So, you've decided you want to have a professional family photography session. You've found your photographer, made a booking, now what... Here are 9 things to think about when you're preparing for your session to make sure you get the most out of your shoot.
Think about timings
If your children are young, it helps to keep in mind which time of day is their best time when you're booking your session. Avoid nap times and aim for times when your littles are likely to be well rested and feeling co-operative and happy. Bring them some snacks and a drink - there's always time for a little break to re-energise the youngest models!
Think about your artwork
Have a think about what you want to do with the images that come out of your session - do you want a single piece of large artwork to hang over the fireplace wall, several smaller framed prints to gift to relatives or a book to sit on the coffee table. If you need some suggestions and fresh ideas I can help with that too, but if I know what you want to receive I can keep this in mind when I'm planning your session.
Choose your outfits
Think co-ordination not uniform! If you have a certain outfit that you want one person to be in, start there as a base and then work the other outfits around it - if not, start with mum, as she can often be the most difficult but is usually left to the last minute. Choose three fairly neutral colours, and then a small pop of one bolder colour, and avoid cartoon characters and words. Go for texture and layers rather than too many patterns, which will make your images look luxurious rather than overly busy. Bring some accessories like hats and scarves - these are great for changing a look part way through your session, and a spare outfit for any children who have even the slightest possibility of getting all dirty is always a bonus. I've got some more in depth information on what to wear here.
I once had a client postpone their session after she took her son to get his hair cut a couple of days before the shoot and it ended up much shorter than usual so he 'didn't look like him'. If you want to have your hair cut or coloured before your session, do it a couple of weeks in advance... this gives it enough time to settle in, for colour to calm and for it to look a little less just been chopped and more natural. It also gives you time to fix it if you don't like it!
On the run up to your shoot, give yourself a bit of a pamper - moisturise, touch up any chipped nail varnish, men trim your facial hair, and give the kids a good scrub in the bath! Apply a normal amount of make-up for you - you want to look like yourself in the photographs. When you come to the session, bring lipstick/gloss to touch up mid session and if you have long hair and your session is outdoors, have a plan in case of a windy day.
Think about your family favourites
Then gather up a few things that mean a lot to you as a family. I've always got a rug and a prop or two tucked up my sleeve to keep the kids interested and the magic flowing during the session, but that image will mean so much more to you in a couple of years time if you're sitting on the rug that your grandmother gave you, or your child is sitting on that wall reading their favourite book with their love-beaten bunny under their arm. Let me know in advance if there's anything special that you really want included in your photographs so that I can plan accordingly.
Talk to your kids
Tell your kids that they're going to have a photo shoot and get them excited about it so that they're prepared when I appear with my big black camera and it's not intimidating. I don't just jump into shooting at the beginning of a session, I'll spend some time chatting with your children to help them feel comfortable so that they can relax and act more naturally in front of the camera... which leads me nicely on to the next point....
Cheese is for crackers
If you spend the whole session cajoling your kids into standing a certain way, keeping still and saying cheese at the camera, the images will look stiff and fake. Some of the most beautiful shots are when children are at their most natural, just doing their thing, not smiling awkwardly towards a camera. I've got kids of my own, and I've had experience photographing a fair few too, so don't worry, yours are unlikely to be the worst I've seen! If I'm chatting, playing and interacting with them, they'll be looking toward the camera when those natural expressions come.
The session is about you and your family, and the best way to create fabulous images is to relax, enjoy your day, and have a little fun together.