Yay! You did it! You made that appointment for an outdoor family photo session ... or maybe you're thinking about it as you start your to-do list for the holiday season. Whether you have toddlers, elementary-school-aged kids, or teens, there is preparation required, as well as some decisions to make to help ensure we capture fun, memorable images of your family.
Location, location, location. When you book your session, one of the first things I'll ask you is where you'd like to do the shoot. You might have a particular location in mind. If not, I can help you find the spot that best suits your family's personality and what feeling you want to convey. If you want to take advantage of our desert backdrop, I'll help you find the perfect spot showcasing the desert scenery. Perhaps a park with grass, trees, and waterfalls is more your style, like the family below chose. Maybe you want a more urban feel, a rustic look, or even your back yard. I'll help you fulfill your vision.
Time of day is key. I, and many outdoor photographers, prefer to hold photo sessions 1-2 hours before sunset. That's because this time of day offers beautiful low light and a beautiful, golden glow can be achieved. Photos taken in the middle of the day in Phoenix means shadows on faces, harsh light, squinting eyes, and more challenges to capturing beautiful images. In the summer months I generally hold sessions at 5:30 or 6 p.m.. Once we're into fall and winter, it's about 4 p.m. You can see the beautiful golden hue and the light bouncing off Sofia's hair in the photo below. This can only happen naturally during "the golden hour." What to wear? This always seems to be the most frequent question I'm asked. There once was a time when the whole family would wear white shirts and khakis, or black shirts and jeans. B-O-R-I-N-G. Not only is it on the dull side, but black and white don't flatter skin tones the same way color does. And color offers so much more warmth, fun, and personality. When outfitting your family, don't try to match everyone, instead try to COORDINATE. Start with Mom's outfit. One strategy is to coordinate tones: coordinated warm tones would include red, orange, and brown. Cool tones you could put together would be hues of blue, purple, and green. Once you get your tone family, you can choose one or two neutral colors to add to the mix -- denim, ivory, grey, black. And then add layers and accessories: denim jackets, scarves, statement necklaces, hats, colorful shoes, boots. Try to repeat your colors several times through different members of your family. Mom's turquoise scarf might match daughter's turquoise shoes, which matches the son's print shirt. The families below nailed it for their sessions.
Don't expect perfect poses. Try not to get frustrated with your kids if they're not sitting still and smiling as you'd like them to, especially if your children are small. I'm not going to ask you to say "cheese." I want natural smiles and laughter. Kids are kids, they're going to run and be silly and have fun. That's part of the magic of an outdoor photo session. Parents always seem to choose the photos of spontaneous laughter and family togetherness as their favorites, rather than the more rigid, posed, forced-smile counterparts. This little boy below felt like grabbing a stick and playing his make-believe drums! Perfect! It worked. We captured a precious, candid moment. And in the second photo, I captured a sweet moment of this little boy trying to feel around to make sure his hair looks good. Both are sweet, candid moments that will bring so much joy now and, even more so, in the years to come.
Bring what makes 'em happy. If you have small children, bring their favorite toy if it makes them more relaxed or if you'd like to include it in the shoot. It's also a good idea to bring snacks. And bring water for everyone, especially in the warm months. Also, you never know what a toddler will get into, so bringing an extra outfit is recommended. If an older child wants to bring a special object that has sentimental value or would like a special prop, feel free to bring it. This little boy really wanted his toy monkey in the family picture. In 20 years when the family looks at this image, they'll remember that sweet time in their lives when little brother loved that monkey -- a treasured memory.
Most importantly, relax and have fun. Try not to feel stressed if the kids aren't cooperating as you envision. If they see you're stressed, then they'll be stressed. Photographs of your two-year-old chasing butterflies or playing with her hair will be more meaningful than ones of her sitting dutifully and saying "cheese." I promise.
If you have any questions or want to book a session, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.