There are so many stressors that come up when you book a family photo shoot. The thought of spending a significant amount of time, money, and effort getting your family camera ready can be daunting so I’ve written this to try and get yourself organized and take the pressure off.
6-12 Months Prior to Session
This is the time you should think about booking your shoot, especially if you are looking for a specific date in mind. Photographers book up quickly during busy season which is typically May through August in the summer and then again in late September through mid November in then fall. This is my experience in New York, and will probably be different depending on the area that you live in.
You should also be considering:
- Find a photographer that suits your needs/style.
- Booking a tentative date/pay retainer fee.
- Fill out a client form (if your photographer sends one) that tells him/her about your family.
- Discuss who will be at the shoot/any concerns or personality conflicts.
One Month Prior to Session
This is the time to try and figure out your wardrobe. This seems to be the most stressful part of the process. Coordinating a family of three, four, five + is daunting. What I can say is that your clothing is not as important as it may seem. If you’ve chosen the right photographer then any of the focus of the photographs should be you and your family, and not your clothing. That being said, first choose a color scheme of two to three colors that you love to wear and make your choices around those colors.
Style MOM first. When mom has a comfortable stylish outfit to wear everything is golden! Chose from your existing wardrobe first and if there is nothing that feels good then go shopping. Shopping online is the easiest way of coordinating since you can easily narrow your choices if you know what colors and pieces you’re looking for. I suggest shopping at stores that you love so you get clothing you love and sizing you’re familiar with. Don’t be afraid to incorporate patterns, but avoid anything with a logo, neon colors, or clothing with Disney characters as they are distracting and can often create a color cast on your skin. The best rule of thumb is find clothing that ‘goes’ together rather than ‘matches’: patterns, textures and colors that are in the same color scheme rather than a uniform of the same tops and bottoms.
Some photographers offer help with this, and some even have client wardrobes to choosing from. I try to contact my clients around this time to offer help with wardrobe styling. Clients text me their ideas and I give feedback, or I offer in-person styling as well. The goal is to make you feel comfortable, relaxed, and timeless so that you can enjoy your photos and be relaxed during your session.
How to choose a wardrobe:
- Choose a color scheme of 2-3 colors.
- Style Mom first, then work around her clothing choice.
- Shop in your closet and then move to online shopping.
- Avoid neon, character shirts, and logos.
- Remember: things should ‘go’ together and not ‘match’.
- Lean on your photographer for advice–that’s what you’re paying for!
One to Two Weeks Prior to Your Session
During this time it is a good idea, if your photographer hasn’t already, to contact him/her and finalize your location, wardrobe and time of your session. These things often change from the time you booked your session. There are a few things for you to note.
Location: Your photographer most likely has a few different locations where they photograph at. While you might have some suggestions it is best to leave that up to them. Locations are scouted for the best lighting, scenery and convenience before your session even takes place. I wouldn’t want to bring a family to a location site unseen to shlep them around with their family to figure these things out. Talk to your photographer about what you’re looking for. I offer sessions on the beach, in a wooded area near water, and near a scenic pond. I allow my clients to choose from those locations and offer examples of them on my website so they can see what they look like. .
Session time: There are times during the day that where the lighting is the least flattering. I rarely shoot between the hours of 11am and 3pm and prefer as close to sunrise or sunset as possible. I know there is nap time, and bed time, and snack time, but this is is the time to make some exceptions and try to work around these things. Trust me, you will thank me later.
Things to consider:
- Finalize your location with your photographer.
- Set your session time.
- Finalize your wardrobe choice.
One to Three Days Prior to Session
Take this time right before your session to talk to your kids about what to expect. Talk about who your photographer is and what they will be doing. Go to the photographers website and show them a picture of how they look from their ‘about me’ page. Get them familiar and comfortable with them so when the time comes they don’t feel so much like a stranger. It is often good to refer to your photographer as a friend and tell them their name. If you’ve booked a session that is lifestyle, like the ones that I offer, talk with them about how to act in front of the camera. Some kids see a camera and automatically say ‘cheese’ with a sloppy grin. While this is great for a few shots, it is not the desired effect you are looking for when you hire me. Tell them that you’re going to play games and have fun and that they don’t need to look at me unless I ask them to. Try and convey that it will be a fun time outside playing games and snuggling.
How to talk to your kids about your session:
- Discuss what will happen in advance.
- Show them a picture of your photographer and get them comfortable with how they look and who they are.
- Talk about how to act around a camera if they don’t need to look and smile.
- Tell them you’ll be playing games and having fun!
Day of your Photo Session (or night before)
The day of your photo session can be very stressful. Getting your family and yourself dressed and looking great can put a lot of pressure on anyone. To minimize this pressure try to get the following done a few hours before or if possible even the night before. Gather any items that will keep your kids calm. Prepare your diaper bag with snacks and water bottles, change of clothing, and a pacifier if your kids use them. Make sure that the snacks you choose won’t get your kids hands or clothing messy. Veggie straws, pretzels, or crackers are a good choice.
On the drive over to the location try to remind your kids about what will happen. Tell them that they are going to play games, go on a hike, and have fun! I always advise parents to make the photo session itself the activity for the day if possible. If you frame it as an activity rather than a chore they are less likely to complain. Once you add in a reward for acting ‘good’ kids pick up that this is not something to look forward to. Try not to dangle a lolly or a prize over their head to behave. The kids will have fun if you are!
I will also recommend that you BREATH and relax! Don’t worry about the kids behavior, I’m certainly used to it. The pictures will come out gorgeous regardless–you’re not seeing what I am!
Tips to remember:
- Fully stock your diaper bag with snacks that aren’t messy.
- Remind your kids that they’re going to have fun.
- Make the photo session the activity for the day.
- Breath and relax!
Chana Grossman is a photographer based in Long Island, New York. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 347.301.4622