Preparing for a family photoshoot - Six super tips
Ok, so you've booked a photographer to take pictures of you and your family. You did your research, you've found the right person for the job and now they're going to show up and magically take great pictures of you. Well, with any luck, yes. But there are a few things you should think about first in order to ensure that the images you end up with are the ones you were after in the first place.
1. Think about what kind of photos you want - There are basically two different types of photos you can end up with (to simplify a very wide range of styles). One type is images in a documentary style. By this I mean that you invite the photographer into your everyday routine or to a trip or event and ask them to document what really happens. There is little posing and very little direction involved on behalf of the photographer and things are allowed to flow naturally. Some photographers are great at this and will really capture wonderful images where the context plays almost as big a role as the subjects.
The other type of photographs are posed ones. These most often involve either a visit to a studio or perhaps a portable setup that the photographer will take to your home or somewhere outdoors. These images will feel less natural but will have sharper lighting and more control on behalf of the photographer.
Both these types of photographs are charming and produce wonderful results, but you should have an idea of what YOU want so that you and your photographer can plan accordingly.
2. Clothing and colours - Another important consideration is what you all wear. You may want to look and feel natural and let the photographer document what you look like on an ordinary day. On the other hand, you may want to scrub off those barnacles and really look your best. Either way, one thing to consider to make the most of the fact that you're paying for someone to come in and capture you and your family in all their glory are the colours that you wear. If you're anything like me, you may want to consult the handy charts (at the very bottom of this post) which highlight the colour combinations that work best.
Don't forget that if you're going to be outdoors, there is likely green grass involved or a yellow/orange sunset (if you're gong for that sort of thing), so don't forget to take that into account.
3. Your home (if you're going to be indoors that is) - Do you want your home to be spotless so your images represent you at your finest, or would you like a permanent document of what your life was like at that particular point in time? Your answer to that question will dictate how long you spend meticulously scrubbing floors and sweeping things under the sofa. As more of a documentary photographer, I love mess. Twenty years down the line, it'll be so much fun for you and your kids to see the toys that were played with when the kids were just wee babbers, the corner where your little monsters would unroll toilet paper in and rip it to shreds as well as the pile of books thrown from the edge of the bed onto the living room floor over and over. But again, this is all a matter of taste and something you should decide on before you discuss the final details with your photographer.
4. The time of your shoot - This may seem like an obvious consideration, but plan the time of your photoshoot to best suit your desired outcome and the makeup of your family. As an example, many families want pictures of their kids playing happily with a stunning sunset dominating the background. Those pictures are wonderful, but if it's summertime and you live in Sweden, the sun doesn't set until 10:30 PM, meaning that your kids will be more interested in tearing each other to shreds rather than playing joyfully in a wheat field. These shoots are better suited to mid spring or late summer/early autumn.
Also, if you want to capture your everyday life, then mornings, bathtime and mealtimes can be a great time to schedule your photoshoot so you can catch the spaghetti strands streaking across the kitchen table and water splashing all over the bathroom.
And whatever you do, if kids are involved, make sure they have eaten/napped shortly before or that they will eat during the shoot. There is nothing quite like the rage of a tired, hungry child to turn your photographs into season 7 of Game of Thrones.
5. What will you be doing? - This is not anything to think about if you've scheduled a studio photoshoot, but if not, think of a variety of activities you can do while you have the photographer around. Great ideas for indoor activities are... eating a meal; painting and drawing; reading; playing a game that usually involves action and laughter; dancing to music. If you're going to be outdoors, then take some balls, bubbles, water (for throwing at each other) and anything else your kids usually enjoy playing with. These activities may well take place after some prim and proper pictures have been taken, but it's always good to walk away with images in many different contexts as opposed to 64 different angles of you trying to hug your child as they try desperately to wriggle away from you.
6. You and your poses - Most people are very nervous before a photoshoot and often try and practice poses before the photographer arrives. Please feel free to do this if you enjoy watching yourself in a mirror and trying out some new funny faces, but THERE IS NO NEED TO! A good photographer will not only make you feel comfortable through their tried and tested people skills, but they will also know how to direct you to best flatter you and your unique body, clothing and facial features. Remember, you're paying THEM to take nice photos of you, and therefore the pressure is on them to produce the goods. If you paid a mechanic to fix your car, would you walk in expecting to crawl under the hood yourself and hand the mechanic his tools?
Now that photo season is about to get up and running, I hope this helps you to make the most of your photoshoot. If you're not sure which photographer you should go for or how best to search for one, I'll be writing a blog entry on that very subject in the coming weeks, so subscribe to my mailing list below to keep ahead of the game.