A Guide to Successful Family Portraits

November 15, 2019

Thirty or sixty minutes to get the perfect family portrait? Depending on the size of your family, that's a lot of pressure, not necessarily for me, but for you!

In the days leading up to your session, you find yourself planning wardrobes, praying for good weather, and hoping everyone is in a good mood when the time arrives for the long anticipated portraits.

You've timed your little one's naps for the day, packed along their favorite stuffed animal or toy, and promised them that if they are good, perhaps you will all go out for cake and ice cream afterwards, or everyone will receive a surprise treat!

I can understand why as a whole, family portraits are a rather large commitment because there are so many behind the scenes details a parent commits to in order to make the whole arrangement turn out satisfactory.  

By the time the camera begins to click, most little ones are, understandably, done! I mean, think of everything they have already been through to just get to this point? (Parents honestly may be drained and ready for it to be over too, but you guys are a little more resolved to keep it together until the end of the session!)

I am not a parent, so I admit that I don't fully grasp what it can be like, but, I've photographed enough families to understand that portrait time is rarely if ever, something that most of us are just dying to experience. To add to it, moms and dads are investing their time and money when it comes to family portraits, and it's to be expected that everyone is secretly hoping for photos that are jaw-droppingly-wall-worthy against all odds.

So, to a certain extent, I do understand, and I want to make this tiny time frame all that it can be for my clients. This is why I've created a guide to help families start their photo sessions off on the right foot. 

First thing is first though, Lamoureux Images Family sessions cover up to two hours.
Yes, that's a long time that pretty much no one is not going to be too thrilled about! But, think of it more as a safety net for the unexpected. This gives us time to prep beforehand, tend to any last minute details, help the little ones overcome uncertainties about photos, and will even allow for an 'intermission' in the midst of photo time in case anyone needs a break to regroup and refresh a tiring smile. We don't have to keep going for a full two hours, but, it's important to know that the time flexibility is there to fall back on when needed. 

1. If time allows, meet with your photographer just a few days prior to your session.

Give your children the opportunity to put a name to a face when it comes to your photographer.
This doesn't have to be a long, formal meeting.

Sometimes when I am running errands or on my way to a session, and logistics add up, I try to schedule a time where I can meet up with a family or drop off product information and material for the upcoming session. This gives me a chance to shake hands, learn names, and express how much I'm looking forward to taking the family portraits.

This also gives you as parents the chance to say on your drive to the portrait location, "Remember, Caitlin? We are going to go see her again, and let her take pictures of us!"

This makes it a little more easy for a child to grasp, rather than informing them that some person they have never seen before, is going to take their portraits.  

2. Driving to the location: use this as a time to relax and prepare to have fun!

On the drive over, try to forget about timing and feeling the need to rush out of the car as soon as you arrive. Take a deep breath and maintain an attitude with your littles that you would if you were about to go to the park with absolutely no agenda and no pressure.

If you can, talk about how you can't wait to snuggle them, and give them kisses, chase them in the grass, and play peek-a-boo or ring-around-the-rosy. Ask them if they are going to do anything funny in their pictures, or if they have been practicing their smiles or even funny faces. 

Pull down your mirror, and practice making sweet smiles faces with them! Make it a game by calling out: "funny face!" or, "sweet face!"

Upon arrival, speak in calm reassuring tones. If they get out of the car and start running around or appear to not be ready to listen to the photographer just yet, don't worry or chide them. Let them get some wiggles out, greet the photographer, and explore the area you will be taking pictures in. 


3. Don't feel pressured to have perfectly behaved children!

During the session, don't allow the moods of your children or their energy to add pressure on yourself.
I promise, your photographer isn't judging you if your kids aren't behaving like angels!

It will be tempting to constantly prompt your children, call their names, tell them to 'come here' or 'sit down', ect.

Try to avoid this! Primarily for my sake. The moment you look away to chide a child, will likely be the exact moment they turn and toss an adorable smile my way, but then guess who is not looking at the camera: mom and dad! 

Recognize that there is A LOT going on from your child's perspective. A lot of voices talking around them, mom and dad giving them instructions as well as a stranger telling them what to do. This can be overwhelming for them, and you.


4. Resist the urge to insist, and avoid making it difficult for your photographer to communicate with your children.

Resist the impulse to insist to your child that they must do what is being suggested. Our goal is to not force anyone do to what they do not want to do. 

Your photographer also desperately needs to be able to communicate to your children. 80% of the time whatever the photographer suggests, won't be headed, and that is ok! Just make sure your photographer has the ability to speak softly to your children without having to talk over you. 

During this time, limit your words to encouraging phrases to your kids, rather than threats to take away treats or surprises that might have been promised if they behave.

Resist placing the burden on yourself to wrangle everyone in, and control the scenarios.
That's what you are paying the professional for. If your photographer needs help in a certain situation (for instance, if your little one just decides to run at high speed in the opposite direction), she'll be sure to ask for help!

Many times, my personal style has been to kindly follow the child's lead in order to get the perfect, happy shot.
If you have followed me long enough, you've noticed that few of my family photos are rigid images of everyone looking right into the camera. Most of my images, are the result of being flexible to the whims of the little people in the group. Embrace the unpredictable!

5. Shift the focus if the kids get anxious.

When a few family shots prove to be 'enough' for a while, and the kids need a moment to break away, roll with it and don't worry about chasing a runaway. This is a great time to shift the focus to sweet images of mom and dad, or, follow the kids around and snap candids as they explore.  

6. Regroup, high five, and speak words of encouragement.

As the session comes to a close, it's great to go for one more good family shot. Come back together (usually to whatever area your children may already be playing near, or at a spot that they pick out themselves).

Keep your words positive, tell your littles what an amazing job they've done, and how proud you are.

Remember through all of this, your photographer is snapping away, capturing those candid and sweet interactions. Focus on your family, not the photographer. Get lost in snuggles and kind words.

Eventually, your photographer will prompt everyone to look at the camera, for one more bright "say cheese!" moment, and then congratulate you and your family on a beautiful time of memory making and documenting the love you share. 


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