Tips to consider when planning a family portrait session:

I have many questions that clients ask when they are looking to plan a family portrait session.  So I thought I would answer some of them for all of you in this post.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:

– When is the best time to plan a family portrait?

Because it can be a lot of work to plan a portrait, choose a setting, co-ordinate a wardrobe, and find a time that everyone is available, some families put off having a special portrait made for years at a time.  If this is the case for your family, you will want to make sure that when you do invest the time and effort into planning a portrait, you will work with a photographer who will invest the same care and consideration and time into ensuring that the results are what you are looking for!  But having your family’s portrait taken, doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Here are some of the most common reasons a family will plan a portrait session:

-A family reunion brings all of the members of a family together in one place

-A family has had a change in dynamics – a new baby or a child gets married

-There is an important event that is being commemorated – a baptism or a wedding, for example

-A family wants an update every year to capture the changes that come as children grow

-To have some material for their annual holiday card

-Because all Grandma wants for Christmas this year is pictures of the grandkids

While these are all great reasons to have a custom family portrait taken, allow me to suggest another approach to your family photography – a lifestyle session.  This is a session aimed at capturing the essence of your family by documenting “a day in your life” of just being you.  Many of my client’s favorite images are not the perfectly posed shots where everyone is looking at the camera – they are the ones where everyone is falling down laughing, or gazing at one another, or even shedding tears.  The images that show the true emotions and connections that bind a family together.  And often these images are best captured not when a family is posing together, but rather doing something together – something that captures the essence of them.  Making chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen together, picking out pumpkins at the pumpkin patch then taking them home to carve, having a picnic and playing at the park, flying a kite at the beach, celebrating a birthday, going fishing, or even just bath time and story time around the house.  These are the images that speak to the heart and that bring you back, so many years later to that time and place and feeling in your heart as you made beautiful memories together.

Another idea is to take advantage of mini session specials.  Because these don’t require a huge investment on your part, of time or money, it is easy to capture all of the changes that happen year to year in a family as children grow.

What is the best time of year/time of day for our shoot?

There is no “best time of year” for a family portrait session, although fall and summer are the most popular times.  It really depends on the look you are going for. Often, beach portraits are best in the winter or early spring, as there are a lot fewer other people at the beach to work around.  If you like a more natural, rustic and green look – or wildflowers – spring is probably your best bet (there are only a few months each year when everything is lush and green in our neck of the woods).  If you want fall colors in your portrait, well, those can be hard to come by as well, but October or November are good months to give it a try!  The best time is really any time that your family can spend this time together without stress.

The best time of day depends on your setting.  Because I work primarily with natural lights (I do have portable lights if needed), more formal studio type settings are often done in your home, during late morning or early afternoon.  But most families choose to use this beautiful world as their backdrop and have a location setting.  For these, the best time of day to shoot are the hours closest to sunrise or sunset. Most clients opt for the1-2 hours before the sun sets – in the summer it is often after working hours!  But if you are an early bird at all, consider taking advantage of the beautiful early morning light.  Some of my favorite images were captured at 7:30 am!

Where should our Portrait Session take place?

Once again the look you are going for will help you answer this question as well.  If you want a very formal look, a studio setting will be much more appropriate than an afternoon at the beach.  If you style is more contemporary, perhaps an urban setting would be best.  If you want a more casual and relaxed feeling to your portrait, the beach or a park would be a good option.  If you would like a more themed portrait, a place that suits the theme or story you wan to tell would be great – for example a pumpkin patch for a fall portrait or Halloween pictures.  Consider choosing a location that has a special meaning to your family – a favorite picnic place, the restaurant you were engaged at, your kid’s favorite train park.  Also, many homes are well suited to portraiture and especially “day in the life” type sessions!  Children are often much more comfortable and able to just “be themselves” in familiar places such as their home or a favorite park.  Newborns sessions are especially suited for an in-home session.  Don’t forget to consider the décor of your home when choosing a location – you want the look of the portraits to fit in with the area it will be displayed.

What should I wear/the kids wear at our Portrait Session?

This is probably one of the most often asked questions – and there really are a lot of answers. I am not necessarily a firm believer in having everyone look exactly alike – although that can be an option that is easy to coordinate.  But by the same token, you have too look enough like you belong together (don’t mix suit and tie with casual playclothes, or wear colors that clash).

