Family portrait sessions are all about having fun and letting your child’s personality come out. These sessions are not meant to be overly-posed and uptight. Instead they are meant to be relaxed, fun, and candid. When getting ready for your family portrait session you need to have a plan: what are you going to wear, poses you’d like to use, locations, etc. But being flexible and not setting your expectations too high can save the day and help avoid frustrations.
From the beginning of a session I am always looking for that raw emotion that comes naturally with a child. These emotions bring so much life to photographs. Although there will be times when we have to buckle down and get some more serious shots of everybody looking at the camera, for the most part we are just trying to capture your family being a family.
What to expect during a session.
- Warm up time. Before I even get my camera out, I would like to get to know your children a little bit better. My family portrait warm-ups take about 5-10 minutes depending on what type of personality the child has. This time is so important in gaining the trust of your child and helping them feel comfortable around me.
- No cheese please. Fake smiles just don’t cut it for me. Remember to be silly, play, laugh and let go. Make your family portrait session something to look forward to. I am looking for genuine interactions. Natural expressions and laugher trump that cheesy smile that comes out when we tell a kid to “smile.”
- Posing. People love candid photos. So do I. But pure candid photos in a portrait session rarely work well. Instead, I take a “coached candid” approach to posing. I don’t expect people to know what to do in front of the camera, which is why I will place you and your family in poses with hopes that your interactions will take the pose and make it feel like a natural and “candid.”
- Involve the whole family. To get everybody involved in the shoot is good idea! Letting your kids help with the outfit they pick out or letting them put the family in certain poses will help them to feel more powerful during the shoot and more likely to behave well.
- Give praise often. Affirming your family members involved in the shoot will help them be more confident in front of the camera. Things like “You’re a great listener,” “Oh my gosh, you’re so good at this… have you done this before?” or “What a pretty dress, it looks so great on you!” Be sure to encourage each other during the shoot. This also helps when a child is getting distracted or unruly, bringing the attention back to them in a positive light is better than having to reprimand them during the shoot.
Tips to prepare yourselves.
1. Come with a plan. What type of photos are you hoping to get out of this session? Express that plan to your photographer before the shoot begins so that they can make an effort to deliver that shot that you are hoping for the most. Do you want several shots of your family being fun, silly, and candid or do you want a shot of everybody looking at the camera with pleasant smiles? Coming up with a plan that has been communicated with your photography team will help you get the most out of your shoot.
2. Think about your clothing. Having a common color scheme is a good idea. Consider putting all the kids in one color palette and then the parents in a contrasting color. Accessories are always a fun addition to the shoot as well. Consider a scarf, a paperboy hat or suspenders! Do you want the image to be even more down to earth, consider doing part of the shoot without shoes! Or maybe your family loves Chuck Taylor shoes and you want to get a shoe shot of all of your feet! That’s a cute idea and part of the plan you should be coming with.
- Please make sure the clothing for the children are comfortable, the last thing we want is for them to be uncomfortable.
- Steer clear of bright clothing that might reflect a color on one’s face, like a bright pink or orange. These colors can change a person’s skin tone completely.
- I don’t prefer graphic t’s. You want these photos to be timeless and graphic t’s date a photograph.
3. Adult clothing and personal tips.
- Ladies. For clothing, take this opportunity to buy some really cute and quirky shoes. Consider buying a new dress or a nice blouse to wear with some cute jeans. Be yourself, but wear something you feel and look great in. Also, don’t forget your makeup & hair. This is a very important part of photography. I cannot express how important it is to have your makeup and hair looking top notch. Apply an extra coat of mascara, over-apply the blush. I have learned over the years that extra applied makeup doesn’t necessarily show up on film. It just defines your face. Although it may feel like it is a bit much, it never comes through on film that way. So don’t be shy about wearing fake eyelashes or applying that extra coat of mascara. It will look amazing.
- Men. Get a hair cut before your shoot. You guys always look so sharp after a fresh hair cut and a shave. If you are going for the more scruffy look (which I love) make sure you trim your beard. Don’t forget to put some product in your hair. We don’t want frizzy hair. Be sure to consider those eye brows and nose hairs. Two eyebrows are always better than one! In terms of makeup, if you have a blemish that may be red and irritated on your face consider asking your lady to help you cover it up. Just a touch of makeup doesn’t make you less masculine!
4. Letting go of expectations. I know I mentioned this above but although it’s good to plan and to come with certain hopes for the you shoot, be sure to not hold too tightly to your expectations. Being loose and not worrying too much about whether you’re getting every single shot you were wanting can take a little bit of pressure off of you and your family which will help everyone to relax. The perfect family photo may not necessarily be the one you envisioned. Open your mind, relax, and have fun. Above all, try to relax! If your child senses that you are stressed, they are more likely to become anxious about the whole experience. At times if the children aren’t being involved in the shoot, we may focus just one the parents while the child is having their moment and then bring them back into the shot after some time has passed.
