Do you have a family photo session scheduled in the next several weeks??
I am raising my hand in the affirmative, and I bet you may have one on your calendar too. We set out to capture this season of life that our family is in and the beauty of the changing colors around us. Let’s be honest though, we mostly want a killer Christmas card shot... amiright? No shame in the card game, but our guest blogger today encourages each of us to think beyond that one photo, and gives some tried and true advice for how to make the most out of your upcoming session (it’s such a great post, trust me!).
I am incredibly excited to introduce you guys to my good friend, and very newly married, Carrie Savage! She’s an AMAZING photographer with Texture Photo, specializing in weddings out of Knoxville, TN, and is one of the most relational and loyal people I have ever met. Her gift for capturing details and telling her client’s unique story through her camera lens is unreal. Seriously. This girl knows her stuff, and her thoughts on family photo sessions are golden.
Family Photos. Those two little words can be dirty.
Here’s how the process typically goes:
You stress over how to afford family photos.
You worry that your kids won’t cooperate.
You wonder what in the world you should wear.
You hope your husband won’t be too annoyed with the whole process.
You cross your fingers that it won’t be too cold.
You pray that everyone is magically happy for your ten minute mini session.
You wonder why you’re paying so much for ten minutes.
You promise yourself that you’ll schedule something in the spring when you’ve lost those extra 10 pounds.
You eventually talk yourself out of taking any photos.
Any of this sound familiar? I really don’t want you to have to go through such a crazy, anxiety-ridden process more than once. There’s hope, friend. It doesn’t have to be so exhausting.
Family photos can be stressful, but after photographing hundreds of families, I really hope to save you some of the headache by sharing a few sanity-saving ideas I’ve gathered along the way. Sadly, I don’t have a magic wand to wave to make your kids smile at a stranger who keeps counting to three, but I hope these few tips will restore your hope that you can make it through family photos this year without pulling out whatever hair you have left after that last baby.
1. The Loaded Question: “What do you want to remember?”
Start by zooming out.
Imagine it’s 10 years from now and you pass a photo in your hallway from 2018. What was everyday life like back then? In other words, when you look back ten years from now, what do you hope to remember about this season of life?
My sister is due with her baby any day now. Currently, she and her husband are sleeping on separate twin mattresses while they renovate their house. The rooms are filled with tools, sheetrock dust, and boxes of their belongings. She’s not getting to “nest” like she hoped she would. The night before her photo session, I asked her this same question, and what followed was a conversation about celebrating this season for what it is. So when I got there the next day, I asked them to keep on the clothes they had been working in and I photographed them in the middle of their current chaos. It’s not “beautiful”, and it’s definitely not ideal, but man, it’s what I hope she laughs at ten years from now. “Remember when we were days away from having our first baby and were living in this mess?”
I’m so glad she didn’t just ask for the ideal photos, because this season of life, exactly as it is, is worth remembering. What do you hope to remember? The days spent at the playground? The missing tooth? Her favorite stuffed animal that she won’t let go of? Where do you spend most of your days? What’s true about this year that won’t be true about next year? If you can, ask your husband this question and see what he has to say too!
2. Mama, start with you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone start the “what to wear” conversation with, “well, I have this adorable outfit for my 3 month old”.
Great! But what’s harder to find: a cute outfit for your 3-month-old or a cute outfit for you?
Put YOUR mask on first, then help everyone else.
Pick YOUR outfit first, then pick theirs. It's way easier to pick from her dozens of cute outfits and from his same-shirt-in-9-different-colors.
Want my really honest advice?
Don’t go shopping. Wear your go-to, favorite, worn-it-a-million-times-and-always-feel-good-in-it outfit.
No, really, that one.
I would almost guarantee you the outfit you’ll love the most is the one that’s already in your closest. Plus, shopping can be stressful. And who wants to try on a thousand outfits, only to stand in a dressing room frustrated (possibly with screaming kids)? I know it may seem boring, but I want to you to feel confident, and wondering if the new dress is flattering doesn’t build up your confidence.
3. Pick a color palette, but let them be little.
Now that you’ve got your outfit picked out, and you know what you hope to capture (which might even include where you want to take these), now we need to pick out the rest of the clothes. The idea here is not to be too matchy matchy. On a normal day you’re not all wearing white shirts and khakis (hey 90’s!).
Let’s go back to the loaded question — What do you hope to remember? If it’s the monotonous days of playing at the park (which won’t be so monotonous ten years from now), then put your kiddos in something they can play in. If they can play, you’ll probably get genuine smiles. It’s tough to ask this question, but which matters more: the genuine smile or the cute 3-piece outfit?
The goal isn’t how fancy their clothes are, but that you all look like you go together. Find one or two colors to use as the more dominant ones (like green & grey or burnt orange & ivory) and then just try to pull pieces from each person’s closet that compliment those. Whatever you do, just steer clear of all loud prints. Go for the solids or the tiny printed options. You want to remember who someone is, not what they wore. I want to see your child’s face, not have to search for it in a photo of busy prints and patterns.
4. Let Dad swoop in at the last minute.
I know this may not be a crowd favorite, but I want to say it for those of you who have been burned by this process at some point before. Guys almost always HATE photos, so why would they love wrangling your children into outfits while listening to everyone scream, packing up the car, getting to the photo shoot, and then having to pretend to be happy about it while someone takes their picture?
What I feel like happens at almost every family session is that dad is miserable, so then mom is disappointed that he can’t fake it for a few photos, and now she’s feeling his frustration and is therefore disappointed, and now the kids are whining and the whole thing just escalates. Photographers love this. I've witnessed this same thing unfold more times than I'd like to admit, and I finally realized one little important piece of the puzzle: If Dad is happy, everyone is happy.
After experiencing this grumpy-dad phenomenon in her own family sessions, a friend of mine decided to start doing every single thing herself to get everyone ready for pictures…and then the only thing she asked her husband to do was to show up. He met us there, with a smile on his face and he played with his family and we got some beautiful images. I’m not saying dads shouldn’t help with the kids in all aspects of life. I’m just saying that if getting your husband to cooperate is sucking the life out of family photos for everyone, then maybe ask him to meet you there.
5. Ditch perfection & tell the truth.
Let the photos tell the truth. You’re hiring a photographer (or you’re crazy-good with a self-timer) so that you can tell your story back to yourself. Let’s stop taking photos for the people who get our Christmas cards and start taking them for our futures selves. So freeze time, even if it isn't perfect.
Even if everyone misses nap times, it's still a day-in-the-life and it's still worth remembering. Your daughter’s hair might have been a mess, but there was a time when she danced like no one was watching. You didn’t notice that your son still had ketchup on his face (really, how did the photographer not see that?!), but there was a time when he wasn’t afraid to snuggle with you. Your husband still wore those ugly shoes, but you were successfully surviving marriage with small kids, and you laughed together, even then. And the pacifier? Keep the paci in the photo. It’s worth remembering.
You're living a good story, friend. Even if it's not what you hoped it would be, it's still good. And it's still worth remembering.
*All images by Texture Photo