Everyone asks us…”How can we take a great photo with our kids?” We tapped photographer to some of the biggest bloggers around (Cup of Joe) and child whisper (she had our girls smiling and jumping on cue) Nicki Sebastian to share her secrets on getting the shot.
1. Location, location, location
If possible, choose a location that means something to you and your family. If your home or apartment gets sufficient natural light, try an in-home session and then take the kids outside and walk around your neighborhood block if weather permits. Or maybe they’re beach bunnies and love the water, or perhaps they have a favorite park that your family frequents on a regular basis. The more familiar the backdrop, the more at ease your little ones will be!
2. Sartorial selections
When deciding what to wear for a family session, comfort is key! Wear something that reflects your style—try to shop your closet for part if not all of your outfit, or if you insist on buying new, be sure it’s something you or your family members would wear on a regular basis so everyone’s distinct style personality shines through. Also, make sure everyone tries on their outfits well before the shoot and that the kiddos are happy with your/their outfit choices—and ensure that each and every ensemble moves and breathes. Natural family photos require lots of movement and play, so the last thing you want to worry about is a stiff, ill-fitting dress, an itchy shirt, or pants that your child just loathes! Lastly, if you’re hoping to coordinate with your family members, avoid anything too matchy-matchy. Staying in the same color family/palette (ex: all earth tones or all light neutrals) and/or adding mixed textures and coordinating prints is always a good idea!
3. All of the light
Light is one of the most key ingredients in the making of a great photo. If you’re doing an in-home session, be sure to turn off any overhead/artificial lighting and shoot near windows and doors for the best natural light. If you’re planning to do an outdoor family session, aim to schedule it within one to two hours of sunset—nothing compares to a glowing golden hour image. If it’s an overcast day, not to worry—clouds can provide nice soft, even light and you’ll have a bit more flexibility with angles. On a similar note, sunrise shoots can be just as gorgeous and dramatic—and they’re great for little ones who are wide awake, fresh, and ready to go at the crack of dawn!
4. Go with the flow
I know, I know—easier said than done! Prepping for a session and the anticipation of the shoot might be stressful at times, but think of it as a special opportunity for you and your family members to enjoy each other’s company (while a trained professional documents your unconditional love for one another)—it should be fun! Great family photos don’t necessarily mean everyone’s looking at the camera and smiling simultaneously. In fact, my favorite images—and my clients’ favorite images—are the ones that capture family interaction, sweet gestures, and emotions of all shapes and sizes, all of which have nothing to do with “saying cheese.” If your little ones are feeling timid and aren’t in the mood to smile or laugh, just go with it—capturing quiet moments can be just as meaningful, and any frantic coaxing on your part can have the opposite effect.
5. Eat, sleep, get psyched!
Just as you would prep for a test or an athletic endeavor, make sure you and your family are well-rested and well-fed before the session—and bring plenty of snacks and water to refuel during the shoot, as well as a change of clothes just in case. Also, be sure to psych up your kiddos by talking about the session days in advance and hyping up the photographer as a “special friend” or heck, even try describing him or her as “famous” in order to excite your tiny starlet. Involve them in the outfit selection process, show them where you’ll be shooting, even consider bribing with a small treat for a job well done. My daughter, like most kids, loves to be in the know, and any surprises (unless they’re of the gift-wrapped variety) make her anxious and unsettled—the more informed, the better. All that said, meltdowns happen and nothing ever goes exactly as planned. If your child completely loses it, wait it out and try not to get flustered. As a parent and family photographer, I’ve seen it all, and everyone’s patience will ultimately pay off—I promise.