I’m sure we can all share the stories of family pictures gone wrong. I once showed up to a shoot to have the white-faced momma climb out of the car apologizing before her foot hit the ground … she had forgotten pants for her son. Now that would be an “Awkward Family Photos” winner.
We’ve all been there, though. How to hold your hands, how to swing a hip, where to look, whether to smile, your good side, your bad side, your backside, and, then of course, before one even gets this far, what to wear – all of these inquiries can make the family photo experience less than enjoyable (dare I say, even dreaded).
So, to help alleviate the concerns, the stress, the pressure, here are some “behind the scenes” secrets to taking your next photo session from stressful to stellar.
Pinterest offers some great ideas, but looking through the photographer’s website/galleries gives a better idea for each photographer’s style and perspective so browsing their work yields more realistic inspirations. Then, ask the photographer about the location in order to plan appropriate clothing. For instance, casual cowboy boots will be even cuter in a scenic tall-grassed field. Bold colors and black jackets might stand out even stronger against an urban background.
Consider the colors in your home as these probably reflect the schemes that appeal most to you and pull outfit choices from these as inspiration. These photos will adorn your walls, so coordinating color palettes with combinations you are obviously drawn to will create a feeling of unity.
Coordinating, not matching:
The days of dressing all family members in a single color are gone. Some of the most interesting images involve many colors based on complementary color schemes. I’ve set up a great Pinterest board here for inspiration and suggestions on coordinating and complimentary colors to start brainstorming with. Sometimes, colors that previously were thought of as not matching make for the most interesting choices and beautiful statement images! Mustard and navy were choices from last season that might’ve previously not been paired. Red plaids and pinks can also make beautifully warm and cozy images. Consider what you feel most confident in and then brainstorm color schemes around that choice; accessories can be added accordingly.
Repeating a specific shade is a different approach to the same idea as above. Choosing this favorite shade or color and letting it repeat in different ways on different family members brings unity to the image while still allowing each individual to make their own statement. Additionally, layering along with this strategy keeps the color from being too dominant. Another source of inspiration would be a group of individuals all in neutral or warm colors but with different textures and patterns within a very subtle overall color scheme. The possibilities are endless within this approach!
One statement color repeated a few times is a great statement in photos. Bright (but not fluorescent), unexpected pops show up the best and seem most intentional in photos. This is often done through accessorizing or layering. Additionally, if the images are being used for invitations, decor or holiday/birthday/thank you cards, this pop color can be used as a part of the design to create unity beyond just the image itself.
Layering is a great way to not only add warmth depending on the weather, but also incorporate the season trends. Cardigans, sweaters, scarves, suspenders and leggings are all ways to simply but strategically add dimension to your photos. Consider one layer on one or only a few individuals in a color pop of your choice.
Props don’t always have to mean fake. Bring along the heirloom quilt, the bouquet of flowers, that modern stool, the vintage suitcase you’ve always thought was neat.
Thinking outside the box allows your session to reflect your family’s interests, hobbies and heritage.
Stepping in front of the camera is a great time to make fashion statements that might otherwise take a little more courage. Explore your artistic side by considering either current cutting edge trends or vintage touches and carry this through the ensembles of all members of the photo. This kind of session is especially important to accessorize for and to go all out with. These are often referred to as “stylized sessions” and make for stunning statements in the home and memorable keepsakes. Make sure to communicate this with your photographer so that he/she can choose an appropriate location for the theme you would like to stylize around.
This all being said, simple can often be best. Newborn shoots in particular are a time for beautiful simplicity in order to highlight the soft freshness of your little bundle and maintain a timeless feel for the session. Staying away from dark or fluorescent colors avoids “color casts” on sweet newborn skin and allows the connection and emotion to remain the focus of the session.
Letting go of the idea of perfect
Much like the “everyone wear a black shirt and jeans” trend, the days of every member standing still with a frozen grimace masquerading as a smile have passed. As a mom, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectation of “being perfect” and family photo sessions can be the ultimate of this pressure. Let’s face it. None of us are. Let go of expectations, comparisons, or some Pinterest facade and let the time set aside for family pictures be just a special time of everyone being together. Don’t be afraid to bring some treats along to make for a little smoother cooperation (I brought donuts to my own family’s session! See it here!), but make it an enjoyable, playful experience rather than a stressful one. What’s most important is to let your photos reflect you and your family, whatever that looks like.
No way your toddler is going to sit and be still? Tote along their favorite stuffed animal! Does your son love kites? Fly one together! Daughter love playing dress up? Bring some strands of pearls and a big floppy hat! Baby fascinated by bubbles? Let everyone get in on the action! Throw leaves, play chase, tell secrets, tickle fight … let them do, play, enjoy; embrace it all and love the stage you’re in. Honestly, the best family sessions I’ve ever had the privilege of capturing have not been decided by the most closely coordinated outfits, but honestly the ones when the family arrives relaxed, prepared to play, ready to snuggle, eager to put away the phones and distractions for an hour and simply enjoy being together!
And, when it comes down to it, that is what you’ll want to remember for years to come; that is the secret to the most beautiful family pictures.