This weekend, our family had a professional photo shoot for our annual photos. We actually had a great experience, which, if you have small children, you understand is no small feat.
This is definitely the time of year when families endure the grueling procedure of getting everyone in their clan to look happy and peaceful into the camera for a few minutes – all for the sake of sending out copies to loved ones.
Even though it can be a pain, in the end, it really is worth it to document your family in each life stage. Use the Christmas season as your excuse to take that photo, and make it your weekly project to prepare for the season.
Here are some ways to make the entire family photo experience a positive one:
1. Schedule the photo shoot when kids are at their happiest. Usually, at least for little ones, this means 5 to 6 p.m. is not the best time. You can’t always get the time you want, but if you have any control over this aspect at all, I highly recommend working your appointment around your kiddos’ routines.
2. That said – lighting is important, so you may have to be flexible. Bright, high noon sunshine is not ideal, so oftentimes, photographers prefer to shoot outdoor photos either in the morning or just before dusk. You might have to go with the flow and let your kids’ schedule be a bit different that day.
3. Speaking of photographers – if you want a professional photo shoot, but it’s out of your budget, try looking in your local Craigslist. Budding photographers are always wanting to expand their portfolio, so you may find someone offering a great deal. You can also try your church, your local university, or word of mouth with your friends – there’s always someone out there who’s wanting to expand their photography business.
4. Do your best to buy a package deal that gives you all the digital files for a flat price. This is much easier in the long run, because you’ll have control over all the printing. It might be more up front, but it’ll probably save you in printing costs over the long haul (especially when every. single. picture. is adorable).
Photo by Chelsea Elizabeth Photography
5. Coordinate, but don’t match. This is just my opinion, as I know many families like to wear the same outfit for their portraits. But in my experience as a holiday photo card designer, photos look better when everyone blends well, but not too much. To be honest, when I see a photo with the entire family wearing denim shirts, all I see is a sea of denim shirts – not the people.
6. Avoid patterns. It’s okay if one family member has a simple stripe or a basic design, but too many intricate patterns detracts from faces. If in doubt of what to wear, go with a simple, solid-colored shirt.
Photo by Andrea Janda
7. Go casual. Especially if you have little ones. I love photos that look like the family is relaxed, having fun with each other, and basically like they do most any other day of the year. Sure, go ahead and brush their hair and have them in clean clothes – but you’re probably fighting an uphill battle asking preschoolers to sit still more than a minute at a time.
8. When it comes to the setting, think outside the box. The background is not the most important subject of your photo, so keep your location simple. Many cities have beautiful parks and natural settings, but don’t forget about your backyard. Other fun settings are front porches, old buildings, fences, and even on your master bed – let everyone play around and get goofy.
Photo by Zulpha Dawson
9. Get closer than you think. If you’re going to take the photos (with a timer, or when it’s just the kids), I can’t emphasize this enough - get much, much closer to faces than you think you should. Faces are what you really want to see – so get right up there.
The beauty of digital photography is that you can edit, retake, retouch, and experiment in all sorts of ways. Have fun taking that family memento, and keep it relaxed and light-hearted.
For more tips on photography, check out:
- Digital Photography Tips for Beginners on Digital Photography School
- How to Take Great Group Photos, also at Digital Photography School
- 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits from, again, Digital Photography School (have I told you this is a great blog?)
- Let’s Discuss Photography at Mt. Hope Chronicles
- Here’s a post on my personal blog, where I link my favorite photographer’s sites
What are your tips for family photos? Have any plans to embark on that adventure this holiday season?