Wahoo! You’ve decided to invest in some beautiful photography and need some help with getting ready. Don’t worry I’ve got your back – my family photoshoot planning guide is the perfect place to start. These photos will be treasured for years to come and referred back to with your children and grandchildren – how exciting! I want to help you make the most of your photoshoot and came up with a few tips to help you when planning. I am a mum myself though, so I completely understand how busy things are. Please don’t worry if this is one item too many for the to-do list! I have tried to keep it brief and realistic.
WHAT IS THE BEST LOCATION FOR OUR PHOTOSHOOT?
Home, outdoor or a bit of both – the choice is yours!
Home: This will differ from family to family. I find with smaller or more shy children, it’s best if we start the shoot in your home. This gives me a chance to chat and play with them in their own environment before I get the camera out. Family portraits in the home are a lovely memory to look back on. You might choose to have an activity set up for me to photograph in action: perhaps some toys laid out or a craft happening. I usually just stick with the living room, master bedroom and children’s rooms – so don’t feel all the house needs to be tidy! If you can try and have these areas relatively tidy that does help your images to look cleaner and fresher. Again, please don’t worry too much! We can finish the shoot outside in a local park or the garden, so you still get the best of both worlds.
Outdoors: For those with older children, or those reading this and the thought of a photographer in your house fills you with dread, let’s head to an outdoor location. I find big country parks and beauty spots work better than busy local parks. If you have younger children we could meet somewhere that has toilets and baby change facilities to hand.
WHAT TIME SHOULD WE PLAN OUR PHOTOSHOOT?
My absolute favourite times to shoot are the hour after sunrise, or the hour before sunset. This is perfect for engagement shoots! It might not be possible with young children to try and get up and out of the house or get to bed, but for everyone else this would always be the time I suggest. This time of day is known as ‘golden hour’ and you can work it out easily by finding out the sunrise or sunset time here. In the summer this can be very early or late in the evening, but if you can make it work, it gives beautiful light.
If golden hour won’t work for your family – do not fear! I can easily work with shade and like to get creative with shadows. In the summer it’s best to miss out the peak hours of the day when the sun is highest – this is around 11am-3pm. If it can work around naps to be outside before or after this, it will generally be easier to shoot, because it will be cooler for you all and the light will be less harsh. The next consideration is nap and feeding times. Shoots definitely go better when everyone is fully rested and fed, so think about your routine and when you think everyone would be in the best mood. If straight after lunch would be best, we can still make it work by using your home or a shady location.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PREP THE CHILDREN (OR UNENTHUSIASTIC PARTNER?)
I’m a firm believer in being really honest with children about family photos. Explain about how special these particular photos will be and create excitement together about who you are going to share them with. Are they a present for Nana? Are they going to go up on the wall? Are the photos happening because it’s a special birthday? Making them feel involved early on means that they will hopefully be more open to the shoot when it comes around. I am also very much a firm believer in bribery parenting. Why not talk about a special treat for after the shoot? Or perhaps some stickers for their chart towards extra pocket money? You have invested a lot in this photoshoot and if you think it would help, it’s worth considering. My children now get 50p per photoshoot. I have come to realise that it is a small price and they respond well to rewards.
Please know that I hate being in front of the camera with a passion and will always be full of sympathy for others who feel the same. If your partner or family member isn’t feeling super excited about the idea of being photographed, please try and reassure them that I will do everything I can to make it a fun experience. I take a lot of photos and try to deliver as much variety as possible to give you options when it comes to choosing which you share and print.
WHAT SHOULD WE WEAR?
Colour is the main thing we are considering when planning what to wear. I’d like you to start by thinking about where the images are going to be displayed in your house and choose colours that will compliment it. If the images are going to be put up on a green wall, you might want to avoid wearing orange. Similarly, we don’t want you all dressed in the same colour necessarily, but choose a few colours that compliment each other and try and pop everyone in those colours.
No patterns, logos or pictures: This one is really important. Checked/checkered and other strong patterns do not photograph well. Clothes with just one colour per item work best.
The examples below are ideas only and come from how I would choose to style my family for a shoot. Please don’t think this has to be the way it’s done but it’s just designed to show you how I split the colours across the family:
Blue, white, grey
Dad – blue jeans, plain grey t-shirt
Mum – long blue dress with minimal or no pattern and plain white cardigan
Boy – grey jeans and plain blue top
Girl – white with minimal or no pattern dress and plain blue cardigan
Burnt orange, cream, brown
Dad – Brown trousers, cream top
Mum- Burst orange dress
Boy – Cream trousers and brown top
Girl – Cream dress and burnt orange cardigan.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE SHOOT?
During the shoot we will do a mixture of activities and set-ups to try and get the most of our time. The locations I choose may seem strange to you, but I am looking at light, texture and colours as they will photograph, not how the naked eye sees them, so please trust my vision. It might be that I ask you to sit, or we might play a game. My aim is though that you won’t feel awkward and it will feel as natural as possible. We will walk between several locations to give you a break but I usually shoot throughout, so please keep the luggage you bring along with you to a minimum (easier said than done with small ones, I know!). I will always try and get one shot of you all looking and smiling at the camera but prefer the majority to be relaxed and show the real fun time you are (hopefully) having as a family.
I’m a big fan of children doing what they do, so we might do some tree climbing, play a catch game or get some bubbles out to play with. I love following small toddlers around as they explore, so please don’t worry if they wander away from the spot a little. I try and get a mixture of family and individual shots and different combinations of everyone by the end of the shoot. Please make sure you bring snacks and drinks – little children need lots of breaks and again these help with the bribery to keep everyone going (grown-ups included). I like to explain to children what I’m doing and am very happy for them to have a glimpse at themselves on the back of my camera. Please don’t panic if you feel the children start to get overwhelmed. We can put the camera way and take a step back for a few minutes. Have a hug, gently remind them how great they’re doing and how amazing it’s going to be to have the photos.
Well done for getting to the end of this! I’m very much looking forward to your shoot. If you have any questions, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.