photo session with your child/ children. The truth is that most of them don’t even need to know about it until shortly before I arrive. When kids sense a BIG DEAL they don't always respond with their best selves. If you do talk about it, stress how fun it's going to be.
ROLL WITH IT
If your children do melt down, shy away from me, cry, hide, or otherwise “flip out,” just know that as a mother of an imaginative and sensitive and intuitive child, I get it. Please don’t stress or be embarrassed in front of me. I have been there on both sides of it and I promise the best response is a no-stress, “ain’t no thang” attitude.
The rule while we are together is all rules are off the table (seriously, I will more than likely ask your child to dance on the table or climb on something they normally wouldn’t be permitted to). I am going to do things to make this as enjoyable for your children as possible. If I have to whisper potty words or make monkey sounds to help your children relax, so be it. If your children act up, refuse to cooperate, etc., please just let me do my thing, and trust that I will get you what you want. What will not get you those free-spirited, gorgeous, and cheerful family photos you’ve hired me to take, is if your child gets disciplined for misbehavior, or feels as if they’re being forced into something. While that seems obvious, it can feel incredibly stressful when they act up during that hour or so you just really need them to behave! I know, I completely get it, but the best results will come if you just relax and hand the reins over to me (and should I need you to step in, you better believe I’ll ask for help!).
CUT THE CHEESE
I would really prefer that you not instruct your children to say “cheese” as it tends to transforms a child's naturally lovely face into a strange and strained smile. As needed I'll ask questions that evoke natural expressions and actual laughing smiles rather than the contrived photo faces kids learn to put on.
SWEETS FOR YOUR SWEETIES?
If your kids are not “cooperating” do you need to bribe them? Maybe, but probably not. I find that more often than not, when kids are promised a reward for “being good” for the session, they focus on what’s at the end, rushing to be finished, and not giving it their all. I really just want to hang with your kiddo(s) for an hour or two and have them do their thing – they frequently won’t do this if they: a) feel the pressure, b) think they’re going to get something from it. However, you know your kid best, I trust that, so if you want to promise a reward, that’s your call. I also always carry small candies like Pez or Smarties, for the moments when we just need a little something to bring them back in the game; please tell me ahead of time if you are adamantly against my sharing a little sugar with your little sugars.
SHY GUYS (AND GALS)
There are some children who are very resistant to being photographed. If you have one of these children, talk to me about it. Although I am very familiar and comfortable with this situation, it is something we should discuss and strategize ahead of time.
JUST BE YOU
If you have a rad style of your own, the last thing I want to do is alter that, but if you are like 90% of parents out there, you’re wondering what the heck to wear, or you’re second-guessing your perfectly fabulous style now that it’s time to make a decision. In that situation, these are my key suggestions. I always suggest dressing you first in whatever makes you feel best, then dress the rest of the family, trying to keep in mind that you want your clothes to be complimentary not coordinated. I love bold patterns, bright colors and mixing stripes, plaids, polka dots and little animal faces - but like everything there are ways to make it work, and ways to make it look like a big confusing mess! Rule number one is to BE YOU - I don't want you to look like I styled you (unless you want that!) I want you to look and feel like your best selves! So, if it's you, then I want you to own it!
TIPS FOR STYLING YOUR FAMILY
Please don’t default to navy; while it’s a beautiful color that photographs well, please make sure you aren’t accidentally putting everyone in your family in navy blue! I don’t know why but this seems to happen more than you’d expect.
Layers, textures, long dresses that blow in the wind, thoughtful details (jewelry!), aim for somewhere between a family trip to the farmers market and drinks out with your girlfriends.
Stick with muted colors and fun prints for kiddos, but please avoid large logos, solid primary colors, or big bulky shoes like crocs or keens (bare feet or little leather sandals are much preferred!). Speaking of shoes, I’d much rather see a man in canvas tennies, leather sandals or flip flops than fancy dress shoes.
For your little babes thing soft solids or neutral mellow patterns, simple styles like onesies or bubble rompers, diaper and/or birthday suits! For newborns please have a good supply on hand of large gauzy swaddle blankets and any meaningful quilts or throws. Also have a change of clothes for babe in case moments of extreme drool/spit-up/poo occur. Try to avoid fancy clothes (collars, shoes, giant headbands) as they just compete for attention with baby.
It's best if you avoid huge swaths of bright green, red, blue, or black, usually, but of course every rule is meant to be broken and there are always outfits that fall under one of my "no" categories but are actually more of a "yes."
At this point your head might be spinning and you may be thinking she said she'd give me advice but all she did was confuse me! I get it, this can be really hard - I just ask that you rely on the fact that I've been doing this for nearly 10 years and I know a thing or two about what works well in photos and what doesn't. So please, if you want my input, lay out all your clothing options/choice on your bed and text a photo to me and I'll give you suggestions (I actually think its fun!).
Oh one last thing! While transition lenses may be lovely on your eyes when the sun shines, they’re anything but lovely in photos. If you wear them, please either bring another option or consider not wearing glasses.
HOME SESSION PREP
So I’m just guessing that the thought of planning out and prepping outfits for the whole family, making sure no one cuts their own hair, gives another a black eye, or shaves the dog in the week leading up to a photo session is stressful enough without considering the prospect of deep cleaning the entire house. Well before you start dropping multiple f-bombs, I’m here to tell you, that level of cleaning is not necessary.
It is likely that we will shoot in the parents’ bedroom, the children’s rooms, the main living area, any room with great windows, and the front porch/backyard; these are the areas you should tidy prior to our session. I want your home to have that lived-in (and loved-on) look, so please don’t let the cleaning get you down. Don’t bother making your bed as I’ll likely just mess it up! I live for little elements and details that tell your story – whether that’s a favorite toy, a wall gallery of kid-art, a pile of shells and rocks, or a beloved blankie – I want our time together to be all about what you want to remember.
With all of that said, I’d love it if any grimy child-sized hand smudges on glass doors or other windows at their level have been wiped away; mounds of shoes and piles of mail out of site, lotion bottles tucked into drawers, and pet hair removed from furniture. And I’ll never object to a jar of fresh flowers or a room full of plants, and may even move them around from room to room with us!
THAT OREGON WEATHER…
In late spring, summer, and early fall, I try to be as flexible as possible with rescheduling due to heavy rain. If we are planning for an outdoor session, even if just in part, we can make the decision about whether to reschedule the day before or morning of your session. I prefer to wait until the last possible moment as our weather can be unpredictable, and even sometimes prefer to make an attempt at shooting rather than rescheduling, particularly during the very busy months (late summer and early fall); I am very rarely entirely rained out of a session; I find we almost always get outside for at least part of our time together. And that wetness, well that’s just part of where we live, so sometimes we just have to embrace it! During the months of November through March, we need to assume that rain is a real possibility and should have an indoor option for our session.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email, call, or text me.
I AM SO EXCITED TO MAKE SOME MAGIC WITH YOU!