From the other side of the lens – family portraits :: a 3-part series PARTS TWO AND THREE

In November I wrote a blog about getting family portraits taken. These are the last two parts of that post. Hopefully this spring these tips will help if you didn’t get a chance to get portraits in the fall. 

Since I went over communication strategies and how to prepare for the shoot ahead of time, these tidbits of wisdom will help during the actual session and then after the actual session. 

part two :: DURING THE SESSION

CONVERSATION

You have prepared and have on your clothes, your kids’ shoes are tied and you’re driving to the studio or location for pictures. Depending on the age of your children, you may want to have a fun conversation on the way there. Sharing laughs will definitely make your images more enjoyable, so try to keep conversations light when you get there.

  • While the photographer changes lenses or sets up a light, talk to them. They want to hear about your story. Tell them fun things that have happened in your family and make sure to involve the kids. 
  • Ask the photographer about their work and maybe even their family. Making it more personal helps both you and the photographer get better acquainted. This makes them want to collaborate with your family and get the best images possible (trust me).

TO POSE OR NOT TO POSE

You never know how small children will respond to posing. This little guy got a bit distracted by a truck driving down the street behind me. Many times you won't get the smileys from everyone. And that's okay!

You never know how small children will respond to posing. This little guy got a bit distracted by a truck driving down the street behind me. Many times you won't get the smileys from everyone. And that's okay!

Photographers should be well versed in a variety of poses and they’ll help guide you. There are variables that will change with each session: the location, ages of your family members, time allotted and lighting. Sometimes you’ll be in a great pose, the lighting can change quickly, so they’ll work quickly and then move you. I’ve even been photographing a family in a park and a runner jog right into the shot. I had to wait, but I let the family know why I had stopped and just made small talk so the kids didn’t run off.

They had a super cute pose and in two seconds, he decided he didn't like his shoe. It made for a really cute reaction shot - this is more of real life things that happen. Keep these images, these faces say it all about parenting littles.

They had a super cute pose and in two seconds, he decided he didn't like his shoe. It made for a really cute reaction shot - this is more of real life things that happen. Keep these images, these faces say it all about parenting littles.

If you have chosen a life style session with no posed shots, let your photographer know which rooms or areas you like the most. Also let them know what you like to do as a family. Be open to showing them around and letting them explore. They may see something with new eyes that you don’t always see. 

HOLDING YOUR COMPOSURE

Children can act a bit nutty during the session, here are some tips to remember and to keep your composure:

  • Bring a snack and their favorite toy. Bribery goes a long way. 
  • For babies, make sure to have food on hand (mom may need to nurse or cap them off with a bottle for a bit if the session runs long).
  • Most kids act differently in front of the camera lens if you’re not holding the camera.
  • Try not to feed into frustration if your kids act up. Don't let your temper get the best of you. Photographers should be able to deal with kids and allow them to be themselves. Let the photographer control the situation unless the child is becoming too unruly. I have clients that just let me hang out with the kids so they’re not taking over and slicking down their hair every two seconds, making the kids mad. 

One of my favorite clients has two little boys. The oldest loved me from the minute I walked in and we’re big buddies. His little brother, however, does not feel the same fondness. He’s a great little guy, he just starts crying as soon as I pick up my camera to get images of him. It’s created some of the funniest Christmas cards! At first I was going to cull the images of him crying, but his parents said they really liked them, so we kept them. That started our love for trying to get the funniest card each year. So far, I think the first one was the doozy. And it landed on the front page of my web site for over a year.

One day we will get one without the tears … this is one of the funniest times. Real life, people. 

One day we will get one without the tears … this is one of the funniest times. Real life, people. 

part three :: AFTER THE SESSION

Follow up either the same day or the next day just to be on the same page.  This list will help you ask the right questions and prepare for anything that comes up.