- Be sure to prepare your kids for the shoot. Let them know it’s going to be fun! Reinforce the idea that this session will be fun and when they are done they get to go do something as a reward. Whatever that reward may be, it’s always a good idea to have something they can have when finished with the shoot as a way to keep them on track during the shoot. If that’s letting them run around and play at the park, then let them know you are going to take them to the park after the shoot to have play time. If the shoot happens to be in a park, be sure to not let them run around during the shoot or you will never get them back.
- When children aren’t being obedient, let’s play a game. Asking a little one “What can you do?” and having them show me how they are big enough to get into a certain chair or how they can stand in a certain place for a couple of seconds is a good way to get them to do something. Children are always eager to show you things they know and can do by themselves. For the older children playing the game of “word association” is a good one. You say a word and they say the first thing that pops into their head. This gets their mind off of the shoot for a bit and helps me capture some raw expression when I ask them what they think of when I say “swimming” or a sibling’s name.
Today I am writing to share with you one of my favorite day trips in the New England area. We live in Boston but travel frequently to many small towns outside of the area. The great thing about Boston is that you are a stone throw away from some of the cutest little towns on earth. All of these towns are quaint and full of character. You can pretty much count on me saying “this is the cutest town ever, I want to live here!” when we roll into these little towns. It’s true, I do want to live in these places that we visit because they are full of the New England character, history, and beauty. Most of them have an adorable church with a white steeple, a down-to-earth coffee shop that serves some yummy espresso, and typically a really cute library (which we are suckers for).
Newport, RI is beautiful. It’s a little city on the ocean with many walkable streets and piers that have boutique shops, coffee stops, and restaurants overlooking the water. I love visiting this little city in the summer because when the humidity (at times) is overwhelming in New England, this place makes it bearable. So lets talk about what you should do when you are in the city.
- Get coffee on the pier at The Coffee Grinder while overlooking the water. If you want to get away from Starbucks, you must walk out to The Coffee Grinder and enjoy a cup of espresso and a beautiful view.
- Explore the shops. There are many boutique shops that are fun to walk around and see, so don’t miss out on your shopping experience.
- Once you get tired of shopping, grab a bit to eat at one of the local restaurants that is on a pier. Take in some fresh air and enjoy the view.
- Rent your bikes. This is my favorite part of the day. We rent electric bikes from Scooter World. These bikes aren’t listed on their site but they rent for about $45 per person for four hours. An electric bike is a peddle bike that has the ability to go up to 30mph when you use it’s battery pack to accelerate. It’s less intimidating than a moped because it’s more like riding a bicycle except when you get tired you can give the handle a little turn to help you get up those hard hills. It’s an effortless ride while offering the option of pedaling for exercise.
- Ride 15+ miles in three hours and have time to sit at any given restaurant along the way to relax and take in more views. We do the Ocean Drive Route and stop off at Fort Adams along the way (Check it out HERE). This route brings you right through a bird sanctuary as well (so if you love birds, you have to do this!) By the end of our ride we typically go back through the city to sit at the Hyatt Hotel (a ten minute ride from Scooter World) . Their balcony over looks the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge and is a great last stop of your adventure. It’s so pretty.
- Last but not least. You must end your night with a delicious dinner at Anthony’s Seafood. The website needs a little help and their curb appeal isn’t that great, but the food is amazing and the price is definitely right. If you like fresh seafood like oysters ($7 for a half dozen), lobster dinner for two ($45ish – I can’t remember), the best new england chowder, and a bottle of wine ($14), then you better visit this place. It’s seriously amazing (check out their menu, HERE). Be sure to get there before they close at 9pm!
- Now, if you are wanting to stay the night, I have always wanted to stay at the America’s Cup Inn (see photo below) because it’s right downtown and looks like it’s the cutest place in town. Let me know if you have ever stayed there, I want to know what it is like!
- Last but not least, be sure to share this experience with somebody you love! We were blessed to have Drew and Kaylee come visit us from Washington state after they worked a wedding in Washington DC. Drew was Ryan’s best man in our wedding and Kaylee is a close photography friend that has been doing wedding photography for 10+ years. She has taught me so much and is always so sweet (and fun) to hang out with! If you are in the market for a great photographer in the Tri-cities area give Kaylee Eylander Photography a call.
