Hey friends! Kristina here. Did you know that I’m the “official” Ave & Jay family photographer?
After ten years of being in the photography industry, I had the chance to experience all sort of different types of sessions. I originally began my photography journey in sports. My passion was for telling a story… not so much on capturing portraits. When I decided I wanted to make a full time career out of wedding photography, I realized one thing: I needed referrals. What was the fastest way for referrals in Small Town, U.S.A.? Family portraits.
I began working with families in my hometown and business quickly started growing outside the area. No matter where my clients were from, I noticed one thing: Moms stress and apologize during sessions. A lot.
Well I am here to tell you, after years of experience, you truly don’t always have to apologize, Mama. I also don’t want you to feel stress over what should be a fun experience, so here are some things I want you to know before your family photo session to help you prepare.
1. Book Early
Fact: There are really two times of year when families want to have portraits made. The first being Spring. It’s not quite too hot, but the scenery is fresh and floral. Fall, which is here in all it’s copper and golden glory, is the number one time of the year that families want their portraits done.
Problem: Photographers are swamped during the Spring and Fall. Spring blossoms depend on the Winters and frosts. This season usually last a bit longer depending on the heat. Unfortunately for those who love fall, there are usually only two weekends a year when the leaves have changed and are still full in the trees. This depends on the region and amount of rain the area had during the warmer months. All it takes it one good storm to make the trees bare, whether it’s Crepe Myrtle blossoms in the Spring or the rusty leaves of Maples in the Fall.
Solution: Different photographers will open their calendars at different times. My first tip is to look at the previous year to see what your area looked like when you are thinking of having a session done (leaves changing, green grass, fruit trees blooming, flower gardens, heat index, etc.). It’s not a perfect method, but a way to get an educated guess. Then, I recommend reaching out to your preferred photographer at least 6 months in advance simply to ask when they will open up those spots. Full-timers can usually give you an tentative date in advance, while part-time photographers will usually have to book closer to the season. Set reminders in your electronics. Staying on top of things will help you get the exact look that your going for and it is so worth it!
2. Scheduling a Time
Fact: Most photographers love what’s called the Golden Hour. It’s that time of day when everything in the world seems magical and warm, typically an hour before sunset. It’s the most flattering light for portraiture, so naturally, this is when you’ll want to schedule your session.
Problem: Depending on the time of the year, the Golden Hour can sometimes interfere with schedules. I mean, I don’t have children but I was a nanny for over two years so I did realize that most children have a pretty set routine. I’ve often heard moms arrive flustered and immediately apologize for their child not being ready because they were at daycare or in the middle of the nap. This sort of stress can usually be prevented with a little extra planning.
Solution: I recommend giving your child at least 15 minutes between getting ready for the session and the starting time of the session. To do nothing… no electronics, no playgrounds. Good-old fashioned visiting with mama. I get that life is crazy in our fast-paced world but taking a moment to slow down can not only make your images turn out better, but give YOU a chance to live in said moment. I also know that little ones can fall asleep on the way to session locations, so just be sure to arrive early enough to give them a moment to take in their surroundings. They are likely not used to getting dressed in the middle of the day so rushing can cause stress right off the bat for a tiny, developing brain. Always try your best to build a session around your child’s schedule. The younger they are, the more important this can be.
3. Mentally Preparing Your Child
Fact: Appearance is important for photos, right? So moms will spend hours, if not days, browsing the web for that perfect family look. Some will even book hair and makeup appointments. Photographers love this, by the way, so keep up the good work!
Problem: While your child will physically be the cutest thing you ever did see, most of them will be out of their element at a photo session. Their schedule was interrupted, they might be in a place they’ve never been to before, and they’re wearing a brand new outfit that mom has asked them repeatedly not to get dirty. Because of advancements in technology, the majority of children in our time will grow up knowing what it’s like to have a camera in their face. However, today the camera is bigger and the person behind it is usually a complete stranger (or someone they only see once a year for family photos). Moms will naturally want to apologize when their child is being shy, especially when they aren’t usually one to hide their face. It’s ok.
Solution: Talk to your photographer beforehand to get to know his or her personality, and ask them personally what to expect from a session. Many photographers are just naturally great with children, but regardless, this will help YOU help your child if both of you have time to mentally prepare. Then, talk to your child about the session. Casually mention it several times, days or even weeks before the session but try not to overwhelm them. Balance, my friend, and only you can know how your child processes this sort of information. You can even show them what the photographer’s camera will look like with a quick web search (most are more than happy to share what model they use). Lastly, this is also another reason why arriving at sessions a little early is a good idea. Most photographers will show up a little early, so you can have time to introduce your child to the photographer if they haven’t met, or get reacquainted if they have.
4. Let them be little!
Fact: Kids are exactly that… kids. Their brains work differently than adult brains. No matter how well you try to mentally prepared them for the session, they might not stand perfectly still with that magazine-worthy smile you had them practice over and over again in the bathroom mirror.
Problem: On average, I’ve learned that toddlers will be able to listen maybe 15-20 minutes before their mind starts to wander. Some might even be completely done by this point. I’m talking Meltdown City. I believe in all my years, I only had maybe two toddlers last an entire 60 minute session without making a peep. As frustrated as you might be, I feel confident in saying, this is completely normal.
Solution: Breathe, Mama. No matter how much you want to throw in the towel when your little one is so done, give them the benefit of the doubt. Here’s a tip that might sound complete crazy to some: do not scold or punish them during the session. Of course, SOME guidance will always be needed with teaching little ones, but just let them be little as much as possible. As I said before, their entire day has been interrupted. They are either nervous or so excited their tiny bodies can barely hold it in. Their mama has taken them on an adventure! They are little. And you, my dear, are human, so don’t feel as though your child’s ability to be easily distracted is a reflection of your parenting. The session does not have to go “picture perfect” (ironically enough). Some of my all-time favorite photos of children are ones where they are playing, laughing, running, and even CRYING. Yes, I said it… crying. It’s part of their every-day lives and someday you will look back at those photos and be so proud you were able to save moments from all the stages. Trust me, you don’t have to apologize to photographers for kids being kids. And if you do, I recommend finding a better fit for your family. You should be comfortable and confident around your photographer, and it’s ok if you have to try someone else.
If anything, while your child is needing sometime to chill out, use this as an opportunity to grab some portraits with your special someone, or just yourself to update that profile pic! You’ll only be this young once, and you’d be amazed at how many times I’ve heard, “Oh I didn’t even think of that!”
5. Photos are precious memories.
Fact: Even if you don’t feel it now, your family will someday appreciate the precious time it took you to put a family session together. The years will pass and your little ones will grow. Their tiny faces will change and your photos will be the only tangible form of your memories from that stage of life.
Problem: In the age of digital photography, it’s so easy to upload our images to social media and forget they exist after the likes and comments slow down. Technology can fail. Period.
Solution: Print. Your. Photos. Even if you just end up with shoe boxes full of 4x6s in your guest bedroom closet, those are your memories on which you spent good time and money. You earned them, Mama. Ask your photographer if they can provide an online backup service, or purchase more than one copy of your images. Also, place them on your computer or external hard drive. Photos are and investment. You deserve to be able to go back at anytime and look through your images one way or another.