Preparing for your family session
Hey hey! I'm so thrilled to have you in front of my lens!
I know it can be nerve-wracking to be in front of the camera. I've been in your shoes! I'll be coaching and encouraging y’all the whole time so it’s as easy and comfortable as possible, and we can really set ourselves up for success with just a little preparation beforehand. I'll be prepping my bag with lenses, batteries, and memory cards - your job is to check out the info below! Read through these tips and take some time several days before your session to prep. You (and I) will be so glad you did.
As you read through this, it may seem like I’m giving you lots of rules and things not to do. I promise my intention is definitely not to be restricting. I want you to feel like yourselves, for sure. That said, after years of doing sessions with lots of families, I’ve been able to narrow down what really looks the best in photos and what doesn’t. It’s my hope that you were drawn to my work because of a certain style - following these tips just helps ensure that you’ll get the same style & look from your photos that’s evident in the work of mine you’ve already seen!
All of the photos in this guide are examples of what DOES work well. Hopefully they give you some ideas and inspiration! Always, always text me if you’re unsure on outfits! We’ll find something that makes you look and feel amazing.
THE PORTRAIT GUIDE
Styles come and go, but certain types of clothes just look more timeless, photograph better and enhance the overall look of your photos. If you're having trouble deciding what to wear, text me! I'm happy to send suggestions and give honest feedback on outfit ideas. Because changing clothes takes time and interrupts the flow of the session once everyone’s in the groove, we'll stick to one outfit max.
CLOTHING Do's and don'ts
The era of matchy-matchy is long gone - thank goodness! Your best bet is to dress everyone in solid neutrals. If you do a pattern on one or two people, make sure they’re simple/soft designs and keep everyone else in coordinating solids.
DO stick to light neutral colors as the base for your outfits. Grayish blue, blush pink, taupe, khaki, light gray, cream, olive green, and tan - earthy tones - these are all perfect choices when it comes to the ideal color palette. Soft and heathery colors are the name of the game here and truly work best for my style of shooting & editing, but if you’d prefer something darker, especially in the fall and winter months, consider jewel tones. Plum, mustard yellow, dark green - these can all work well too! I’d stay away from red, maroon, and black (if you do want to do a dark color, go for navy instead).
DO step it up a notch from casual. Even if dressing up is not your everyday style, I promise you won't regret going dressier. Longer maxi dresses, especially in a nicer material, always look great in photos and are universally flattering for the ladies. Think loose and flowy, but not baggy. If you’d rather not do a dress, consider layering over skinny jeans with a nice tunic, long cardigan or kimono. For dad, I’d pick out a collared button-down, maybe a sweater or vest to layer, paired with nice jeans or dockers/chinos. If he has a sport coat, especially in a lighter gray or tan, have him bring it!
DO go for things with texture, especially in colder months. Corduroy, suede, wool, chunky knits, velvet, lace - those are all great! Softness is key.
DO iron or steam everything beforehand. It's hard to edit out wrinkles!
DO leave the arm party at home - hair ties, Apple Watches, Fitbits, any other wrist technology...
DON'T wear "busy" clothing. Stay away from stripes, and for plaids, the simpler the better. Tiny squares and two-toned plaids work fine, but anything with BIG squares or lots of bold intersecting lines, not so much. Floral can be busy, so it's best if paired with solid, soft neutrals like mentioned above. If you go with a floral pattern, again, the simpler and softer, the better.
DON'T have visible logos. The tiny logos on the chest pocket of guys' button-downs are fine, but nothing with text or college logos (sorry guys!) or big emblems.
DON'T wear golf shirts. Nothing against golfers, but golf shirts just do not photograph well - 99% of the time in photos, they're unflattering on even the fittest of guys. Plus, polyester has a sheen to it that looks out of place next to other materials. Dads, I promise: you will not regret wearing a nice cotton button-down instead.
DON'T wear t-shirts, shorts, flip flops, ball caps, or sneakers (shorts for kiddos are fine though!). Go with dress shoes or boots for the dad, wedges or booties or nice sandals for mom. For the kids, close-toed shoes or nice sandals are perfect.
Other Clothing Notes
If we’re doing some maternity photos, too: Show. off. your. bump. Be proud! The long stretchy gowns that hug your curves and do that baby bump justice can be found on Etsy. Search "maternity dress for photo shoot" and you'll see a ton of fabulous options - just stick with a soft color. Any maxi dress or outfit mentioned above is great, though! Whatever you feel the best in.
location, location, location
If you have a location in mind that's meaningful to you as a family, let's do it! A family ranch, a cool building, your own front yard - I'm up for whatever and always down to explore.
If you don't have anywhere in mind, I've scouted out several great locations in towns where I frequently shoot, so I can suggest a few places depending on whether you prefer open rural settings, other natural environments, or more urban locales. We'll typically stick to one location unless we have two that aren't more than a few minutes' drive from each other.
Little things: Because you’ll notice them later. Haircuts for the boys, nail touch-ups for mom - but skip the bright mani - they can be distracting in photos! Again, stay away from red, maroon, and black. Pale pink nails never fail. If you prefer a contrast, go for a taupe shade!
Professional hair & makeup: Mamas, you cannot go wrong splurging on this for your photos. Tell your man I said so. If you do get ready at home, test your makeup in natural light (by a window) and go a tad bit heavier than normal, but nothing drastic. Opt for a nude or berry shade of lipstick or plain chapstick in lieu of gloss, and bring that (and powder) with you to your session for touch-ups.
Spray tans: I don't advise them. While you do want to cover up tan lines, spray tans never look like your natural skin tone in professional photos, and any flaws in the application will stick out. I do advise lathering up with lotion (kiddos too!) the day of your session to keep skin from looking dull.
Extras: Don't feel like you have to pack a whole bag, but lip stuff and powder for touch-ups can’t hurt. I’ll always be checking to make sure everyone’s hair looks good and foreheads aren’t shiny! Feel free to bring snacks for the little ones, especially if it’s a typically fussy time of day.
Parents: Please, please please do not stress about getting your kids to look at the camera and smile. That's what I’m there for! If you just concentrate on loving on them and being silly, that's when the magic happens. If you have toddlers, it always helps to have a few of their favorite songs and characters in mind! We’ll sing a LOT. It helps to bring out the happy faces.
The Takeaways: Soft colors. Soft textures. Dressy, but still YOU!