Preparing for Your Family Session

Meadow Family PortraitWorking with families, large and small, is one of my favorite parts of my job!  I love how each family has their own unique personality and way of interacting — no two sessions are ever the same, which helps keep things fun!  Your family session with me is all about capturing your family as you are in this moment and preserving this point in time for your memories decades and generations down the road.   As you prepare for your session, I am very happy to answer any questions as they come up.  Many times, I get similar questions about preparations from many different families, so I thought it might be helpful to put together a list of the frequently asked questions along with my answers — if there is anything you feel I’m missing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

When should I schedule my family session?

The short answer is, whenever you would like!  Spring, Summer, and Fall are all very popular times, but Winter can be just as nice — either outdoors for a snowy, “winter wonderland” type of vibe, or in your home all nice and cozy.  Whenever you decide to book, it can be very helpful to schedule your session 1-2 months ahead of time if you can to ensure you get your preferred date and time.  If you aren’t able to plan that far ahead, please get in touch anyway — I try to accommodate everyone I can!

Another question I get a lot is about time of day.  For outdoor sessions, the most flattering light is found within 2 hours of sunrise or sunset.  Obviously, the specific times will vary depending on the time of year (December sunset sessions are a lot earlier than June sunset sessions!).   For indoor sessions, you actually want to schedule in the middle of the day, if at all possible so we have as much light as possible to work with indoors.   So your session time will depend very much on what time of year it is, and the location.  Timing is also important for families with little kids — when at all possible, I always try to work around nap time and meal time to help ensure that kids are in the best mood possible.

Where should the session take place?

All of my family sessions take place on location, whether that’s at your home, your favorite park, or another outdoor spot.  If your family has a favorite spot, that’s always my go-to, since I think it helps personalize the session some and make it even more special for your family.  If you don’t, though, no worries!  I have a whole list of locations I love, and we can chat about what will work best for you!

Who should be at the session?

Whoever you are defining as family.  For some, that’s just two — a couple on their own.  For some, the family is parents and children.  For some, it includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more!  Or maybe there are some family friends who are like chosen family they’re so close — I leave your definition of family entirely up to you 🙂

How can I prepare my kids for the session?

Depending on the age(s) of your child(ren), it can be helpful to talk to them ahead of time about what’s going to happen, and, if you’re comfortable with it, set up some sort of reward for cooperation (it could be something immediate, like a small pile of m&ms, which can be doled out throughout the session for cheerful cooperation, or for an older child, a slightly bigger treat to be given at the end like a cookie or a small toy).  I recommend *against* using electronics to keep kids happy during the session — I find it’s often hard to pull their attention away from the screen once its been given.  It can also be very helpful to bring some non-messy snacks, and plenty of water in case the kids get hungry or thirsty.

For a small child who might be nervous in front of the camera, it can be helpful to let me know ahead of time what sorts of things they like (really into Elmo?  Dinosaurs?  Outer space?  etc) and what sorts of tricks YOU find work well for them — you know your child best!  Once we’re in the middle of the session, it’s very helpful if the adults can keep the pose I’ve given while I take over the kid-wrangling so that when that perfect moment happens for the kids, everyone else is ready!  Most importantly, it helps if the adults in the room can remain relaxed 🙂

What should we wear?Outdoor Family Portrait

Ok, this is the big one!  I recently attended a talk on building a wardrobe by stylist Emma March, of Helena’s, a women’s boutique here in Arlington.  I loved the philosophy she espoused — that your clothes should fit who you are NOW, not 10lbs lighter or heavier, not 5 years from now, or 5 years ago, because you are you now, and not any of those other yous, and you need to be comfortable walking out the door today, and worry about five years from now then.  I feel like this really speaks to how I feel about dressing for a portrait session — these are memories of you now, and you should be comfortable and feel good about yourself in the clothes you’re wearing — this, I think should be the primary concern when deciding what to wear.

Beyond that, there are certainly some guidelines that can help if you are so inclined to seek out guidelines.  First of all, it can help to coordinate without matching among the members of your group — so maybe you’re all wearing similar colors, or the parents are wearing similar tones while the kids wear a complementary pattern.  Or the parents (or one parent) wears a nice pattern while the kids wear solids.  I do recommend avoiding graphics if at all possible, since they tend to both be distracting and not age as well as solids and patterns.  When you’re considering colors, it can be helpful to think about where you might display these photos — does your decor tend towards jewel tones, or neutrals?  For a really classic look, it can be helpful to stick with basics for most of your look, but add some pizazz with some flashier jewelry, or a jacket.

Most all, though, just remember — if it’s something you feel good in, you’ll be more comfortable and relaxed for your session and we’ll get more “real” smiles and emotion — so don’t sweat the wardrobe too much 🙂