I spend a lot of time talking about how I conduct my family sessions. I give advice on what to wear, where to go, how to prepare the kids, and more. But I realize that sometimes the most valuable advice you can receive is from someone who has been through an experience you are about to go through. And while yes, I have my own family photos taken every year, I’m not on the other side of my own camera at my own sessions, so I thought it would be helpful to to do a few mini-interviews with some of my clients so you can get an idea of what they do to help make their session a successful one.
Today I’m excited to share the thoughts of my friend and client, Ashley. Ashley, her husband Nik, and four-year-old son Ryan moved to Maine from North Carolina almost three years ago. I absolutely love having this family in front of my lens. Not only are they incredibly adorable, but their approach to their sessions make them relaxed and candid, really allowing me to capture who they are as a family.
Here are some questions I asked Ashley about her family’s experience preparing for their family sessions and their approach that day.
Why are family photos important to you?
Family photos began as a way for us to document our big move to Maine. As native North Carolinians, we wanted our families to get to see this beautiful place where we live and felt like photos were a great way to capture our move. We had such a great time with our first set of photos, and were so pleased with the results, that we decided to make it an annual thing. With annual photos, we’ll always have a high-quality image for our Christmas cards, and we’ll always have a record of our family. I’m one of those people who only takes pictures with a phone, so having someone who legitimately knows what she’s doing in charge of our official photos is really important to me.
How do you pick your outfits for your sessions?
I know myself well enough to know that I won’t look natural and comfortable in my photos (which is important to me), if I don’t choose an outfit that I feel good wearing. Sometimes it takes me WEEKS to pick something out, but when I know…I know. I don’t make a big deal out of ensuring that each family member’s outfit perfectly coordinates with the others. That’s not us. We aren’t a matchy family, and matchy outfits wouldn’t look like us. I let Ryan, (4), pick what he wants. He has clear preferences, and me shoving him into something I want him to wear is going to start us off on the wrong foot. Nik, (I won’t go there), picks his too. Again, if he’s not comfortable in what he has on, he won’t be comfortable in the pictures.
You have a four-year-old. How do you prepare him emotionally for the photo session in the days leading up to it, as well as the day of the session?
Part of the preparation is knowledge. We talk a lot about what it’s going to be like and what this is for. We practice too. “Ryan, what kind of silly face will you make for our pictures?” “Ryan, what kind of happy smile will you use for our pictures?” He still is pretty committed to going nuts when we’re in the middle of our session, but he at least knows his photo is being taken.
What advice do you have for families with young children who want a low-stress, low-pressure family photo experience?
If you’re looking for the perfect family photo, you need to have a realistic expectation of what “perfect” is for your family. A record of our family in photos should be as true-to-life as we can get it, so if my kid refuses to take off his gloves, so be it. I go in with very low expectations of pristine and perfect. That isn’t who we are and isn’t who my kiddo is. Letting him lead where we go and what we explore gives him some control. Letting him choose where we stand and how we put our arms empowers him to own his behavior for some of the photos, too. Also, snacks. Lots of snacks.
If you could name one thing that you and your family does that you feel contributes to an easy and fun photo session, what would it be and why?
Photos should be fun. We’re capturing our lives on film, and we are fun people! We aren’t posed. We aren’t poised. We chase each other. We turn each other upside down. We hold each other down for tickles. That’s what I want photos of. My REAL family. If you bring your REAL family with you to your session, you’re going to get REAL photos. Sure, we have some posed shots. We make Ryan sit still for probably 1 in 50. But the bulk of the session is just us doing our thing.
Any additional pieces of advice for a family preparing for their session?
Pick a place that means something to you. Find somewhere new you want to explore so you can capture the wonder in the eyes of your little one while he or she sees something new. Go to a place you’ve been 100 times that you know you love so your kiddo can lead you (and your photographer) through all his or her favorite adventures.
Thank you for your thoughts, Ashley!
For more information about scheduling your family session, click here or email me at Kristina@KristinaOBrien.com.