Fall is CRAZY TOWN for family photographers everywhere – that magical season when everyone wants pictures for Christmas cards. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, and while I LOVE working with a bunch of families every fall I also know that not everyone can throw down the extra $$$ to work with a professional photographer. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good family picture though! So I thought I’d share some tips for capturing a great shot of your family, even if you can’t hire a photographer.
Try the simple steps below to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone in your crew:
1. Pick a convenient location with several different “looks” so that you can stay in one area and still use a variety of backgrounds. Choose a place that doesn’t require a lot of effort – no long drives or special planning! Maybe your family enjoys walking to the neighborhood park in the evenings. That’s a perfect photo shoot location! Or if Grandma’s beautiful backyard is a special place for family gatherings, that makes it a special place for family pictures too! Make sure you have a spot that allows you to shoot in the shade, because shooting in direct sunlight is unflattering. If your location doesn’t offer any shade, plan to shoot an hour before sunset when the sun is lower in the sky.
2. Move quickly! Set you camera or phone on a tripod (this is a good one for your camera and here’s one for your phone), position your family in the area where you plan to shoot, get your settings ready, set the self timer, and use a remote (I use this one for my Canon and here’s one that you can use with Nikon cameras) to start shooting as soon as you get everyone set up! Another option here is to bring a friend/family member along to help take the pictures for you. There shouldn’t be a lot of downtime between pictures. Keep shooting while you have everyone’s attention, and take a lot more pictures than you need. If you’re trying to get one awesome Christmas card picture, take at least 15-20 shots. And know that your family will probably be happier at the beginning of your shoot and a complete hot mess by the end. 🙂 So if you’re hoping to get individual shots of everyone, plan to do that after the group pictures.
3. Let your kids pick out their clothes. Yep. Seriously. But here’s the secret – you choose two perfectly acceptable outfits, and then let them decide which one they like most! If they are comfortable and feel like they have some influence throughout the process, they will be happier. This is also why I often ask kids for help during a shoot. Do I need their help? No. Does it make them feel important? Yes! And they’re generally more into the whole process because of this. So, let them take a few of the shots with the remote or choose a spot to take some of the pictures!
4. Talk to your kids about the plan ahead of time. Tell them it’s going to be fun (and you better make it fun!) and give them an idea about what to expect. Also, bribery works for children and husbands. I know. I know. Some of you are above bribing your kids, but consider making an exception this one time! Make it a special experience and go out to dinner or dessert after you finish taking pictures. Why not? You’ll already be dressed up, so you may as well go out!
5. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready. To be specific, I recommend 30 minutes more than the time it normally takes you. Why? Because you’re going to want to look your best, and that sometimes means an extra step (or 4) in your hair styling routine, ironing a shirt you would usually ignore, or asking your husband to change his shoes 6 times. Am I right?!? You want to look your best, so give yourself time to make that happen. Otherwise you’ll leave the house late, argue with your spouse in the car, and by the time you get everything set up, you’re a hot mess. DON’T DO THIS! An extra 30 minutes is worth it!
6. Let go of your expectations and let your family be themselves. Moms, family photos should be fun. If the experience sucks EVERY SINGLE TIME, you’re doing it wrong! Don’t expect your kids to act perfect – they’re not perfect. Ever! Try to relax, because you set the tone for the shoot. And if you’re uptight about the whole thing, your family will feed off of your emotions. Sometimes you will get a perfect picture with everyone looking at the camera and smiling, and sometimes you’ll get some fun outtakes that you end up loving even more than those “perfect” shots!