So you've got the date saved, the outfits all coordinated and even scheduled a hair cut for the hubs. Now you're just hoping that when your family photography sessions begins that your precious (and rambunctious) kiddos will just behave long enough to get a handful of decent images. You love your children and all the personality that comes with them, but you can't help but worry that their true selves (and true smiles) won't be reflected in your gallery.
Hey, sister...I hear you and I've been there. Grab a cup of coffee, take a breath, and let me help you out. Contrary to what the title suggests, most of my tips have more to do with you than your kids. (Great news, right!? You're in control of you!)
Tip #1 - Tell your children what will happen at the session. The day before is great. Kids don't typically have great short-term memory unless it's related to ice cream. Tell them who they will be meeting and where they will be going. (Ex: "Tomorrow we're going to take some family pictures with Jamie at the park. She can't wait to meet you!") You could pull up your photographer's website and let them see a picture of the person behind the camera and some images from other sessions. You could also bring out photographs from previous family sessions to help them understand.
Tip #2 - Allow time for everyone to get acquainted. Arriving to a new place in their best clothes makes kids excited, and sometime apprehensive. Whether they arrive with enthusiasm and smiles or hiding behind your legs - they need time to adjust before stepping in front of the camera. Let them have 5 minutes to show off new shoes, explore the new landscape and get comfortable. If they have this time, I promise it will make the rest of the session so much easier.
Tip #3 - Stay positive. I can't stress this enough. As much as we would love to become puppeteers and control their every move - it's just not reality. No matter how they are feeling or behaving, kids will always respond better to gentleness and positivity. Keep from shouting instructions or threatening punishments. This stresses them out and they don't have the coping skills that you do.
Tip #4 - Let there be one voice. As a parent, you are used to being the voice of authority and instruction 24/7. I also know that it is every parents intention to be helpful. My advice is to allow my voice to be the one they hear instructing them. Kids can very quickly feel overwhelmed when several people are guiding them at the same time. When the session begins, take some time introducing me to them and letting them know that I will be helping them know what to do. This way they expect my help and know they have your permission to listen.
Tip #5 - Share any specific behaviors, disabilities or difficulties your child may have. I know that these things are very personal and you want your child protected (especially from judgement and misunderstanding). If your child has ADHD, Sensory Disorders, physical or mental handicaps, or may be negatively triggered by certain words and touch - it is very helpful to know this in advance.
You have my promise to keep this information confidential and to be sensitive to your family's needs. I want to make sure that your child feels comfortable and doesn't have to overhear you discussing their personal struggles when everyone arrives.
Tip #6 - Let them have some freedom. This is where we work together the most. It doesn't take long for kiddos to become exhausted with posing (even though there isn't much posing involved). If they get distracted or become unwilling to participate - don't get upset. Allow them to wander a bit (not too far) and feel a little control for a moment. I usually use this time to get candid images and play along to let them know this is a fun time. After a few minutes, both you and I can work together to redirect attention back to the next part of the session.
More than anything else, I want you to know - you're children are AMAZING! As a mother, my strongest desire when introducing my children to new people is that they would see them and love them like I do. I want you to know that I think you're kiddos are awesome and all the silly, sassy, bashful and curious parts of their personalities are as well.
If you planned on having spring family photos taken in 2020, chances are that COVID-19 changed those plans for you. As our lives are slowing returning to "normal" and your getting those roots touched up, split ends trimmed and a fresh coat of shine and simmer on your nails - the next item on the list is to FINALLY get those pics scheduled. It's made the list if for no other reason than to have record that y'all survived! (Am I right?!)
The summer heat can make a family photography session a challenge - especially in the humidity of Southern Oklahoma. So before you set the family up for a sweat-fest, let's talk about what you can do to make your summer session fun and enjoyable.
WORK WITH THE SUN - NOT AGAINST IT
The best time of day to schedule your session is during Golden Hour - about an hour before sunset. Why, you ask? When the sun is low on the horizon it creates beautiful color and a softer light than in the middle of the day. Both harsh shadows (not so complimentary on the face) and heat can be avoided by scheduling at Golden Hour. Want another bonus? You could also score an epic sunset image!
If Golden Hour doesn't work for your family, consider a morning session. Scheduling about an hour after sunrise can hold similar benefits.
CLOTHING IS KEY
When considering how to coordinate your family's attire, choose clothing that is breathable and comfortable. Avoid layering fabrics and consider pieces that fit loosely.
HYDRATION AND BRIBERY
Make sure that everyone arrives to the session properly hydrated and bring some water (even a cooler) with you for afterwards. You may even consider packing a few popsicles or other cold treats in the cooler as a reward for your child's cooperation (it's okay if all your best parenting strategies are put on hold for an hour to get your child's best smiles - no judgement here!) You could also make plans to visit your local ice cream store on the way home.
FIGHT THE FRIZZ BEFORE IT STARTS
Girl, I KNOW how frustrating it can be to spend all that time styling your hair to perfection only to see it poof into a giant frizz ball the moment you open your car door. After all the hard work that went into getting your family here in one, flawlessly coordinated piece - this just seems to be the thing that makes you want to throw in the towel.
Here's some advice to get you from losing your cool and keeping the doo looking gorgeous.
Consider skipping shampoo the night before. For some of us, it's our normal hair routine to wash every other night, and some of us it's not. If you have frizz-prone hair, skipping a day of hair washing may help to keep your hair from drying out and poofing up. When styling your hair, use a hair serum to promote conditioning and shine. Once you're through styling, use an anti-frizz hair spray to set it all in place.
LET'S TALK TAN LINES
When you get the perfect outfit nailed down, check to make sure that it doesn't expose any tan lines. If it does, take some time in the sun prior to the session to correct the lines, use a self-tanning lotion, or make an adjustment to the outfit. Guys are not excluded! Make sure your man doesn't have tan lines from his favorite hat or sunglasses (yes, that little line above the ears DOES SHOW).
SUNSCREEN - ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA
No matter what time you schedule your session, keep that beautiful skin protected. Apply sunscreen BEFORE you get dressed and put on make up. This way, it has plenty of time to dry and everyone is ready when you arrive. Applying sunscreen when you arrive equals frustration ('cause it never goes on fast), white smears, spots on clothes, and that yucky, sticky feeling.
PLAN SOME COOL OFF FUN
If your family is up to it, plan for the last part of the session to be tons of fun in the water. Not only will it be refreshing, but it will also make for amazing photographs. You could splash in the water at a lake, have a water fight, or just simply dip your feet in from the safety of a dock. Of course, if you do decide to go this route, make sure you pack extra clothes and towels for the ride home.
NOW GO HAVE THE BEST SUMMER PHOTOGRAPHY SESSION EVER!
Hi! I am Jamie Smith, owner of Oak Tree Photography in Southern Oklahoma.