I saw this meme regarding family photos and the torture that they are - circling on the gram and it literally stopped my scroll.
I laughed and thought but “IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!” I am ready to change the narrative on family photo sessions. I am not saying all this so you pay me to make 20 minutes of your life miserable every year, I believe that it doesn’t have to be torture. I highly recommend yearly (or bi yearly) photos, I even follow my own advice.
Let’s break it down:
You waste time spending HOURS searching Old Navy, Gap, Target, Loft, Walmart, etc. for the PERFECT family ensemble. Only to have your 4 year old decide they did not want to wear pants the day of your shoot (enter the first drop of mom sweat). Here are the ways I approach this with my own family (and the ways I share with my clients to approach it with theirs).
1. Do not buy anything new. Yep, I said it – you do not need to spend ANY EXTRA MONEY on this shoot if you do not want to. Decide who in your family is the hardest to please when getting dressed. In my family, it’s me. In your family maybe it’s your husband or partner. Maybe it’s the 4 year old. Pick their outfit first. Then continue to pick the rest of your family’s outfits. I always suggest one person wears a pattern and the other family members wear complimentary solids.
2. Buy something for a double use. If you want to buy something new, use the same outfit for the Holiday's or School Photos. That way you’re getting more bang for your buck
3. A combination of both. Maybe Dad does need a new nice shirt, buy him one for the photo shoot and then he has something to wear on the holidays. Maybe Mom never treats herself to something new, now would be the time!
Okay – let’s face it – a toddler is a toddler, a preteen is a preteen and a husband is a husband. No one loves to be forced to smile at some stranger with a camera in their face. This is why I design my sessions in more of a family togetherness session. I encourage play, tickling, loving moments, snuggling, running, jumping, etc. and in between those we get some WONDERFUL, staring right at the camera, genuine smiles. Why? Because they are actually (gasp!) enjoying it. You could think of it as 20 minutes of screen free family time. And if your toddler has a tantrum during the session, it is OKAY. (Enter more Mom sweat) Walk away, calm them down, do what you need to do to make them feel comfortable. Sometimes the tantrums turn into the sweetest, cuddle sessions or even a tickle fights. They are learning, if we are patient, it will happen.
THE MOM SWEAT
You know it happens when tensions run high and you’re tryyyying so hard to keep your cool. Like every.single.time we try to load up into
the car! (but why?!) Then you worry you’ll look dewey and gross in your photos and beg your photographer to photoshop it out, which you know we can. And you know what, I’d be lying if I said it was unavoidable. Heck, it even happens to me at my own family sessions. I put undue pressure on myself so achieve these picture-perfect photos. Here are somethings I’ve been trying out with my own family that seem to help
1. TALK UP THE SESSION About a week before I start talking about our family photo session. My oldest, especially, likes to know all the details. I answer questions, show pictures of where it will be, tell them the photographers name, whatever I need to make them feel like they are “in the know”.
2. IT’S IMPORTANT TO ME I mention to my family how important these are to me and explain why. We talk about things that are important to them. It is good dialog.
3. BRIBES Yep, I said it. Its more like an exchange of goods/services. You participate happily in our photos you get ______ (ice cream, chic-fil-a, popcorn and movie, a small toy)
4. THE RELUCTANT FAMILY MEMBER Along with the advice above make sure the timing of your session does not conflict with something that is important to them (football game, golf, work, a friends party, etc.) this is a surefire way to end up with a grumpy-gus at your pictures.
Remember – it doesn’t have to be torture. Let’s change the narrative on family photos. Hey you may even like it so much you’ll come back again.