How to have a Successful Family Session

September 01, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Hello Moms of the world!  This post is for you!  

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As we kick into high gear for the Fall, I am getting a lot of inquiries for family sessions.  Normally this is a busy time of year in Florida.  The heat is more bearable, the humidity is sometimes lower than 100%, and we have less rain.  This is also a great time to get photos done for holiday cards.  

This post is to help anyone who's considering doing a family session!  Most of these tips come from my experience of having my own family photographed.  Also, most rules can be broken, so take this post as a strong guideline.  Nothing is set in stone.  

First, moms, throw away your picture-perfect ideas of your family.  Have realistic expectations of your crew.  Toddlers aren't the best at sitting still.  Your once giggly 6 year-old has suddenly become self conscious.  Your husband, great guy that he is, might be a mildly willing subject in this experience.  I am first to admit the amount of sweat that starts pouring from my body when I *just* want my kids to smile at the camera.  I get it, all the way.  

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Second, only use Pinterest for clothing ideas.  Don't let some family's one-hit-wonder group photo become the steadfast standard for your own family.  I love Pinterest as much as the next girl, but it's kind of like looking at Vogue to see reality.  It isn't always there.  Unless, of course, you are looking at #pinterestfail gems. Personally, I have created more fails than wins in my kitchen.  

Third, props shouldn't detract from you and your family.  Like makeup or accessories, they should enhance to who you are, not take over.

Family Sessions should focus on the real you.  A solid portrayal of all of you at a good baseline.  Let the kids be candid, and don't worry about perfection.  One of the best things about photography over the past several years is the documentary style that has evolved.  It is meant to capture moments, emotion and love.  If we happen to get that shot of everyone looking perfectly at the camera, then go buy a lotto ticket.  Share your winnings with your photographer.  

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Tips to make it a great session:

Family Session Day is NOT the day to shape your children's character.  Unless your child is about to seriously injure themselves, don't discipline them.  I won't judge if your son isn't the most respectful kid during our session.  Bribes and promises are okay.  Believe me, I want them as happy and cooperative as possible also.  Bring snacks that they rarely get to have (that aren't too messy), have a toy waiting in the car, or promise to take them to Target to ransack the $1 section afterwards.  
Rewards > Punishments on Family Session Day.  Just like adults, a child's behavior is more positively influenced by happy promises instead of threats.  It makes you happier too.  No mom looks happy when she's threatening a punishment, but she sure can fake that smile while promising Coldstone Ice Cream.  :)

Naps are essential for any child who is used to them.  Please, please, please don't skip it on Family Session Day.  Also, no one should be hangry... uh, I mean hungry.

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When it comes to clothing, I usually suggest that you, Mom, pick an outfit that makes you feel great!  Flattering, pretty, and probably new.   Even if the kids looks like celebs, if Mom doesn't love her outfit, then it kind of doesn't matter.  Make sure your clothes look good while sitting or holding your kids.  Something that is tricky or requires perfect placement or no movement, isn't the best option.  You need to be focused on how happy you are, not if your bra strap is showing or that your skirt rides up when you walk.   Make sure you had your hair recently done, so you won't stare at your roots once you see your images.

Patterns and solids are a great way to mix up clothing options.  Have a base color or two, like blue and grey, and play off of that.  Put Dad in a button-down that has blue thin stripes.  Put Timmy in a solid blue sweater with grey pants, and Susie in lighter color grey dress with a blue ribbon.  Dress yourself in a patterned outfit that pulls from one or both of the base colors.  

Give yourself plenty of time on Family Session Day.  That will be the day you lose your keys, or the baby is extra hungry, or that your daughter's shoes are missing.  The more extra time you have, the less stress you will feel.  Do something that will calm your nerves.  Have a glass of wine, or some chocolate or get your nails done.  Pray or meditate.  Let your kids play video games while you get ready.  Go get your hair blown out, or grab some new eye shadow at Target.  Whatever it takes.

Think about the groupings you will want.  Parent with each child, children together, each child separately, parents together.  Once we get the main shots, know what else that would be great to have.

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Trust your photographer.  The family below has 100% trust in me, and it allows me the freedom to get some amazing images in some not so amazing conditions.  We have come to call it the Cabral Curse, because it has always rained during their sessions.  In the photo below, we had to make a run for a picnic shelter.  The wind was all over the place, but because they trust me, we were able to get one of my favorite shots of last Fall.  They are sitting on a picnic table with kayaks and a grill behind them.  You'd never know it.    

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Ultimately, Family Session Day is to show who you are at that moment.  In a year, those smiles will have changed, the kids a little taller, their expressions a little more grown.  You'll want to look back at their real emotions, the ones that always melt your heart and put a smile on your face.  We will always try for that great portrait with everyone looking and perfectly smiling, but it's the little moments that happen in a flash that you'll miss the most in the years to come.  Make sure that is your top priority when having your family photographed.  

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Thanks for reading!  Share if you think this will help someone else.  :) 


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