Making Family Photos Magical



On a recent anniversary session I was joking with my clients about the challenges and stereotypes of family photography--crying kids and stressed out parents with teeth clenched in smiles. While I've navigated my share of kids who were just not having it, I've also had so much fun during family sessions. However, there are a few key things we can do as a planning team to set ourselves up for success that I don't see discussed regularly.


There are a million and one pinterest boards for how to coordinate your wardrobes but honestly if everyone is miserable that's the memory that will go down in family history.


After 10 plus years of professional photography, I've boiled my spell for magical family photos down to five simple ingredients:



  1. Make sure all the adults participating are on the same team

Family photos are so incredibly important. It's very common that those who spend the most time taking care of small children are the ones in the least photos. This happens for many reasons, from being uncomfortable in front of the camera, to it being impossible to be in the moment and the photo at the same time. As my grandparents and great grandparents have passed on, their family photos are deeply valuable to me. Having their photos on my walls is a way that they live on in my memory and the collective memory of my family. While of course we will have a deluge of snapshots now that we're in the digital age, there's still something special about the intention of documenting family connections and relationships.

The importance of family photos is a great conversation to have with any adults you'd like present well before the session is planned. If all the adults aren't totally on board it might be best for them to skip the session. Kiddos are empathetic little wonders and they will feel the tension. Stressed adults means stressed (and unhappy, dysregulated) kids. It's better to have a peaceful and happy Mommy or Daddy and me session than force group photos with anyone who doesn't actually want to be in them.



2. Respect the kid's priorities


Kids, especially small kids, don't understand the point of or care about getting photos taken. From their perspective they're asked to wear different, often uncomfortable clothes, go to a new place, and act in ways they usually wouldn't. Kids are people, not props. As a photographer I will always do my best to engage the kids present as much as I do the adults. Often showing them previews of the photos gets them excited about the session and makes them feel like they are part of the team. I took regular photos of one family so much that when their son's first day of school came he objected and said But Megan takes my photos! Of course, we're still going to ask the kids to do some things that may feel uncomfortable or pointless to them, but if we minimize it and take interest in their perspectives and priorities they will be much more cooperative.




3. Plan the session during a good time of day for everyone


Anyone who has known a newborn knows that Baby's timeline is the timeline everyone lives by for at least a couple years. While kids grow out of this to some extent, most families still have a rhythm of optimal times of day for activities when everyone is fed and before they are all tired. There's a golden hour in photography (usually about an hour before sunset) but YOUR golden hour is when the kids are the happiest. As a photographer, I'm more than happy to accommodate what works best for your family.



4. Take the photos somewhere loved and familiar OR somewhere novel and fun


Part of making a photo session enjoyable for kids is choosing a location that works well for your family. Sometimes taking photos at home is best. Maybe you have a favorite beach, park, or hiking spot you visit as a family - these are all great options. If none of that applies, there are so many orchards, farms, and parks in the New Haven area that create beautiful backdrops for photos and have many points of interest for children.




5. Don't be afraid of bribery Bribery gets a bad reputation, but at it's core, bringing little treats for motivating cooperation is just giving kids a reason to be invested in what's happening. Consider what would pique your kid's interest and think about how you can incorporate that into your session plan. Some folks like to plan something exciting for after the photo session, treats, ice cream, or an event, and others like to bring a favorite snack or candy along to keep kids interested. There's no shame in doing what works!



Combining these ingredients will be sure to bring some family photo magic. Interested in a family session in the New Haven CT area? Check my calendar and rates here.

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