For many generations, people have created family portraits to pass along as an heirloom. It is a preservation of today’s memories for tomorrow’s generation. Today, with the constant rush of jobs, activities, and school, it is easy to forget how quickly a family grows and, sadly, there are some members of the family who will not be there forever. Consider this: how often does the family gather in one place at the same time?
Family portraits can capture the personality of each member, a milestone in a child’s life, or a shared experience from birth of a new grandchild to a family vacation. Whatever the reason, you want that moment to be captured in a professional image, inspired by the emotions and personalities of the participants.
There are several options for portraits, such as the department store and chain studios, professional photography studios, or your own camera skills, as long as you have that timer working and a decent tripod.
Often your budget, location, and what you want your final product to be will determine which vendor you choose. For example, if your budget is small, but you do not want to do the photography yourself, then a department store studio may be the way to go. Alternatively, check local family photographers and see if they offer mini sessions or have a promotion. If you would like personalized attention and on location photography, a professional is a better choice. I am not stating you will not get a quality photo from some of the chain studios, however they are designed to get in and out as many people as possible in one day, many with photographers of little skill, and therefore often do not have the time or the options you can get with the professional photographers.
To make the best decision, set a budget and do your research. If you see a photo on someone’s wall or Facebook page and love it, ask who took the photo.
Whatever you choose, it is important you are prepared for the photo. Here are some tips for the special day:
- Color coordinate your clothes. You do not have to wear the same outfit, however color coordinating and using complementary colors makes for a more cohesive photo. In addition, avoid bright or fluorescent colors and large prints.
- Take the photo in a comfortable location. If you can opt for location photography, do it. Natural lighting is more complementary than studio, and being in a comfortable environment (backyard, park, or beach) eases children, pets, and other members who are not always easily photographed.
- Let the grandparents sit. Even more, let a grandchild sit in his or her lap. Spending a long time posing can be hard on the grandparents, so be sure to keep an eye on their comfort.
- Bring snacks for the kids (and the dog!). Sometimes a cookie can go a long way with making a child happy.
- Give the dog lots or exercise before the session and he or she will be less distracted. On the other hand, a child is usually happier after he or she is fed and had a nap. I have scheduled many portraits based on a child’s nap and lunch time.
- Listen to the photographer. Sometimes are instructions may seem wacky, but we are on the opposite end of the lens with years of practice and know what looks good.
- Take suggestions with you. Have ideas for posing? Unless the photographer has an ego the size of an elephant, he or she will appreciate the suggestions. If it is a problem, reconsider your photographer.
- Mix it up! Ask the photographer for color and black and white photos.
- Create a mini album for family members. It is a great way to document the time together.
- Act silly, smile, and have fun. Candid shots and true smiles are much better than the forced pose. Take your time and enjoy the moment.
As a final note, print those photos! I have so many friends and family who have hundreds of photos on the computer and none on the walls. What is the point of having photos if you can’t share them with everyone?