  • Do you need to schedule time to review the images together? Double check on date, time and location. Ask how much time should be allotted. 
  • When will a gallery of online proofs be available? What is the duration of the gallery and can you send that link to others?
  • What is the cost of products and prints? This should have already been given to you, but you may need a refresher... or if you’ve taken a while to order, ask for an updated price guide.
  • Go over details of any deadlines with the photographer. For example, some people send out pictures when celebrating life events, so let them know when you’ll need the products in your hands.
  • Make sure to pay what you owe them. If you have an outstanding balance, pay that quickly.
  • Some photographers are more busy in different seasons than others, so don’t listen to your friends when they say they got their images in three days, four weeks or six months. Ask your photographer specifically when to expect YOUR images - both proofing and final products.
  • Learn the terminology about copyrights. When a photographer or artist creates something, it is their copyrighted original. However, if you buy a copy of the digital images from a photographer, you’re not buying the actual copyright. You can get a letter stating you have the right to make prints and products, but legally they still own the copyright and you just own a file. Some photographers don’t sell digital images, they only sell prints or products. Back in the film days, it was a rare occasion that photographers sold the negatives. I sold the negatives to my clients when I moved from Tennessee to Kentucky because honestly, I didn’t want to have to store all those negatives in the move. Again, communicate BEFORE the session to make sure you understand how they work. 
  • If you do get digital images, back them up on separate computers and also on an online gallery (either the Cloud or on a company that creates prints and products). Don’t solely rely on one backup — anything can happen. Make prints and products quickly so they don’t just become digital clutter. Ask how many years the photographer will promise to keep them on file as back up as well.
  • Remember to book early and as often as your pocketbook will allow. You will never regret the images that you get from a professional that you love working with. 

Getting to know my clients is something I truly enjoy. I love seeing you grow and change and how your relationships bloom. Find a photographer that will love your people and want you to look the best in your images. Be creative and have fun!

From the other side of the lens – family portraits :: a 3-part series

So you've decided to get family pictures taken … please read this three part series of blog posts. I hope it will help you from being on the other side of the lens (we just had family portraits taken). Great results can happen with your images by open communication and planning ahead. This will be a three part series, so sit back and relax... feel free to make notes and forward this to your friends and family as well. 

part one :: BEFORE THE SESSION

1.  Practice POSES and facial EXPRESSIONS in front of the mirror and with the other people who will be in the portraits. Make sure you like their facial expressions. You can even give names to certain poses that you come up with together. Let your kids come up with some fun stuff, too. It will give them some ownership in their own images. If you want a "serious" posed picture, make sure you tell them the difference between looking too mad and just serious. Our son decided that angry and serious were very similar … so we had to help him a little with those ideas.

This is his "I'm a serious songwriter" look. Not for family portraits, son. Please. : )

This is his "I'm a serious songwriter" look. Not for family portraits, son. Please. : )

2. Pick out CLOTHES that are your style - not the ones shown only in pinterest pictures or in magazines. If you're not super trendy, don't pretend to be. If you want a funky, stylized shoot, that's okay, but make sure you change into your regular clothes, too. Talk to your family about the outfits and get their opinions. Make sure you either text a picture to your photographer if you need color coordinating advice, or send it to your friends that are color theory experts (or at least know your style and won't steer you toward something stupid). I sent a text to two college girlfriends from our art department, and they gave me good tips. It makes it more fun to get a little advice. Let kids add a touch of their personalities - at least for a few shots or more.

Our son wore a vest that he loves, it's retro, from when my brother was a kid, so he loves it -- and it's not itchy. Make sure you pick out clothes well in advance -- at least a week or more -- and have a back up option that you don't hate in case your kid tries to pull a last minute switcheroo. You don't have to go out and buy new clothes, just look at your own wardrobes with new eyes. Don't wait until the day of the shoot to tell your kids what they'll be wearing. I've never had that be successful in all the years I've photographed families. AND! If you do choose to get new clothes, wash them prior to the shoot. I've had babies super angry because of an itchy, uncomfortable outfit and the moms can't figure out why they're crying. 

