Have you ever wondered what goes on in a family photography session? There are so many misconceptions and so many variations in how photographers run family sessions. And I start to hear the worries and the stress from the very first phone call all the way up to the start of the session. What if my kids don’t cooperate? Will my husband be excited to be there? Are we just going to be standing there forced to smile for an hour? Let me take you behind the scenes and show you how I run a family photography session.
At the start of the session, I usually take a few minutes to talk to everybody and say hi to the kids as everybody’s usually a little nervous over how the time will go. Then to get going, I like to start out each session with that one shot. You know the one. Posed, formal, everybody having a good time. We set up the pose, do some silly things to get smiles, and bam! There’s the one traditional family shot. I find starting out with that one shot out of the way helps relax families. There’s no stress over getting that one good family picture. From there, we can just play and have fun and go with the flow.
For this session, I knew we were going to be walking to the park and all over the place, so I wanted to start out with that one perfect photo before things really got going. I set up my lighting in their backyard, and this was probably the third or fourth picture we took that day and their favorite family picture that they ended up buying.
From there, sessions tend to take a life of their own. We usually play games, pull out toys, run around. Really, it all depends on your family and what you like to do together. But it’s not posed pictures where you’re just standing there forced to smile. No counting to three or saying cheese. In fact, most of the time I don’t even want you to look at the camera. Instead I want you to look at each other and find that connection. I’ll direct you to a good spot with some good light, give you some kind of activity or interaction to do and then I sit back and just let it unfold naturally. That’s where the great candid shots come in, which are my favorite!
I’ll work in pictures of Mom alone playing with the kids and Dad alone playing with the kids. Both Mom and Dad usually bring such different energy and I love to capture those relationships as well. This is one of my favorite Mommy pictures because it totally captures the essence of motherhood with little ones.
Or these two liked to fish together so we made sure to include it into their session.
Or this picture was actually between shots. Dad was off filling up the kiddie pool and I was busy moving and setting up for a new spot when I noticed out of the corner of my eye these two playing and quickly grabbed my camera to capture this moment. Sometimes the moments when families think I’m not watching can turn out to be the best pictures.
At some point, I’ll pull Mom and Dad away for a few pictures alone. I use this time to give the kids a break, but also to capture that relationship as well. In all the hustle and bustle of kids, it’s so easy for parents to prioritize themselves and their relationship lower, which is why I love giving them a few minutes to focus on each other. I’ll find a nice quiet spot where the kids can run or have something to do, and the parents can just relax and have a little fun together.
As the session unfolds, I’ll look for opportunities to get pictures of the kids individually as well ones of them altogether. But nothing is planned out in stone. There is no pose chart we have to go through exactly. No forced smiles or standing for extended periods of time. And how this happens changes for every single session. Sometimes the kids behave the best in the beginning because I’m still new and they aren’t as comfortable with me yet so I’ll get their pictures then. Other times, children need time to warm up and are more cooperative towards the end of the session. Again, it changes with every family and I love to just go with the flow during sessions.
Now the big question, what happens if my child won’t cooperate? What if he doesn’t want his picture taken or throws a fit? For me, I have yet to have that be a big deal. Rather than force him or her to sit there and take their picture, or shake loud noisemakers at them to get their attention, or bribe them with candy, I just let it go. The more you push it, the worse it will get. Children can feel the stress and pressure and react negatively to it. For me, I just embrace the chaos and watch quietly. If you’re patient enough, you’ll see the moments. This little boy gave me a run for his money. He showed up and wanted nothing to do with having his picture taken. He was a ball of energy and ready to run. Mom and Dad were worried we weren’t going to get any pictures of him, but instead I just sat back and waited for that split second when he would slow down or smile. I ended up getting this picture, which is one of my favorites from the session.
That’s pretty much it in a nut shell. Nothing stressful, nothing forced. I hear so many stories of kids who don’t cooperate at portrait sessions and parents afraid to set one up out of fear of wasted money. There is a better way! If this sounds like the type of family photography session you would like, let’s chat!
Stephanie Simmons Photography specializes in baby, children, and family photography for the Akron, Canton, Cleveland, and surrounding Northeast Ohio areas. Please contact me to begin planning your portrait session!