We’ve all seen the Instagram-worthy pics of a sleeping infant, clad in muslin and wearing a flower in their hair.
They look peaceful. It looks so easy. It is so not.
At our first infant photo session, it took 3 hours. She went through 4 diapers. I changed twice. She peed on my husband. Our photographer was wonderful, but I’m sure she could tell we were newbie parents 😉
Fast forward a few years, add a sibling into the mix, and family photos are complete chaos. My oldest just wants to run. My youngest doesn’t like strangers and turns into a baby koala, scaling the side of me like a tree, when she sees a stranger with a camera. When we do manage to get both girls dressed, clean and looking in the same direction (I gave up on smiling long ago), my husband or I invariably blink. Or the one photo where 3 of the four of us are smiling, my mouth is contorted from yelling “Cheese” or “Boogers” or “I’ll give you candy if you smile!!!” right as the flash goes off.
So now when I want family photos, I leave it to the professionals. I reached out to a friend who has her own photography business for tips on how to get better family photos. Ashli Truchon, of Truchon Creative, has seen it all. And she’s got some tips on what to do – or not do – when it comes time for your next family photo.
Here are the top 10 things you’re doing wrong:
10. You wait to get your Christmas card photo until after the turkey’s been carved and the holidays are in full swing.
There’s enough stress around the holidays and to-do lists are a mile long. Reduce stress and get your family photos done now – – in the summer, when everyone has that nice beachy glow.
9. You plan for outdoor photos in the afternoon.
So many things wrong with this. Ashli says noon, or when the sun is at its highest, is the absolute worst light for outdoor photos. Not to mention summer photos taken at noon will likely conflict with lunch, nap time and will be stinking hot.
“I love to shoot when the sun is just going down as it gives that nice warm/golden glow,” Ashli says.
Plus, opting for outdoor photos means you don’t have to worry about cleaning and de-cluttering a room in your house.
8. You cancel on your photographer because you see clouds.
“Cloudy days are the best because the light is very even and easy to work with!” Ashli says. “So, don’t panic if it’s cloudy. The photographer will be super thankful.”
7. You’re bringing the wrong props.
Ashli‘s a fan of props – but within reason. She advises checking in with your photographer before bringing any sort of prop, so you’re not surprising them. For our family photo, I asked if it was okay to bring a tent and basket of books, because I really wanted a photo of my girls in pjs, reading together just like they do before bed. I talked it through with Ashli in advance to see if she thought it could work. I even sent her photos of the tent so she could see I wasn’t dragging a behemoth of a thing with me.
Other props she suggests for kid photos are plain banners, cakes, bubbles or party hats. Often they’ll be out of focus, but will add an element of fun.
“But for these, I try to stay away from anything with words on it. … People’s eyes are always drawn to words first and you want them drawn to your kid instead.”
Blankets might work in some situations, but might look cluttered in other photos. A favorite stuffed animal could make a precious memory, but an entire toy chest could be a bit overboard. (Pro tip: Hold that stuffed animal near the photographer as she’s taking the photo to get your little one to look in the right spot.)
6. You didn’t ask about photo rights, deposits or the photographer’s weather policy.
You’re more focused on what Junior is going to wear than reading your contract. But you need to make sure you know what you’re getting. Ashli says you should always ask about photo rights, deposit (usually non-refundable), inclement weather policy, and what happens if you go over your time limit.
“Sometimes young kids, babies especially, might have a fit and need a bottle or something during the shoot. The photographer might charge you extra if you go over.”
Ask about the deliverables – CD or digital files? Verify that your contract has the right dates, times and location that you agreed upon.
5. You assume the photographer knows exactly the kind of photo you want.
You said you saw a thing once where a kid wore a floofy dress and did this pose and looked like this and the photos were just super cute. That sounds like a whole bunch of gibberish.
Talk to your photographer about what you want. Even better – show them.
“Most are open to you sending in examples you found online or ones you had done by another photographer in the past,” Ashli says. “The more the photographer knows about what you’re looking for, the less room there is for surprises on the other end. This Is Big.”
And don’t surprise the photographer by bringing extra people you’re trying to sneak into the photos.
4. You try to art direct the shoot and/or play photographer
You can make a suggestion like “Can we try one over there?” but don’t try to take over a photo shoot. “Let the photographer work their magic,” Ashli says. “They usually have the shoot already planned out (and have done this many times).”
“AND NEVER EVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES – pull out your phone and take pictures while the photographer is. This not only distracts the subject, but is usually in the contract that no one else can be shooting while the photographer is,” she says.
3. You’re wearing the wrong things
Don’t wear nude-colored shirts unless you want to look naked. Stick with solid colors or small prints – nothing outrageous. Shirts with cartoon characters or large graphics may be what your kids love to wear at home, but it will take away from the photo, Ashli says. And if you’re headed for outdoor photos, nix the green tee (unless you’re trying to blend in with a tree).
2. You’re being too serious
I get it. You so want these photos to be good. To capture your kids exactly how they look in this one moment in time. And you get a little frustrated that you can’t just wave a magic wand and get everyone to smile on cue. Or you start to get too serious. (I’m guilty of this.)
With our last photo shoot, we had trouble getting the girls to smile. It wasn’t until my husband and I started yelling “Boogers!” that my oldest started to crack a smile. I’ve worked with Ashli before, and felt a little weird to be in the middle of a park yelling “Boogers!” and waving my arms like a crazy person behind her head as she took pictures of my girls. But you know what? Those last pictures in our set were so much better. My kids had natural smiles and looked so happy. And you can’t tell that my husband and I were doing monkey impressions just to get those images.
“If the words “poop” or “boogers” or “farts” make your kid smile – then by all means “poop”, “boogers” and “does daddy fart?” it all the way up,” Ashli says. “The photographer has heard it all and sometimes it’s the funniest things to kids that will really get them to laugh and giggle in front of the camera and make some gorgeous images. It sounds gross, but the images will be worth it…”
1. You didn’t give your kid a chance to warm up.
We warn our kids about strangers, but suddenly when we want family photos, they’re supposed to turn on the charm for a stranger with a camera – in a strange place, no less. Hello?
Before our last photo session, we showed up early so that our girls could play in the park and get some energy out. But Ashli has an even better idea for families with young kids.
“Ask if you can meet the photographer a few minutes early so the kids can warm up to them. Sometimes a 5-minute hide and seek game goes a long way when having a kid in front of a camera.”
Ashli‘s other tips:
- Little girls wearing dresses should also wear shorts or something underneath.
- Ask ahead about an appropriate spot to change your child if you’re in an outdoor setting with plans of a costume change.
- Plan photo shoots around naps.
- Do bring Goldfish or other treats to avoid having a ‘hangry’ toddler on your hands.
- Don’t be late. Respect your photographers time, knowing they could have another assignment to get to.
- Don’t talk too much. If the photographer is listening to your life story, they’re not able to focus.
- Need your kid to look at the camera? Phrase it as “What would a princess do? or Give me a pretty smile!” instead of using negative language.
So now that you know what to do and what not to do, check your calendar and book your family photos with a photographer. You’ll be so happy you didn’t wait, come Christmastime. If you’re in the Lehigh Valley, check out Ashli‘s site, Truchon Creative – she’s awesome! (Tell her you read these tips!)
If you’re outside PA, check out the National Association of Professional Child Photographers for a listing of photographers in your area.
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