The long awaited day – family photos are here! You’re excited! And a little anxious if we’re being honest. You have a vision of how your want your session to go, but of course, you also have children and children can be unpredictable little creatures. We have photographed A LOT of families in Edmonton and the surrounding area and we also happen to have kids ourselves, so here are our top five tips to prep your kids for family photos and to (hopefully) avoid going into beast mode.
1. Pick the Right Photographer
There is an endless of list of photographers and photography styles out there. When you’re choosing a photographer, take the time to look through their portfolio and make sure their style of photography really appeals to you. The artwork they’re creating is something you will have forever and you should love it. So, if you know you want the posed smile and say cheese photo where each member of the family is dressed and positioned just so and then photoshopped to perfection, don’t pick a photographer whose portfolio is full of movement and interaction or an incredible wedding photographer whose portfolio is void of children. So, think about what you want….the beautiful everyday moments of a Day In The Life Session to capture your family as it now before all the little things change, an adventurous and free-spirited Lifestyle Family Session playing in your home, throwing stones in the river, or running through a golden meadow, or a series of classic portraits.
2. Know Your Kids
Kids…they’re all different, aren’t they. Of course, what you, the parent, wants is important, but you know your kids and need to think about their personalities and what photographic style is going to work for them. Both of us have kids that are wild little humans and for our family, the perfectly posed studio session is the stuff that tears and disappointment are made of. If your kids are happiest and the most themselves at home entrenched in your daily routine in their usual clothes (or favourite superhero outfit or princess dress), then that might be the best bet for an enjoyable experience for everyone. The same thing goes for if they’re little posers by nature or love to go running wild. If you consider what’s going to suit them best, family photos can be a tradition they look forward to each year.
I learned this term at a parenting workshop I attended last year and it applies not only to all children, but, really to all humans and if these four things are out of whack, the tempers and tears are going to be on the loose.
HUNGRY – ANGRY – LONELY -TIRED
So, regardless of the type of photo session you’ve decided on, make sure everyone is well fed, has gotten a good sleep the night before and naps for the little ones have been fit in. Things that seem trivial to an adult can be a huge deal to a child…if they desperately want to bring their favourite stuffy along, it’s no big deal and not worth the potential meltdown over it being left behind (in fact we LOVE when special things come along). Meltdown land…nobody likes meltdown land. Minimizing the risk of an epic crash also ties back to session planning. The most beautiful “golden hour” light happens in the hour and a half before sunset (or after sunrise, but we rarely get any takers on that end). In our area, that means in the summer months that gorgeous light is happening anywhere from 8:30 – 10:00pm. If your kids religiously go to bed at 7:30, their little internal night light is going to come on and the meltdown is likely to begin. Happy kids are waaaay better than perfect light and there are other options to do photos during the daytime to keep the angries at bay. That said, if you desperately want that golden light, then think more toward winter, spring, or fall when sunset is earlier in the day or if you have early risers, the morning hours are always an option, too.
4. Parents – It’s not just the kids
Kids are incredibly sensitive and are great barometers of their parents’ mood. Trying to get everyone ready and to any kind of appointment on time should be some kind of Olympic sport and stress levels are prone to climb. Try to plan ahead to avoid the panicked rush out the door, keep calm and carry on. Generally, photo sessions with us result in a certain amount of dirtiness and freedom as it’s such an inherent part of fun, but if you’re going with a different style and immaculate outfits are important to you, bring a spare – Barking at kids over a snack stain on their shirt isn’t going to help the situation. During the session, of course, if they’re hurting their siblings or whatever, parent as usual, but if they’re doing something that seems a little chaotic or not perfectly following direction, that’s okay. Any experienced family photographer is more than equipped to cope and often direction (for our style of photography) is meant as a suggestion anyway.
5. No Big Thing
Don’t build your family photos up to be a huge deal. When kids feel pressure mounting to ‘be good’ and ‘listen to the photographer’ and ‘don’t yet your nice outfit dirty’ it’s a recipe for disaster. For my own family photos a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even tell the kids a photographer was coming for family photos. I just said my friend was coming over to practice taking some pictures for the day and to carry on as usual. They knew someone was coming, presumably with a camera to hang out, but it was no big thing.
6. Throw Your Expectations Out the Window
Just relax and be in the moment loving your kids and enjoying the experience with your family. If the plan was photos in the meadow but your kids have discovered an irresistible puddle and are happily throwing stones, let them. If you desperately want your two-year old to wear a headband/hat/bowtie/heck I’ll even throw shoes in there, you’ve been practicing, and on photo day they’ve developed a sudden and absolute aversion to this particular item – take a breath, mourn the loss of the imagined photograph with said headband/hat/bowtie/etc and just let it go.
Okay, so that was six, but hopefully you find that helpful to prep your whole family for a fantastic family photo experience. Kids are kids, they’re going to freak out now and again, that’s part of who they are…it will change before you know it. If you think a Day in the Life or beautiful Lifestyle Family session with us would be the perfect fit for your family, we’d love to hear from you!
xx Aimee & Jenna