In general it is best to keep it simple – denim, khakis, overalls (for little kids) and simple dresses. Solid colors without busy patterns or logos photograph best. The idea is to keep the focus on the faces, not the clothes. For outdoors or beach sessions and kids, bare feet, or simple sandals make the best footwear. However I am very open to capturing your kids in whatever fun, funky or stylish outfit you feel portrays their personality and yours.  Textures look great in pictures (such as sweaters).  Adults tend to look best in long sleeves and long pants or dresses.  Groups should try and coordinate their clothes in style and color. For large family groups with more than one family unit, each family can wear their own color as long as there is a theme unifying the group.  For example, everyone wears jeans or khakis, family one has blue shirts, family two has brown, family three is in pink, etc.  In general very light and very dark colors do not go well together as it is too “contrasty.”  It is best if colors are kept in a similar tonal range. However I am very open to capturing your kids in whatever fun, funky or stylish outfit you feel portrays their personality and yours.  Feel free to call for a consultation on what would be best to wear.

For a complete pictorial guide, check out my “what to wear” guide by clicking here!

What to Wear Guide smaller

Should we bring props?

In every portrait session, I strive to capture the most natural pictures possible – those that capture the true essence of a person, rather than just what they look like.  Props can sometimes take away from that.  However, certain p
rops can go a long way in telling a story or revealing more about a person – not to mention giving a person something to do with their hands!  I have several props that I can bring to give your little ones “something to do” such as seashells or tin pails at the beach. I also have a fun selection of hats, tutus, pettiskirts, cowboy gear, etc. for little ones to wear.  If you want to plan a real storytelling session, I can help you with ideas for things such as balloons, flowers, fishing poles, birthday cakes, sailboats, tea sets, picnic baskets, etc. that can help tell the story you want to tell.  I also have a professional photo stylist I can refer you to that can help you plan and find anything you need to make your session look really great.  If you see an idea you like on my website or anywhere else – or you have an original idea you would like to try, just let me know – I can help you plan your story during your session consultation!

Help! I am running out of wall space and I don’t know what I can do with all of these images that I love! How can I preserve these beautiful images for future generations?

There are so many options today for products to preserve your precious memories!  I can totally relate to the lack of wall space  – especially for the amount of images I take of my kids!  One of my favorite products for showcasing my favorite images is the Fine Art Coffee Table Book.  These are custom designed and gorgeously created using the finest printing and craftsmanship.  They will be enjoyed by generations to come.  I have several clients who have a new storybook made every year with their family’s professional photographs.  These are especially well suited for the “Year in the Life” portrait plan, but I generally capture enough images at any full portrait session to fill an album.  Another option is to combine your professional images with your own personal favorite images from throughout the year to tell your story!

The custom designed keepsake box is another great option for keeping a variety of prints.  This exquisite box is designed using your own images and comes with 25 sprayed and mounted 5x7s from your session.  It can be displayed where family or friends can look through, or put away for safekeeping.

One of my favorite ways to show off my very cute kids is with my custom designed handbag. I get asked about it wherever I go, and the soft supple leather accents make it so comfortable to wear!  It is really well made, with the perfect pockets for all my favorite things to bring along.  I also make bags for just about any needs – from beach bags, to gym bags, to computer bags to wallets and toiletry bags.  This is a definite favorite gift for grandma!

Storyboards are a great way to include more than one image on a print, and tell a story using a series of images at the same time.  Wallet brag books are both a cute and affordable way to show off up to 12 images in one little accordion book that you can easily fit in your purse or pocket.  And DVD slide shows are artfully created to be enjoyed by everyone from the kids to the grandparents – and there are no limits on how many images can be shown.  I know of one client that plays them on her car’s DVD system for the girls to watch while they drive!

The pictures I ordered last year are still sitting in their box.  Do you offer framing or suggestions on how to display my prints?

I am proud to announce that I have partnered with GNP frames to offer beautiful custom framing for my clients.  There are so many options between frames, mats and fillets.  I am working on getting an online store up so that you can select your own frames and mats for your prints.  Your print will be ready to pick up with a beautiful finish, matted and framed and ready to hang.

Many clients want help with how to design wall displays, and I am always happy to help you find the best way possible to show off your gorgeous prints.  Just pick out your favorites images and give me the size of space you want to fill and I can help with layout and print sizes.

The new Canvas Wall Groupings are also fabulous ways to design your wall and save money at the same time!  These consist of pre-designed selections of from 5 to 9 gallery wrapped canvases spaced about an inch apart making a fabulous looking collage of prints on the wall.  If you send a picture of your home, I am even able to place your gallery of prints into that picture so you can see how the prints would look in your home before you purchase the canvases or prints!

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