Non-Traditional Advice

Surprisingly Simple Tips for your Family Portrait Session

How to create your most treasured family photos with a minimum of prep

dashed_line_2ptAfter 14 years, families have created albums containing the best images when they follow this advice:

Remember that your family’s story is about who you are and your love for each other, not what you look like.

  • DO wear less makeup than you would on an ordinary day. Skin-smoothing, blemish removal, eye and teeth brightening come standard with your album. Removing pancake makeup, off-color foundation, and excess mascara/eyeliner will add years to your face in a high-res digital photo. Compensating for too-much makeup can be difficult, expensive, or impossible.
  • DO let me know about the parts of your body you’re not crazy about (we all have them). What I can’t mitigate with equipment and perspective, we can work around later.
  • DO use your session date as an excuse to start a couch-to-5K, to set a goal for minutes of cardio (no weight or calorie counting!) or a motivator to pick quinoa over cheese doodles and kick-start your next life-long healthy routine.
  • DO Schedule a day at the spa, a full-foil, a manicure, or whatever makes you feel happy and gorgeous.
  • DO remember that your kids love you exactly as you are – think about the portraits of you together with your mother when you were young (if you’re lucky enough to have any). Do you care at all about how she compares to the fashion magazines from that year?
  • DON’T refuse your children memories of you together because you need to lose the baby weight, get a nose job, find the right eczema treatment, and lose 20 pounds. (Professional photography can work magic!)
  • DON’T drive yourself crazy with a crash diet, obsess over the scale, or stress because you forgot to touch up your roots. A well-fed, relaxed mom looks good in pictures, a calorie-starved mom trying to hide her hair under a weird new scarf looks tired and awkward. Remember that your health and sanity matters to your children. Your weight and grays don’t.

The right outfit can help you look relaxed and confident – just not the way you think.

  • DO invest in a comfortable, well-fitting bra (SPLURGE!) – the single most important piece of clothing that can help you look slimmer and feel effortlessly beautiful. Pay attention to pesky peeking bra straps, and use safety pins if you’re wearing a wide neckline.
  • DO wear layers, textures, patterns, and anything that adds dimension.
  • DO use flash tape with button-up shirts if you’re busty.
  • DO go ahead and buy that thing that you’ve been pining over – the one that has been sitting in your ModCloth shopping cart for three months. This could be your only excuse!
  • DO give your children the vital gift of your everyday self. A picture of you drinking coffee at the kitchen table, wearing your most comfy, threadbare robe. This is the picture that will comfort your children after you are long gone – the one that will remind them of your strong embrace as a young mother, the one that feels like your love. These are the moments they will need one day.
  • DO wear color! And patterns! Wear anything that makes your heart sing – like plaid PJ bottoms paired with a polka-dotted bathrobe, if that’s your thing.
  • DO keep formality consistent. If you’re wearing PJ’s, and dad is in basketball shorts, don’t put little Abernathy and baby Stylus in ruffled petticoats and tuxedos. Actually, unless they wear them on the regular, avoid tuxedos and petticoats all together. Tutus, however are encouraged for everyone at all times.
  • DON’T go nuts shopping for coordinating outfits or matching polo shirts (anyone else find this creepy?) – Don’t kid yourself, you’ll never wear those again. As cute as they are, kids can’t be themselves in stiff, scratchy outfits, and you’ll be too worried about grass stains to relax and tumble on the lawn with them.
  • DON’T wear solid tops of pure black or pure white (pants are OK). Avoid bright, shiny fabrics (like neon, sequins or solid metallics – although patterns incorporating metallics can look great) and try to avoid very thin hairline stripe patterns. All of these will confuse a camera sensor and make you look like a fun house. Unless it’s a favorite shirt that you’ve been wearing for a decade, avoid writing, logos, and anything that will make you look ridiculous in ten years. (My partner has so many photos of those 90’s shirts with wolves on them, I just can’t even.)

If you must fix up your home, pick a project that feel exquisitely satisfying to be done with – not what you think will look better in photos.

  • DO take this opportunity to finish ONE (no more than one – you have a life!) nagging project that has been driving you crazy. Use your session as an excuse to rearrange your bedroom, hire a handy-person to fix sagging kitchen cabinets, or compost that spider plant you haven’t watered since 2014.
  • DO tell me about the reasons you chose your home, your favorite parts, and the rooms you spend the most time in so I can include them in your story.
  • DON’T stage and sanitize your house as if it’s going on the market. Your favorite chipped mugs and toy-strewn floors are a part of your story. These are the details you and your children will reminisce over in 20 years.
  • DON’T turn your good intentions into a stressful ‘OMG I HAVE TO GET THIS DONE’ task that reduces you to a weeping mess of Modge Podge and festive buntings the week before your session.

Remember your WHY – Deep down, why do you really want your family story, and how will you enjoy it in 50 years?

  • DO dig deep during your pre-consultation and help your photographer understand the most important aspects of your story right now. It’s helpful to keep in mind all of the different possible uses for your portraits, but if you want an album of images that brings you back to this moment and allows you to remember the sweet smell of baby hair and the feel of tiny hugs, prioritize that over the flotsam of opportunities in Pinterest.
  • DON’T try to be everything to everyone. If you’re trying to get head shots and brag-images for your blog, show off your amazing motherhood skills on Facebook, print holiday albums for the grandparents, create a statement galleru for the mantle, and make an album for you to sniffle over when your kids leave for college (and to giggle over with your future grandchildren), all in one session, you’ll end up with portraits of you frantically obsessed over a checklist instead of relaxed and focused on your family.
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