CIHI started in 2009 with the sweetest families ever who loved me so well as a new (and nervous!) photographer. As I grew as a photographer, however, I pulled away from family portraiture because I just didn’t felt like I did it justice.
I loved (love) kids and personally value family portraits tremendously but I just could never loosen up behind the camera enough to master the intersection of gorgeous, timeless images with character and personality. So, I took a break from family portraits for several years except for close family and friends.
This year, however, I’ve been dipping my toes in the water again and I’ll admit, it’s been really amazing. I’ll talk more about birth/newborn photography in a future post but for now, I want to share a 6 tips for family portraits that are filled with personality & are also timelessly beautiful.
1.) Your family’s attire should be styled by a color palette, not matchy-matchy outfits
For this, I’m grateful! Though I love pulling out my family’s “denim” (yes, denim!) family portrait from the mid-90’s, the fashion front for family portraiture is much more elegant these days. We’ve figured out that identical outfits are a no-go and I personally commit to helping my families style their sessions based around a 2-3 tone color palette. The Proffitt family chose a neutral palette for their session with grey, black and white as their three colors with a touch of nude for the girl’s shoes. You can see they used shades and variations and I personally love how their portraits turned out. So classy and yet so natural with attire that allowed for different combination portraits that will make a beautiful wall canvas cluster in their home!
2.) Makeup & hair for mama is key
Ok, raise your hand if you’ve had an unfortunate experience at a makeup counter before (*raises both hands high!*) These experiences made me totally wary of ever using a professional makeup artist (MUA) for my clients.
I’ve learned, however, that a talented MUA is actually the key to any portrait session. For engagement sessions this is a no-brainer but my selfless mamas tend to look at me like I have two heads when I suggest adding MUA services to a family session. The reality, however, is that if mom looks and feels good, the whole session will have a different tone! I understand, you’ve got kiddos whining as you dress them in their new shoes that they can’t stand and a husband who might not be too excited about the whole experience. Your hands are full, you’re throwing on lipstick in the car on the way to the session and hoping your purse-sized hairspray will seal the deal.
Trust me when I say that a MUA session the hour before portraits will be a little like going to the spa. Emily, my recommended artist, is the sweetest ever. We’ll have you over to my house, put a glass of wine in your hand and that night you’ll want to sleep with your new lashes on! The Motley’s first family session involved a fussy 1-year old with a terrible diaper rash but I’m telling you what, Ashley looked amazing and her makeup made a huge difference in all of the images!
3.) Location is important but it’s not everything
I love finding new locations and I love locations that have meaning to my clients. I, however, am not limited to only creating portraits in beautiful, well-known spaces. So, if we have to change gears last minute, or you’re not sure where you want your portraits set, no worries! I’ll outline your location/timeline and hey, if we have to make images in a downtown parking lot (like we did with the Brooks family– see below!), they’ll still be rockin’ and no one will ever know!
4.) Natural interaction is the key to a fun session & meaningful images
This can feel so hard during family sessions, especially for mom and dad. I’m singing songs, strangers are waving, your kids are (insert adjective) and you’re having trouble just getting a semi-natural, non twitchy-eyed smile onto your face, let alone letting out a real laugh.
Trust me when I say, we’ll have so much fun and that you’ll want to just take a breath and interact as if you’re in the middle of your kitchen on a Saturday afternoon. Parents being willing to play, kiss, twirl, and laugh make all the difference in a session. So, don’t stress! I’ll give just enough direction and I promise we’ll get the smiles and the special moments of this phase of life, too.
5.) Family portraits don’t stop after kiddos grow up
I feel like this goes without saying, yet I’m constantly amazed by how many families with grown children only have portraits made at weddings that illustrate life now. I recognize it’s hard, I’ve got a gaggle of siblings all over the country and the chances of all of us being in the same place is super rare these days. But, it’s still important to make images whenever you can, especially as spouses, fur & grandchildren are being added!
The Ford’s had me come over on Christmas Eve for a quick mini-session and it was a blast. All of the couples got new images, we made head shots for everyone, and we got the whole family in for several portraits together! Don’t let years go by without these portraits, friend. They are just as precious as the “fleeting” childhood years!
6.) Overwhelmed with planning/behind on updated images? Think “home”
If after the first 5 tips you’re feeling, I don’t know, anything other than ready for your family portrait session, let me say this:
You don’t have to have a brand new wardrobe.
Perfectly groomed kids.
The ideal location.
An empty wall ready for gallery-wrapped canvases.
In fact, you don’t even have to get in your car. Sometimes your family’s home is the perfect place for your session. I’ll even dig through your kiddos’ dresser drawers when I arrive to pick out their outfits, if needed! The portraits are what are important, no barriers should stand in the way of that. Just look at the Cochrane’s family mini-session from this fall that took place entirely on their front walkway!
These portraits are so special and whether you have them taken with me or another fabulous photographer that fits your family’s style & needs, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful as you plan your next session!
Here’s to memories that really are fleeting and images that make them timeless.
in His love,
for small business, life & photography tips, foodie adventures & portrait specials! we'll chat twice a month-- wine and dessert recommended! xo, L