This article is written in partnership with Bacini Photography, who specializes in unique, custom portraiture.
It’s time to update your family portraits, so now what? Use this guide to walk you through the process of a successful family portrait session.
5 Steps to Update Family Portraits:
1.) Hiring a professional photographer
2.) What to wear
3.) How to prepare children
4.) Types of sessions
5.) Location Scouting
1. Hiring a Professional Photographer
Professional photographers are trained in lighting, posing, and processing your images to showcase you in their own unique artistic style—and styles and experience vary greatly. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to a photographer’s portfolio to see if you like their aesthetic and can picture yourself in their work. Contact them to discuss their availability, your budget, and if they are able to accommodate what you are looking for. Going with someone based on price alone won’t guarantee your happiness if they don’t meet all of the other qualifiers. Be sure to do your research to get the best update for your family portraits.
2. What to Wear
We’ve all seen the hilarious throwback photos online. Don’t become one of them! Avoid bright colors that reflect color back onto your skin, logos, characters, words, very intricate/busy patterns or tiny thin lines can create an optical illusion called moire (aka “total nightmare”). Instead, choose an article of clothing that has a number of colors for one person. (For example, you may choose a dress for a daughter). Look at the pattern and build the family’s wardrobe off of the colors found in that pattern. Using the dress example, if it contains peach, navy, and cream colors, you can do tan and navy clothes for dad and a peach dress for mom.
Choose mostly form-fitting or figure-flattering articles of clothing as the camera adds a couple of pounds. Pinterest has a lot of ideas in terms of family photo shoot color palettes (You can visit my Pinterest board for inspiration). Just search the season you are photographing in and it will return a variety of ideas for you to choose from—or ask your photographer! Sometimes your photographer will be able to guide you in what works for the season and location you will be shooting in.
3. How to Prepare Children
In nearly every family portraits session where I’ve worked with children, the parents are nervous that they won’t get any usable images because children are excitable or upset. Have no fear, there are tricks. First, it is always very important to head off any potential meltdowns by taking care of the most common meltdown-inducing culprits right before your session: hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and overstimulation. Keep in mind that children mirror the nerves of their parents. If you want calm, happy children you too must remain calm and happy.
To spark happiness and re-engage children who are no longer interested in cooperating, bring along some favored toys or treats if you don’t mind bribing with food. Another option could be to purchase something they would love and reveal it during the session for a genuinely ecstatic expression.
As a Mamma to three special needs children, we have a number of challenges that prevent us from having a successful photo shoot, so we have to be realistic in our expectations as well as forthcoming to our photographer about what they can expect during our time together. Communication is key! Have a conversation with your photographer about any challenges you as a family may face with following directions and help equip them with some ideas that will regain your children’s attention.
4. Types of Sessions
There are so many different styles of photography, but for the purpose of family sessions, we will narrow them down to the 3 most common ones: Portrait, Lifestyle, and Documentary.
Lifestyle sessions showcase your family interacting with one another in loosely posed yet natural situations, whether at home or out and about. There is more of an emphasis on what you are doing together and less on looking at the camera. If you want more attention paid to the connections and family dynamics, this could be the session type for you.
Documentary style photography is what I lovingly call the “fly on the wall” style. There is no direction or posing whatsoever, you go about your day as if the photographer isn’t there and they photograph you as you are. This is the rawest version of you in your natural setting so as to document your life together on an average day.
5. Location Scouting
Think of what type of environment you want your family portraits photographed in. Do you prefer indoor or outdoor scenery? If indoor, do you want your session held in your home or at a venue? TIP: If you want your session held in your home, send your photographer images of the interior spaces around the time you are discussing holding the session. This will give them an idea of the space and lighting requirements.
If you want outdoor images, the seasons will dictate your feel and color schemes. Would you like to get lost in a field of endless flowers? You may want to plan for Spring. For fall lovers who want to capture the vibrant colors of peak foliage time, set up an October session (be prepared to be flexible as peak foliage changes every year). Hoping for a great image in a boat on a lake? There are plenty of public parks with lake and boat access. Compile all of your wants into a list and you may be surprised to find a location that exceeds all of your expectations.
About the Guest Author:
Michelle McCrady is a Mama to 3 beautiful children and wife to a devilishly handsome and hilarious husband. Originally from NJ, Michelle and her family moved around the globe before finally settling down in Northern Virginia. With a passion for the arts, Michelle is versed in many mediums including oil painting, sculpting, drawing, and theater. She took much of her inspiration for BACINI Photography from the paintings and sculptures she enjoyed while living in Italy. She has studied under the most accomplished photographers in the industry and brings that passion and skillset to the DMV area. Oh, she really loves food and lives on espresso… in case you wanted to butter her up. *wink*