Family Portrait sessions like this one at Montgomery Bell State Park are my happy place. I love it when the babies are old enough to walk and talk and giggle and explore their surroundings. But also they are young enough to be their true authentic selves without worrying about what the look like in photos. This is why toddlers and preschoolers will always be my favorite age to photograph. (Though it’s also still fun to photograph Seniors, who allow for a different kind of creativity since they will do exactly what I tell them to do.)
I can’t even with the cuteness in these photos. The girls were just everything. ❤️
In online photography forums, you can read a lot about finding your ideal family portrait clients. I don’t know precisely how to put into words what defines a perfect client for me, but I know it and get excited when I see it.
Isla (3 years old) and Evie (1 1/2 years old) are at my absolute favorite ages of children to photograph. They brought their special Panda lovies to the session. I adore capturing young children with their special objects. The girls were so much fun to be around – wild and free and full of wonder about their world, which is everything I love about photographing kids this age.
Mom and Dad were more interested in capturing authentic, emotional images than in Pinterest perfect posed shots, which is the best kind of client for me. We danced and played and had a fabulous time.
This is a family who thought about the constraints of studio portraits with very young children and realized what a nightmare that could be. One thing that is extremely important to me is that family portrait sessions not be a stressful experience for families. I want to make it fun for the children, and for happy memories to be associated with the photographs. What good is a beautifully posed image if the memory associated with it was of a horrible experience?
I want to point out, though, that creating an enjoyable experience does not mean that everyone is happy for every minute of a session. It’s important to note this because I don’t want parents to become stressed out if there is a tiny bump in the road. Toddlers and preschoolers, by nature, have SO MANY EMOTIONS and not enough words to express them. I do not expect, nor need them to be happy and joyful every minute of a session.
First of all, that’s not real life. Second, the pouty moments are beautiful too. And third, and most importantly, toddler moods are like Middle Tennessee weather…if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes and it will change. As long as no one over reacts to momentary grumpiness, they will typically forget the mood in a manner of minutes…especially if we move on to a new activity…which I will generally do if they become impatient with what we were doing.
Can we talk about these outfits for a minute? These girls (mama too) look fabulous!! The color combinations are gorgeous! The cheetah print and floral prints are so fun and coordinate beautifully together. I talk about adding texture to clothing choices in my online “What to Wear Guide.” The girls’ vests accomplish this perfectly and are so adorable. The sisters were coordinating but not wearing the exact same outfits, which I prefer. But most of all, the girls seemed happy and comfortable.
Don’t be surprised when these images end up in my guide, once I have time to slow down and stop editing. LOL
When many moms come to me to book a family portrait session, their first concern is if their young children will “behave” for a portrait session. I want to make a deal with you….if you properly prepare your husband or significant other for the portrait session, then I promise I will handle the children. (Also, “behaving” is overrated. I want your babies to be wild and free and real.)
Things Dads Misunderstand About a Portrait Session:
Think about it for a minute: generally, 100% of my interactions before a portrait session have been with Mom. (This isn’t ALWAYS the case. I have had dads do the booking, but usually it’s mom.) It’s likely that mom was the one following me on social media, and mom was the one who picked me. Dad’s probably not read my blog. He’s also not the one reading all the emails from me preparing you for what to expect at the session.
Dad may have no idea about my candid style, or the fact that a photo session with me is meant to be playful and fun. Maybe, in his head, he’s expecting the studio type portrait session of his youth, where everyone had to stand at attention on a tiny black dot and stare unblinkingly at the camera.
Another misconception dads sometimes have is that we are trying to get “one good picture.” I try to get what I refer to as the “Grandma shot” early in the session. That’s the one where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling. It’s the one to send to Grandma…the more traditional look. But my real goal is to get you a gallery FULL of beautiful, candid images of your family that showcase their personalities and their love for each other. That takes more than 5 minutes.
Things Dads do wrong because they aren’t informed:
It’s not their fault. They are trying to help. But because they don’t know what to expect, or what the desired outcome is, they aren’t being as helpful as they could be. Here are some things they do because they don’t know better:
Telling the kids to “hurry up and behave and we will get this over faster.” (First, this is gonna be fun. We don’t want to behave as if it’s a chore. Also, we want to get lots of fun and candid images. This is not over after the first good photo.)
Telling the kids to “stop goofing off.” (Sometimes, I’m encouraging them to be goofy because it helps them relax and be real. Don’t worry, not all the images I give you will include that silly monster face.)
Staring at my camera the entire session with a clenched teeth smile that clearly says “my wife made me do this.”
What I want from Dads to make the Photo Session a Success:
Relax. Be silly. Play games. Have tickle fights. Spin the kids around in circles. Wrestle. Tell dad jokes. Kiss your wife. Hold hands. Throw the baby in the air (safely). Misbehave.
How you can help prepare dad for the photo session:
The biggest thing you can do before a session to make it successful is just to let dad know what to expect. Make sure he knows it will take about an hour, that we want lots of fun candid images, and that we aren’t trying to get studio-like posed portraits. Before each session, I send out an email on how parents can help make a portrait session successful. Share that with dad so he knows what to expect too. You can even show him the type of photos that you love from my family portfolio so he understands that not every photo needs to be of everyone smiling and looking at the camera. If dad is informed and knows what to expect, then he can help make the session fun and memorable, which is exactly what we want.
A perfect example:
I chose this session to talk about how to prep dads for family photos, because I think Brian has always done exactly what i wanted him to do at sessions. I’ve been photographing these two amazing kids since Grayson was in the womb and I shot a maternity session for their family. These kids embody everything I love about photographing young children, and I often have written about how easy it is to photograph them.
But one thing that makes it so easy to photograph them, is that their parents behave exactly the way I want parents to behave at a session. They don’t stress and let the session unfold naturally. They play and interact with the kids, and encourage silliness.
My case in point: Grayson’s pants were a little big around the waist and were sagging down. Brian made a joke that Grayson needed to keep his “booty in his pants.” That somehow evolved into a little silly song that Grayson and Alys both thought was hilarious. It kept him giggling for half the session.
Yes!! That’s the way it should be. That’s what I need from all my dads out there…less telling the kids to “behave” and more “keep your booty in your pants.”