Some other favorite towns in the New England area have been:
Portland, ME – Be sure to take a walk down Wharf St. (It’s one of those old cobble stone streets, so cute), eat at Gritty McDuff’s and get there Mac & Cheese, it’s to die for. Also, you have to go to the Bar of Chocolate and order a yummy dessert with a chocolate martini, they are amazing!
North Conway, NH – If you like covered bridges, this is the place to be. The city is super cute and always as activities throughout the summer (almost every weekend). It’s the starting point of Conway Scenic Railroad tours. We haven’t done this tour yet, but might do it this fall.
Providence, RI – Check out the italian district, Historic Federal Hill. You have to go to Pastiche Fine Desserts for a cafe and a pastry. This is the cutest little shop and area. It reminds me of my time in Europe. Providence is fun to visit for a couple of nights although I feel like it shuts down in the evenings, so the night life isn’t that great. But it is a beautiful city!
Portsmouth, NH – This is another one of my favorite walkable cities on the water. It has many cute shops and places to eat. This is my second favorite city in the New England area. I would move here if I wasn’t moving back to WA. If you like Mexican food, The Blue Mermaid is delicious. They have the best salsa, seriously.
Okay, here’s a couple of pictures from our Newport Rhode Island adventures. Enjoy.
Watch out the bike possy might get you!There’s my husband being a show off!!!!
Here is Ryan and I trying do that “sexy couple shoot” on the beach, to bad we couldn’t be serious and ended up laughing over our efforts!
Thanks Kaylee Eylander Photography for doing this beach themed shoot. I love it!
I remember when I was younger seeing photographs of myself on the family wall. It always gave me a sense of pride, like “Hey, that’s me up there on that wall!” Then as years passed, I grew fond of the fact that I was wearing a 1980′s multicolored vest that my mother had sewed, my hair was a mess, and that my teeth were so very crooked. The necklace seen in the photo is still in my possession (as shown above). Although I was a hot mess in this photo, I was always proud of the fact that I was on the wall. So what photographs are on your walls? My walls (of course) are covered with photos of our current family, past photos of our parents, and pictures of ourselves.
One of my professors always told me that self-esteem is higher in a child that sees photographs of themselves around the house than in a child that doesn’t see photos of themselves around the house. I don’t know if this is a proven fact, but I can see the logic behind his words. Any person that sees himself or herself displayed in photographs around the house, the office, or on Facebook is likely to feel good that somebody else is sharing a picture of them, because:
- They feel loved. The very fact that you are displaying photos of your children or significant other for people to see is an act of love and acceptance. Happy families tend to display large numbers of photos at the home.
- They feel pretty or handsome. Displaying a photo of somebody is an active way of saying, “I think you’re perfect the way you are and I want to share you with the world!” It’s also a great excuse to notice those pictures and remark how beautiful, handsome, or wonderful that memory was.
- They feel connected. If the photograph is of you with another person, it might bring back the emotion of being with that person or the memory of that moment. One of the best ways to make ourselves happy in the present is to recall happy times from the past. Photos prompt our memory, and because we tend to take photos of happy occasions, they weight our memories to the good.
In my opinion, a photograph isn’t a photograph unless it has a person in the frame. Images without a person are beautiful but don’t evoke the same kind of emotion I want to feel when looking at a photograph. When I see an image, I want to feel something. The emotion portrayed in photography can vary from an expression of joy, to concern, to tranquility, to horror or pain. Although these feelings can be felt when viewing a photo without a person, it’s just so much more poignant when you see a familiar face. It may be because people and relationships are the most important part of who we are. Documenting these relationships on film is a way to freeze in time a record of the emotion and a little bit of each person.
The importance of having photographs taken of yourself and loved ones is priceless. It makes me sad to hear people say they don’t want photos taken of themselves or they are always deleting photos of themselves because they don’t like the way they look. Over the years I have had to come to terms with the way I look in photographs. Although, there are many times that I look at a photo of myself and am not happy with it, I have to let it be and keep it. It’s a document, a record of myself and the person I was with at that time. For that very reason, I cannot delete it. I fear because everything is digital these days, we may be missing the point of photography. We delete several photos, store them on hard drives, and keep them hidden away because we are embarrassed by the way we looked. What a travesty! Photos are taken to be cherished and shared, not stored away and never to be seen.
Finally, a picture is something that records the trends in fashion, decor, the landscape, and what you looked like at that time. Once a photograph is taken it becomes a part of history. Mere words are a sorry substitute. Nothing records the past as well as in image.
Photo: Tyra – 5th Grade, left. Ryan – Senior, right.
Photo: Tyra’s parents – 1986/2013.
Photo: Ryan’s parents – 2012/1973(?).
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