Thursday, September 12, 2013

7 Steps to prepare for your family photos!

You have done it.  You have scheduled your family photo session – Finally!  You can already envision the pristine beautiful pictures hanging in your house of your beautiful smiling kids and spouse and maybe even the family dog...all sitting, smiling, happy.  You can’t WAIT until you get to your photo session.
The Mexiner Family - A lot of people, A lot of fun!

The day finally arrives…eeeek!  You get everyone up early. Shower, do hair, make-up, dress everyone’s new matching outfits.  Brush the dog, and off you go. Oops you forgot to feed them – oh well, AFTER you are done everyone gets to go to lunch, dinner, ice cream, whatever. This is going to be great!!!!

You arrive at the designated location. It is perfect. Then the kids look out and say “ Why are we here?”  You remind them that it is family picture day!  You spouse, simply inquires “How long will this take?”  A tad bit irritated that they don’t recognize ALL the prep work you have put into this event – you say, “just a little while."  Irritated but determined, you forge ahead and meet the photographer.  You discuss what you want and go over a shot list from your head with the photographer. You tell them of all the great shots you want to get. The different looks, etc.

My kids entertaining each other....Of course a smile for mom - was not easily obtained. But of all the pics - I actually like this one the best.  They didn't even know I was shooting them!
The photographer with your vision in mind is ready, so you all head out to start.  Then, then it all starts to fall apart.  The kids, whom you forgot to feed, are hungry, whining and not cooperative.  The spouse, who doesn’t want to be there, is now irritated that the kids are whining.  The photographer is trying to get everyone to smile, but on top of hungry tummies; one kid is looking sideways,  one is frowning, the other is smiling with their teeth only, and the spouse has a plastered on smile that looks like something out of Chucky. You curtly tell everyone to “Smile!  BIG! BE HAPPY!”  You stare down your spouse,  tell your kids to cooperate, and try to pretend your blood isn’t boiling…and thus begins the family photo session melt down. There it goes,  your visions of that perfect family photo hanging above the mantle have dissolved into praying the photographer can get just one good shot of everyone smiling and not looking mad. Sound familiar?
How do I know this scenario so well?  Well, I have been on both sides of the camera, and let me tell you – THIS happens all the time.  I have many pictures of my own children – all gussied up, on location, the prefect plan for the perfect pictures.  They were all happy and smiling and as soon as we met with our friend with a camera in his hand… POOF – the cooperation, smiles, anything symbolizing a worth-while picture adventure vanished. I have lived the parental nightmare of a family photo shoot gone wrong. I have also shot the family photo shoot gone wrong – so I compiled a list of helpful hints to arm yourself with prior to the shoot.

1.       Go with the flow.  Kids are kids. Simple as that. They do not have the capacity to reason.  If they did – parents wouldn’t be so tired all the time.

This is what they prefer to do....mug for the camera...It captures who they are!
2.      FEED THEM!  Please make sure everyone has eaten. There is no getting around a hungry child. They are grumpy. Period.  Also bring snacks, treats, candy anything they like – BRIBE them!  IT WORKS.

3.      Use their personalities to get the shots. When I take pics I try to incorporate as much fun for them as possible. I have to do this with mine. I simply tell them “Look, I need to get some good normal smiling pics, once I do that – then just be yourselves.  Be silly – I don’t care, do whatever.” I get GREAT photos by doing this. I do it for clients too. 
4.      Let them take breaks. Kids, dads, dogs, they need a break here and there. It makes for a longer shoot but smiling gets old. 

5.      Be open to ideas.  This isn’t a fashion shoot, with models, hair and makeup and tons of lights,  it is your family.  Let everyone be involved with the shoot and participate.  This gets everyone actively involved and you might be surprised at the results!

6.      Get the shots you really want early.  Get the family, kids shots you really want first.  Often times the kids are cooperative for the first round of photos and that is the best time to make sure you get the pics you want. After you get the shots you “need” then let the photographer and you and your family get creative and see what you come up – it is fun and often rewarding in the end! 

7.      Participate in the shoot. Don’t think that the photographer has all the answers – provide suggestions.   
Other than that have fun, relax and have a great shoot.


I took this picture when getting ready to head out for the day.  I thought it was cute the way my kids were sitting waiting for me – however once I pulled the camera out they became uncooperative.  I went with it, let them be goofy and ended up getting a great picture!
I took the picture to the right during a family shoot – we decided to shoot in the reeds – because it looked like fun. 
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Paige Donahoe

Twisted Branch Photography