Years ago I worked as a school photographer, a wedding photographer and model photographer. I have even done some family portraits over the years. You learn a lot of tricks, both in working with people and in capturing some beautiful shots that families will cherish for years to come.
Choosing Children’s Clothing
Most kids will not like the clothing you choose for them to wear and it will show that they are uncomfortable. Don’t pick a fight and force them into wearing something they don’t want to wear. Let them choose their own outfit, even if it doesn’t match or blend with what others are wearing. In years to come you will all look at that portrait and remember their favorite outfit fondly.
Capturing Facial Expressions
Saying “smile” or “say cheese” is just that…cheesy. You will get a stiff fake expression that looks nothing like your family. Instead of the boring “smile” phrase, remind your kids of a funny event that happened in your family. “Remember when Uncle Joe…” This will usually get a smile or a giggle so be ready to click that shutter.
Soothing the Baby
Whether you or taking the shots yourself, or going to a studio for family portraits be prepared for the baby to get fussy. You can try to avoid this by making sure baby has a nap before you go. It is also a good idea to feed the baby and change the diaper just before the sitting. If possible, plan the picture session right after baby has had a bowel movement. Seriously, who wants a portrait of a red, straining face?
Giving out Props
Small children may insist they want their favorite doll, truck or toy in the family photo. Let them bring a few choices with them instead of using any props the photographer has. No child wants to hold some strange object and pretend they like it just because it looks good. You may not want that beat up old truck, or cute little dolly in your family portrait, but just like with the favorite clothing you and your children will look at the portrait years later and remember those toys.
Personality vs. Perfect
Family portraits are different from the days when everyone looked stiff and uncomfortable. You want to capture your kid’s personalities and those adorable expressions you love. Allowing them to be their self instead of insisting everyone “sit up straight and be still” will make for a much better session and a more realistic photo of your family. You will also look more relaxed in the photo.
If the baby is happier chewing on a toy, with drool running down her check, don’t insist on taking it from her. She will look much more natural and happy chomping away. Think of how adorable that will be in later years. Families aren’t all stiff and perfect, so why should your family photo be any different? Go ahead and express yourself!