After yesterday’s post about my DIY Family Portraits, I have had a few questions about planning a successful photo shoot. Remember that I’m definitely not a professional. Just a mamarazzi, here! Nevertheless, here are my top tips for preparing for your own do it yourself family photo session.
- Know your goal. Before you start scouting locations, shopping for the perfect outfits, or trying out hair and makeup styles, it’s important to know what you’d like to have at the end of the shoot. Are you looking for group photos of your kids together? Do you want to have individual shots of each person? Do you want to hop in the photos to make it a true family shoot? What style are you trying to achieve? Do you want posed portraits or casual lifestyle images? The answers to these questions will guide the rest of your planning.
- Keep an open mind. Sure, it’s important to know what you want to do, but it’s equally important to be at least a little flexible during the shoot. Let the kids have some fun while you shoot away. You never know what kind of shot you might get! Let your setting guide you. You may have planned to take your gorgeous photos in a field, but the harsh sun may dictate that you move to a shadier location. As much as you plan and prepare, there will probably be hiccups in your day. Try to go with the flow and be as spontaneous as you can. Sometimes the most unexpected shots are the best.
- Prep your kids ahead of time. Have an age-appropriate chat with your children and explain what you expect from them during the shoot. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect an older child to pose, be still, and smile. Not so much for a toddler or young child—though I’m not above bribery for those old enough to bribe! For the younger kids, break the session down into smaller portions. Say something like, “We’re going to spend 5 minutes taking photos and then you can run around and be silly.” Giving them a little incentive plus something to look forward to makes the entire process more bearable.
- Be prepared. You don’t want to spend a second of your child’s cooperative mood searching for your gear or changing batteries. Make sure everything you need is ready to go and easily accessible. If you’re going to be changing lenses (which I don’t recommend) in the middle of the shoot, make sure you have everything you need to do so. If you’re using props, make sure they’re nearby so you can easily grab them. If you’re not a pro, take some time to refresh yourself on your camera. Make sure you know what settings you’re going to use and what each will do for you. Having a few non-staining snacks and water for the kids may keep them occupied a little longer. Lip gloss and a hair brush are a must for quick touch ups. If you plan to be in the photos, don’t forget your tripod and timer!
- Bring a helper. Especially if you’re taking photos of young kids, having an extra pair of hands to help is a must. If you’re not doing full family photos, your husband is an obvious choice. Have him entertain the kids in between photos and help the little ones get energy out during breaks. If your husband isn’t up for helping, ask a friend to come along or hire a babysitter for a couple of hours. Do whatever it takes to make sure you’ve got a little help. You’ll probably need it!
- Be patient. Even if you’ve followed steps 1 through 5, you can’t account for the unpredictable behavior of children. No matter what is happening, keep your cool. Try not to fuss at the kids for behaving like kids. If you’re feeling stressed and upset, you can bet they’ll feed off your emotions. So try to have fun. Smile. Make some memories. Be silly. Having an extra dose of patience and understanding will go a long way toward a successful shoot. Remember, though, that this isn’t life and death. You can always try again.