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How to Rock a Family Portrait Session | Stephanie Simmons Photography | Akron Canton Northeast Ohio Family Photographer

1. Timing is everything!

When working with little ones, especially toddlers and babies, I cannot stress enough how important timing is.  You want to schedule a time when they are well fed and well rested.  Nothing ruins a portrait session faster than a tired or hungry kid.  This is the most important rule I stress to my clients when booking.  Otherwise, you end up with pictures like this.  Not pretty and not something you want to frame and put on your walls. And while I’m talking about it, it’s always a good idea to bring snacks with you.  You never know when that well fed child will suddenly decide he’s hungry again out of the blue.  It’s always better to come prepared.candid shot of little girl crying on the beachOf course, this actually is adorable in its own way, but I think you know what I mean.

2. Pick a Location Free From Distractions

For every child, this is going to be different.  For my children, it’s a playground.  You could go to a beautiful park with lots of flowers and trees, but if there is a playground in sight forget it.  All you end up with are more pictures like these.  Think about your child and what their distractions are and plan accordingly.  Of course, I don’t expect your kids to sit there posed.  An open field or somewhere where they can run and play games of our choosing is perfect.  You just don’t want anything that is going to pull them away completely.

3. Golden Hour Portrait Sessions are amazing.

Going along with Rule #1, if evenings are workable within your child’s schedules, please try to plan for a sunset portrait session.  They call it golden hour for a reason.  The last 20-30 minutes as the sun is coming down, the light is amazing.  There is nothing quite like it.  When you schedule sunset sessions, these are type of images you end up with.  However, always defer to Rule #1.  It doesn’t matter how pretty the light is if your child is tired, hungry, or cranky.

At sunset you can get gorgeous sun flares like this:

Beautiful picture of a family playing on a blanket in a field at sunset at Veteran's Park in Plain Township, Ohio

Or dreamy sun haze like this:

Picture of family walking at Springfield Bog in Akron, OhioAnd of course, you can have some fun with silhouettes as well like this:

silhouette picture of father and son snuggling at sunset4. Bring Your Child’s Favorite Toys or Stuffed Animals.  

Kids interests change so quickly.  I love documenting all the little things they love before they change it again.  You want to look back and think, “Oh my goodness, remember when she was so into that?” And hopefully that memory will bring a little smile to your face.

portrait of little girl snuggling with her stuffed giraffe at Martindale Park in Canton, Ohio5. Family Heirlooms or Traditions

The whole point of custom portraits is that it should feel uniquely like your family.  You don’t want to leave feeling like that run of the mill portrait studio with the same backdrops and same poses that they use for every family.  You want to see your family story preserved in time.  In order to do that, think about anything special to your family and include it.  Maybe a quilt a Grandma made years ago.  Maybe a silly game you like to play. Maybe you are a family who likes to bike or read books together, whatever that “thing” is that bonds your family.  When planning your session, please make me aware of things like this so we can include them in your portrait session and make it more uniquely you. For this portrait session, I knew these boys loved to sword fight so I said, “Let’s do it!”, and the pictures we got as a result were adorable!candid picture of two little boys swordfighting on the deck of Sippo Lake Park in Massillon, Ohio6. Be Prepared to Be Silly.

When you book a portrait session with me, come prepared to play and have fun.  This won’t be some stuffy, boring session where you’re forced to pose and look at the camera.  Instead, we’ll play games and do all kinds of silly things to get great candid shots of your family.  I want you to enjoy your session and look back at it as a fun time together as a family.Beautiful portrait of a family of five tickling on a quilt7. Plan coordinating outfits

You want to coordinate your colors, but not be overly matchy.  Make sure to take your family’s style into consideration as you want your portraits to look like you.  Check out my What to Wear page for more tips.

Beautiful picture of family walking in Martindale Park in Canton, Ohio at sunset8. Just Be Yourself!

This family was probably one of the most natural I’ve ever photographed.  They came and played and it was like I wasn’t even there, in a good way! As a result, they got gorgeous candid, joyful portraits for their home. I know this can be hard.  I’m definitely much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.  But if you want natural, real pictures of your family, this is key.  I’m not some big, scary person.  Really I’m not.  If you can find a way to push past the awkwardness and weirdness and just relax and be yourselves it will make all the difference in your pictures.

Stephanie-Simmons-Photography-Homepage-Slider-Image9. Plan to arrive a little early so you won’t feel rushed.

I am a person who runs late a lot.  The whole time in the car I’m stressing knowing I’m leaving people waiting.  That’s not the feeling you want to bring into your portrait session.  Plan to get there a little early so you can arrive feeling ready and relaxed.

And lastly,

10. Go with the Flow

So you’ve paid your retainer, picked out outfits, planned and prepared for the day of your session.  You are excited and ready to go, and then one or all of your kids decides not to cooperate.  It happens quite often.  Kids don’t always behave the way we want them to.  Try not to stress or get upset.  Forget about bribes or consequences.  Just go with it.  I really truly mean that.  Some of the best shots I’ve gotten have been when I’ve given up on the portrait session and just let the kids run free.  The more upset you get or the more you fight it, the worse it will get.  This is the beauty of working with an on location photographer who is willing to do custom portraiture.  I come ready with a plan, but I’m willing to ditch it all and capture the chaos of the moment in a beautiful way.  Sometimes you just have to go with it. And don’t be surprised to see my snapping a few pictures while your child is throwing a tantrum.  Because who doesn’t love a good picture of a pouty face?

crib shot during a lifestyle newborn session of baby crying

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