This was the first shot I texted to my girlfriends. One responded that I would look like a rockstar and the guys, well, more like my back up singers. Maybe not in those words, so I changed this to a navy jacket. Subtle changes do make a difference! And only ask your honest friends, your mom will either tear it all down or she'll think you look great … but not so much. 

This was the first shot I texted to my girlfriends. One responded that I would look like a rockstar and the guys, well, more like my back up singers. Maybe not in those words, so I changed this to a navy jacket. Subtle changes do make a difference! And only ask your honest friends, your mom will either tear it all down or she'll think you look great … but not so much. 

3. Talk with your photographer about LOCATION ideas if you're not using your own property. Talk to the owners or event coordinators of locations well in advance if you have a good relationship with them, but perhaps your photographer doesn't know them from boo-tattoo. There is nothing more embarrassing than saying you did talk with someone, and then get kicked out during the session. So get permission!

Jean Ann and I always work together to come up with fun Christmas cards. This year's session included time at the barn where her horse is boarded. But, I won't show you the images we got for their card (I love surprises!). They are one of the best families that I work with and I love seeing them every time we do a session. In the past we've done studio stuff and also shots in their backyard and at a park.

Jean Ann and I always work together to come up with fun Christmas cards. This year's session included time at the barn where her horse is boarded. But, I won't show you the images we got for their card (I love surprises!). They are one of the best families that I work with and I love seeing them every time we do a session. In the past we've done studio stuff and also shots in their backyard and at a park.

As a photographer, I also try to find more unique places than what is trending at the time. There's nothing original or cool about your pictures' backgrounds looking like every friend you have. Be proactive about driving around and scouting out new places if your photographer doesn't have ideas. Work together to figure out a good place for everyone involved. Parks typically require a permit, so if your photographer doesn't have one, talk to them about it before you get there. Also, if you want to take portraits in businesses like coffee shops or even the zoo, you MUST get permission first (not during the session, have the photographer call in advance -- or take responsibility and call them yourself.) Newbie photographers have told me they never call in advance. What? That's like someone coming onto your property to have a picnic and just plopping down to eat and then playing corn hole on your yard without your permission. Would that be cool? No? Okay, so yeah … be considerate.

Let's say you find a cool location. Take a picture and text or email it to the photographer. Make sure it's at the same time of day, and if possible on the same day of the week (because the city is busy during the week, but not so much on certain weekends) ... that way they can see shadows and where light falls. You may only see a cool backdrop, they'll see what kind of equipment they'll have to bring to get the light right. I never take all of my equipment on location, it's just too much. So make sure you talk with the photographer beforehand

4. Share IDEAS with your photographer well in advance. There is nothing more frustrating than when a client shows up with a list and says, "I just stayed up all night and printed these Pinterest ideas for you." If you have some ideas, feel free to talk those out with your photographer, talk with them about work you've seen on their web site, but don't always show them other people's work. Remember, you don't like being compared to every mom, dad, kid or worker, they don't like it either. So be respectful and talk – before the day of the session.

When I booked our session with Tyler Zoller, it was because I have seen his work and I know he does amazing things with studio lights. His work is great and he's a good friend. I wanted something funky and clever for our session along with candids. I already had an idea in mind that not everyone could pull off, I thought of him immediately. So I called him and asked if he'd even be willing to do this with us because he typically works with models and seniors. He asked me a few questions and we worked it all out. Making sure you've seen the person's best work is helpful. Again, make sure you're communicating with the photographer up front.

5. Other things to discuss BEFORE the session  –––

  • MONEY:: don't make $$ the only reason you're using that photographer ... The best way to handle money issues is not to just start with a talk about how much the photographer charges. Talk with them about their work first and how they work Ask them about how you'd like the session to go (candids, posed, etc...) and THEN you should talk with them about money. If you can't afford their prices, don't freak out and tell them that their prices are out of control. Just nicely tell them that is out of your budget. You never know, they may need some of your services. Let's say you are a potter, so ask them if they'd be willing to barter. But never bring that up as the only way to pay them. You should work together on the ideas of bartering to make sure it's a win/win for both parties. You could say, "Oh, that is a little out of my budget. How could we work together with XXX for a budget?" 
     
