Outtake from Family Portrait Session at Lake Accotink Park, VA© Trish Alegre-Smith 2018, All Rights Reserved
I realized that in the past five years since we offered seasonal family portrait sessions for our clients, I’ve never written about our experience here in our blog. Surprisingly, we encounter some of our most stressed and worried clients when booking our family portrait sessions. Between the unpredictability of the weather (for our outdoor sessions) and the same level of unpredictability from my littlest subjects, parents can be a bit frazzled trying to get ready for the shoot.
Family photo sessions push me creatively and keep me on my toes throughout each session. My first priority is to relieve as much stress as I can from the beginning and show our families how fun family photos can be. Most of our family sessions are under 30 minutes and we usually get our best shots within the first 15 minutes (when everyone is fresh). It’s enough time so a family doesn’t seem rushed but short enough that I can keep everyone’s attention and enthusiasm going.
So how does an “imperfect” photo end up as “the shot” you use on your holiday cards or share with family and friends?
- We “go with the flow”: I’ve practiced group poses but I don’t get hung up on every member of the family being in an exact position. I’ll have a few poses and spots in mind at a location—fully expecting that certain combinations work better for some but not others. I also have my camera ready to capture candid moments that tell the story of the session (aside from the formal portraits). I throw the candids in as a bonus “freebie” in client galleries for fun.
- It’s okay not to be the picture-perfect matching family: Each person in a family has his or her own unique personality—this includes sense of style. I may recommend sticking to a particular color palette that complements a background (especially for strong fall colors). However, I don’t expect (or encourage) completely matching outfits.
- Parents need a photo for themselves: When I photograph a family, it amazes me how long it’s been since parents have had a professional portrait on their own. Even if it’s only one or two photos it’s important to capture them by themselves as well.
- We work around the weather: In the Washington, D.C. metro area, fall leaves and cherry blossoms are our most popular offerings—and yes, they’re best done when outside. However, the peak colors for each season depend so much on temperature and weather that we limit the number of families that we schedule and advise them on being flexible on dates (we lock in final dates and times about 2 weeks out) to capture the background we’re expecting. We have a very popular “last-minute” list that families sign up for so that if we’re out on another photo shoot in a desired location that day, we can fit in an extra mini-session.
The most important thing for us is that each and every family member leave one of our sessions feeling great about our time together—and the results that they see in the final photos. Their photos should remind them of happy moments from that day and not the stress of getting their photos taken. Think about when you grab candid family photos on your phone—do you focus most on what you were wearing that day or what you were feeling and doing?