How to prepare for a family photo shoot

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Little Lenses Photography

Family photos are part of everyday life, and most of us have a collection of them scattered on walls, in frames, on the computer, at the office, on key rings – everywhere. They are uplifting and comforting and as we get older provide us with the most cherished of memories. So, particularly since becoming a Mum, I find this one of my favourite genres.

Having said that, the photos may look great, especially when they are taken as part of an event, in natural light, when the shoot is all about capturing special, intimate, un-staged moments. But to get to those perfect shots can involve a good deal of work and preparation, and sometimes there is a degree of stress involved – not so much for me, I love doing them – but for the parents, especially if the family shoot involves more than one young child.

We can’t avoid it. Kids are not always co-operate when you want them to be, and of course, babies and toddlers, not necessarily understanding what is required of them, can provide tough challenges. They won’t always smile on command, they may screech, sulk, pout, cry rivers of snot, fill their nappies and puke on their brand new outfit. I’ll never forget being a bridesmaid with my little sister who insisted on frowning through every single one of the group wedding photos. Hilarious to me at the time, not so to my embarrassed Mum. Not easy, but, with some forward thinking, the whole event can be a really fun experience. Really. Honest. And it is all in the hands of the grown ups.

So if you are preparing for a family photo-shoot, here are some tips to think about. I can’t guarantee that it will all go swimmingly, but hopefully you will be able to make the most of the session and your kids will have fun too.

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Right from the start it is best to pick a date and time that not only suits you, but where the light conditions are best to get the type of shots you are after. It is best to consult with your chosen photographer about this – they usually have the local experience necessary to be able to advise you. It’s worth thinking about the season and the prevalent type of weather. For example, your favourite location in the world may be Catalan Bay (it’s certainly one of my favourite places anywhere) but at 6pm in August this location will be teeming with beach goers. On the other hand, Alameda Gardens, beautiful at any time of year, will be dappled with light and shade, perfect conditions for interesting photographs and a more relaxed shoot.

The time of day is especially important for your children’s routines. It’s worth talking to your photographer about your child’s habits – are you encroaching on their nap time, which means they might be grumpy? Are they early morning kids and you have chosen an evening shoot to fit in with your working hours, so they may be tired? I’m always happy to work with what suits the subjects of the shoots best – and I’d much rather photograph happy kids than have to tease a smile out of a grouchy, reluctant toddler.

We are lucky in Gibraltar to have so much wonderful weather, but in the winter months it is worth remembering that an overcast day can make for very interesting light conditions – cloudy skies make for a perfect light diffuser. Some rainy conditions can be ideal – use wellies, kiddie brollies and a cute raincoat and you’ll have the sweetest of pictures. Having said that, in Gibraltar we can have some indecently dark days, or torrential rain, in which case the only hope is to postpone! And talking about light, the best light conditions for photographs outdoors are the two hours before sunset and after sunrise, but if that does not suit you or your kids, we can talk. Good photographers can usually make the most of locations to use light and shade to give skin a lovely hue and eyes a wonderful sparkle. We’ll let you know if your chosen location makes it impossible because of its openness.

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Little Lenses Photography

Clients often feel that because this is a photo shoot, they need to be dressed up and formal. Of course, if this is what you want, then that’s perfect. But for family shoots, I strongly recommend comfort: for you and for your kids. I find that in their everyday clothes, their favourite outfits, you tend to relax, feel more yourself, and then the pictures emerge glowing with a natural joy. I usually recommend think about a colour scheme that works for you as a family, for example, natural earth tones, or tones of blue. You can use accessories to complement or jazz up an outfit. Think about poses with or without shoes, a bit of bling or without any, hair up and later hair down. It’s all about relaxing and having a bit of fun at the same time.

Also think about how colours work with the theme: National Day shots are full of white and red, while Halloween shoots tend to include black and orange, purples and reds! Think about what style of shots you want and dress using colour and accessories that add to that style: soft neutral fabrics for timeless elegance, red and white polka dots for fun and funky shots. For ideas it is worth browsing my internet pages as I try to update so my clients don’t feel lost when preparing for their shoot:

Some final tips that I’ve learnt along the way:

  • Plan ahead. Make sure that on the morning of your shoot you have all the clothes and accessories ready, and leave plenty of time for showers, hair and make up and to make sure the car starts!
  • Have something to eat and drink before the session. Mums and Dads are often rushing around trying to get everyone ready, but when you are ready try to stop, take a breather, eat and drink. Everyone relaxes better on a full stomach.
  • Try to avoid giving kids sugary snacks and drinks before a session – food does affect behaviour and children find it hard to relax in front of a camera if their bodies are full of sugars and artificial colours. Stick to healthy foods with slow energy release so that they last through the whole session relaxed and happy.
  • By all means bring snacks with you, and in particular, bottles of fresh water so they are hydrated and can keep focused and relaxed: a session can be surprisingly tiring for all concerned! I always suggest fresh fruit, oat cakes, perhaps some crunchy vegetables or dried fruit. I have no objection at all to children having a nibble on a snack and a swig of water during a session. And don’t forget yourselves – Mums and Dads work hard during these sessions, and it’s amazingly thirsty work, looking gorgeous!

Coming soon – How to capture the perfect family photo. Keep your eyes peeled!

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