I’m so in love with this family portrait session in downtown Columbia, and it makes me feel like I’ve made a horrible mistake. You see, I love taking pictures around the square in Columbia. It’s never crowded and it has some of the best old abandoned buildings that have beautiful texture and great light.
But I’ve only ever recommended it for Senior sessions. I’ve hesitated to use a downtown setting for my littlest clients because of the streets and traffic. I love to capture children running and playing. So I usually suggest the parks for them so that they have more space to run free.
But when I was chatting with this client about choosing a location, she said that “outdoorsy” settings didn’t feel like a great fit for their family. And above everything else, I want a client’s session to feel authentic to who they are and reflect their personalities. She also said the kids were likely to want to stay pretty close to mom and dad at a session. So I suggested we give downtown Columbia a try.
And I am SOOOOOO glad. I love them, and I hope she does too. These two sweet kids were FANTASTIC. The family was the kind that I immediately felt connected to and loved photographing.
When dad asked if I would take photographs of them getting ice cream at Hattie Jane’s Creamery at the end of the photo session, I thought that was a fantastic idea! Who doesn’t love photos of adorable kids eating delicious ice cream?
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.)
One of the biggest compliments for me to hear, is that a family had fun at their portrait session with me. I feel strongly that good memories need to be associated with the pretty pictures. I want kids to be themselves, and that means running, jumping, playing and exploring their surroundings.
It’s not just that I feel like I HAVE to let them do those things to get through the session. It’s that I believe doing those things actually makes the session better. Capturing a big genuine smile on a child’s face as he races down the slide, means more to me than a formal posed image.
I love photographing Hadley and Harper so much. They are so active and FULL of personality. I first met them at Harper’s newborn session, and love seeing them each year. How can you not smile when you look at those faces?
They also come to see me when I take Santa photos each year, and seeing Harper talk to Santa was one of my favorite moments from last year. If you haven’t signed up yet, spots are going quickly for my Santa photos at the Spring Station Middle School Holiday Marketplace on December 7. All the ticket sales from the Santa Pictures go directly to support the Spring Station Middle School Band. Book your slot today!
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
Photographing young children is something that I do regularly. If I had to choose one genre or age group of photographs to take, it would be families with pre-school age children for sure. It’s where I am most comfortable. It’s the age group that I am most passionate about shooting (though I still love taking pictures of people of all ages).
I have to remind myself that my clients do not do this regularly. This might be the first time they’ve been to a photo session like mine, and at the very least, it’s the first time they’ve done family photos with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old (or whatever the case may be.)
Because of that, I try to reassure my clients throughout a session that this is normal. I swear. Listen, photo sessions with multiple pre-school age children is by nature, a little bit of organized chaos. One client I had once called it a beautiful mess, and I love that term. Your kids are doing great. Really, they are.
I think one thing that makes parents nervous is when I start asking small children to do things, and maybe (probably) they don’t do what I ask. Please believe me when I tell you that I have NEVER met a two-year-old who did everything I asked. Never. Expecting them to follow all my instructions is not age-appropriate or realistic. Also, it doesn’t bother me one bit if they aren’t interested in something I suggest.
There are three main reasons it doesn’t bother me:
I have LOTS of tricks up my sleeve. Some kids like racing, some like flying, or Ring around the Roses. Some want to talk. Quite a few like to talk about farts (though I let them initiate that in case mom and dad don’t approve). Others want to interact only with mommy and daddy. That’s all OK.
I take a LOT of photos. I will delete tons, particularly at a session with small children. But I’m always left with plenty of keepers.
The only thing I want from your kids is for them to be authentic. Two-year-olds don’t know any other way to be, so whatever happens, we are winning.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes an image doesn’t tell the whole story. Today I want to talk through what happens at pretty much every session with small children ever, using photos from a family portrait session. So you can read what was happening in real life, and see the resulting image. I’m hoping this will prevent any future anxiety when you think “my kids aren’t cooperating.” I promise you; they are doing exactly what I want them to do.
So as you can see, these two beautiful sweet girls did an amazing job. They did exactly what I wanted them to do….to be wild and free and full of wonder. Because that’s the way it should be. Here are a few more photos from their session.
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.”
I cannot believe it’s been almost four years now since I began on this adventure as a professional family & children photographer. I was thinking about that during this session because I consider this family to be my first “real”clients. I had been photographing lots of families before I considered myself a real professional, but they were all close friends who I knew very well. This family was the first ones who hired me who I didn’t know really well when they had their first session, so that’s why I consider them my first real clients.
It was for a maternity session and included the big sister to be at a session at Harlinsdale farms. I was nervous about shooting with people I didn’t really know, but I just fell in love with them right away, and not long after that, was blessed to photograph Grayson’s birth. And each year since, I look forward to photographing their family photos. I talked yesterday about how I had a weekend of shooting my ideal clients, and this is definitely one of my favorites.
Each year I say how easy these two adorable kiddos are to photograph and they were the same way this year. There is just so much cuteness and they clearly love each other sooooo much. It’s not just the kids though. I adore mom and dad as well….they are always playful with the kids and we have so much fun just capturing memories. It’s always such an easy session and they are just simply beautiful.
I want to apologize for the large amount of photos in this blog post. I really am trying to get better about that, but I easily had enough photos from this session for three blog posts, and I had a really hard time choosing.
I first met this beautiful family last year, when they hired me for an extended family session after I had photographed sweet Lily’s preschool graduation photo and I just fell in love with them. There is just so much love, and joy and togetherness with them that is just beautiful to be around.
In photography workshops and facebook groups, they talk a lot about finding your ideal clients. That’s not something I thought about at all before becoming a professional photographer, but I quickly realized how important it is to find clients who are a good fit for my style. This past weekend, I had three family sessions, and I walked away from them all thinking about how exactly perfect the clients were for me.
I can’t put into words exactly what makes them so perfect, because a lot of it is just a feeling. But there are a few things that I know I love to see in clients:
They are familiar with my style of work and have come to be because that’s the style that they want, not just because someone recommended me or they found me in a google search (those are all great ways to find me, but my point is that they did look at my photos and made their final choice based upon my work.)
They put thought and planning into their wardrobe selection, but also understand that the primary subject of the photos are the people themselves, and have chosen clothing that they are comfortable in and feel themselves in.
They value photos as priceless artifacts of their time together, and after the session, they take the time to print the photos and enjoy them. (I was so excited to hear how this family printed and enjoyed their photos from last Fall!)
They aren’t looking for perfectly posed and put together photos, but are interested in capturing real memories of their time together.
I feel so thankful to have so many amazing clients who are not only clients, but who have become friends. I love being able to see them grow each year ❤️