  • TIME:: session length, editing and deliverables (proofs, prints, digital files, etc) ... Talk to the photographer about how much time to set aside for the actual session. If you have to take off work, take into consideration how long it takes you to get to the location, the length of the actual session and getting back to work. Don't make it a problem for the photographer. If possible, don't leave halfway through and let your spouse deal with the kids alone. If you truly only have a few hours, tell them that upfront, but don't wait until the day of and rush them. TJ was great and we talked it out beforehand, so he took off the whole day. You may not be able to do that, but consider these portraits as probably a once a year thing. Seriously, you have an hour or two of time you can use for these important images. Just remember that years later you'll be grateful you took the time out. Your family will outlive your working hours.

    Before the session, make sure to ask how long it will take to get a gallery of the images and how long before you'll receive the finished deliverables. Every photographer delivers different products on different timetables, so make sure you get that spelled out well in advance. If you think you want digital files along with prints, please ask them if they even sell the files.
     
  • BEST ATTITUDE & OTHER IDEAS:: make sure you discuss the best time of day for the attitudes of all involved. The kids probably won't be so happy if you don't feed them breakfast. Also, don't plan the session during your baby's nap time. Make sure everyone is fed and have had naps or at least a good night's sleep. Again, think ahead. I've had people bring kids that have just had their vaccine shots, so not only are they in a bad mood, but most of the time they've been crying, so their little faces are splotchy. I know there are people with more than one kid, but think like them. Would you want YOUR picture taken after crying because of a shot? Okay, and this is a no brainer I think, but make sure your kids aren't sick. If their nose is running non-stop and it's green, you should call and reschedule. The photographer doesn't want to get sick, thank you. 

    And this might be tough, but try to keep fighting to a minimum before and during the session. Talk with your family about positive things. Bring up happy things that have nothing to do with the day, maybe about something they've done that you can praise them for.... Talk to them about things they like to do and how fun the session will be. Answer questions they might have … just make sure to try and keep it upbeat. The better your attitude is about the session, the better everyone will cooperate. If everyone is Grumpy Gus before they show up, sometimes I will just want to turn around and leave. But I don't and I also tell corny jokes to get them thinking of something else besides what is about to happen. 
Think about lighting and certain times of day are the best. You won't always be able to schedule at those times, but think differently than just in a field with weeds or at a park. Simple sunsetting shots can make a gorgeous image. You just have to think ahead. 

Think about lighting and certain times of day are the best. You won't always be able to schedule at those times, but think differently than just in a field with weeds or at a park. Simple sunsetting shots can make a gorgeous image. You just have to think ahead. 

Remind everyone that it's not brain surgery. It might be awkward, but try to relax and enjoy your time. And it is only one moment in time, you'll cherish the images later.

**This may seem like a long blog post, but it's so worth looking into this to make your session a success. The next blogs in this series won't be as long, but you see how important it is to communicate prior to the actual session. I'm sure your photographer will love it when you plan ahead. 

Three cheers to you for getting your portraits taken! 

 

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Thanks for stopping by my little corner on the web!

In the past I've concentrated photographing weddings, families and babies. As our family changes and my love for the craft changes, so does my business. I will continue to refer you to great wedding photographers, but I want my Saturdays (and the many hours involved with weddings) to concentrate on other ideas. 

Now I'm concentrating solely on commercial work, families and children. And I've also added a bit of artwork if you want to purchase for your walls in your office, home or to give as gifts. 

I love working with you to promote your businesses and your people in those businesses.

I love working with you to preserve the memories for your families.

I love working with your children and getting fun images of them for you and to cherish for the rest of your lives together. 

When you need a professional, but personable photographer, please give me a shout and we can talk about your project. I am excited about the creative process that grows from just an idea to the finished piece, so please give me a chance to help you.

Thanks for your continued support for my business and letting me take care of your image!