Some family photos stick with you for the wrong reasons. Others are pure magic. There’s no one secret formula… but there are some insider secrets that pull it all together. If you want to make the most out of your next family photo, take these tips from professional photographer Mckenzie Fawcett, owner of Unabridged Photography.
Her advice is worth gold, and It’s exactly the opposite of what I’ve been doing all this time. Every other year, my family of five sits for a photo session. We view the proofs (somewhat unenthusiastically), select our favorites, and return home, frustrated, with photos that somehow never quite capture the spirit of what my family’s all about. Here’s how to change that.
It should seem fairly obvious, but unless you’re sitting for a painting, the best compositions are probably not going to be those in which your family is sitting unnaturally, looking (and probably feeling) awkward. In fact, if you’re booking a family portrait with kids, arranging your family like dolls on display is probably the worst thing you can do.
“Don’t be afraid to let your kids be themselves. Sometimes, mothers get so uptight about their kid sitting a certain way that the photo looks stiff and boring. Relax a little. Sometimes, candid shots are the best ones,” shares Fawcett, who has a particular talent for getting the most of children’s personalities in her photos.
“Make sure they are well-rested.” Grumpy kids lead to grumpy parents — not a good recipe for a comfortable and natural-looking photo. “Usually, by the end of the photo session, parents and children end up cranky, and it shows.”
The Best Family Photo Isn’t Always the One in Your Head
Whether you’re the photographer or the subjects of a photo, be open and flexible. Keep it fun, and consider the photos that inspire you a starting point… then go from there.
“I recently did a photo session where the mom wanted her babies in tutus, just like a photo on Pinterest. We ended up using the idea, and we got some great shots!”
Location Isn’t Always Everything
The season and the location are important, but a great photo isn’t defined by them. “Most outdoor shots are best during late spring, summer, and the peak of autumn,” notes Fawcett. In winter, you can get some truly stunning professional photos, but it’s a bit trickier. Your clothing should be warm but not bulky, and props like blankets work wonders for making it a truly comfortable experience.
One especially important thing to keep in mind is that you may be charged a sitting fee of up to $200 for the use of some locations for photo sessions. Seek out free venues with interesting textures and features — Fawcett suggests canyons, parks, even the main street of your city, which probably has wonderful buildings that work well as backgrounds.
Fawcett strongly advises against using railroad tracks in your photos. Why? “In many cases, it’s not only dangerous, but illegal.”
Dress for Photo Success
“Don’t be afraid of color,” advises Fawcett. You don’t want to blend in with the scenery… you want to stand out. This is especially important when taking photos outdoors.
Also, you don’t always have to color-coordinate your outfits. While it’s advisable for your group’s clothes to coordinate to some degree, that does not mean everyone has to wear the same color (or the same outfit). Fawcett has a handy tip for this, too. “Accessorize with random bits of color.”
She even has a pro-tip for applying makeup. “Make sure to apply it a touch darker than usual. Makeup doesn’t translate well.” To make it work, more is sometimes better. To make eyes pop, she says false eyelashes work well for many of her clients.
The Most Important Thing
Fawcett’s most important advice comes from personal experience with a family photo — her own. “I spent the entire time worried and stressed, and I wish I hadn’t. I got some great shots, but they would have been better if I just chilled.”
Whether you’re behind the camera or in front of it, the most important thing about getting the best family photo is enjoying the process and the people you’re with.
“Whether it’s a photo of your family, engagement or baby… have fun!”