Surviving Your Outdoor Family Photography Session

The red cart is filling up with all the items on the list.  Everyone is excited and energized because as much fun as you had with your family this summer, all good things must come to an end.  We are ready to get back to routine, get off the devices and start fresh.   The day is finally here and as we wave goodbye to our little ones on their first day back at school, that twinge of pain still manages to make it’s way from our hearts, to lumps in our throats, to a few tears in our eyes.  We wave and watch as the distance grows between us and we can’t help but stop and think, gosh I love them so much it hurts.  Minutes later we get back to our car, shake it off, take a deep breath and indulge in a short celebration of freedom.

It’s usually in the next few weeks when you decide, after looking 50 times at the “First Day of School” pic you snapped on your phone, that you really want to have a professional take photos of these kids whom you cherish.

Time out!  Side note:  Hopefully you already planned this and are grateful to be on your favorite photographer’s calendar.  If not, you may have a hard time squeezing yourself in!!!  Be sure to plan way ahead for this!!!  

You may or may not need to present a hard case to your spouse on this one.  Let’s face it, professional photography is an investment and it’s not usually in the top 10 for the man of the house.  It is a beautiful thing when Dads are fully on board with this but in the event that they aren’t, it’s up to you to sell them.  Once you’ve done your research and selected the photographer whose style you are most drawn to, show your spouse photos.  Tag them in posts on said Photographer’s Facebook page so they not only see the photo, but can also read any comments on it.  Let them know that it will only be 60-90 minutes of their time.  Most importantly, explain how much it would mean to you to have these memories.  You know what they say, “A happy wife…….” 

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Fast forward now to the assumption that you found your photographer, you have your date set, and deposit is paid.  Now the freak out… WHAT SHOULD WE WEAR!!???   OK, here’s the thing.  Yes, it is so important that you feel amazing during the shoot, wearing a fabulous outfit that coordinates well with the kids, and compliments whatever your spouse is wearing, HOWEVER, all of that will go to s@#t if a few key components aren’t addressed.

  1.   HUNGRY:   

    Your kids are in the cutest little outfits but…..  they’re hungry.  You were so busy getting everything ready, doing your makeup, fixing your hair 12 times, ironing your husband’s shirt, that you forgot to feed them dinner.  So you throw a bag of snacks in the car and ask them to eat on the road.  Wellll…… it’s not the best idea.  Kids get HANGRY!!!  And thirsty.  So who cares if their outfits are cute?  They’re miserable.

  2. GIVE AND TAKE:   

    Piggy backing on number one…. you realize mid shoot that this is exactly the case so you pull out snacks and try to feed them thinking that will help their mood.  But the sun is setting, husband is starting to get frustrated, and you are panicking so mid snacking, you pull the bag away and expect them to perform on 3 cheerios and a sip of water.  The tears start flowing.  Whoa.  Feeding kids in the middle of a session… not the best idea.  

  3. THE VIBE:   

    Everyone is stressed out!!!!  You are worried about your hair laying in the right spot and that you are positioned in the most flattering way (even though you’ve already asked your photographer to erase all wrinkles and take off 10lbs), your spouse is annoyed that he’s even there and still doesn’t understand why it costs so much money, and your kids can feel it!!  They can feel your vibe!!  Kids feel excitement, happiness, love, tension and stress.  So calm down!!!  Stop, and remember why you are here.  You are here because gosh darn it you love this crazy family of yours and you want photos to remember this very time in your lives!  

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    For the last 3 days you’ve been talking about the photos….. perfecting the outfits and psyching your kids up to be on their best behavior.  You have already told them what will happen if they behave or if, god forbid, they don’t behave.  Are you making it a bigger deal than you need to?  You know your kids best…. are you stressing them out?  Are you putting way too much emphasis on their “performance”?  Is your fear of disaster being pushed on to them?  Perhaps, it’s a good idea to barely mention the photos.  Again, you know your kids and some need more of a pep talk than others but be careful with your words.  This is not a judged scenario, there is no score keeping, there is no test…. this should be fun!  A time for your family to snuggle on a blanket and smile.

  5.   BE REAL:   

    Understand your family dynamic and embrace it.  You are not that other family on Facebook.  Gosh, your kids aren’t even the same age!  Recognize the ages of your children and set your expectations.  If your kids are older, then yes, you should expect them to look at the camera and smile.  You should expect them to follow direction and listen to the photographer.  If they are younger, you gotta be real.  You might get one or two shots where they are looking and smiling but don’t expect much more than that!  They want to play, explore, giggle, be tickled, snuggle, run around, be silly.  It’s up to you to let them and it’s up to your hired professional to capture them this way.  The way they really are… at this stage in their life.  Kids are kids, not soldiers!  Let them be!

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  6. SHOW IT:   

    Help your photographer but don’t try to run the show.  If you have hired an experienced and established photographer, this isn’t their first rodeo.  They’ve seen it all.  Trust me!   Let them do their job…. if they need your help, they’ll ask.  They know the shots they’ve got already and the shots they still need.  Tell them what makes your kids laugh or what their interests are.  And when the photographer has you all posed as a family and asks you to now interact with your kids, give it a go!  Tickle them, play with them.  Make them happy!!!  They love you and you love them.  Show it.  

  7. SMILE:    

    “Look at Photographer and smile!”  NO.  No, no, no, no and no.   If the photographer is talking to your kids, chances are, your kids will look at them.  But if you and your spouse and perhaps a “helper” are all there yelling things at this poor, confused child, they won’t know where to look or what the heck to do!   And that all goes back to #3, 4, 5 and 6.  Rather than yelling orders at your child, quietly stand right behind the photographer and do something silly!  Guaranteed, they will look at you and smile.  

  8. PAPA BEAR:    

    Dad, we know how much love you have for your crew.  We know you get down on the ground and play with them.  You fart and they laugh hysterically.  You burp at the dinner table and you are their hero.  We also know that there are 10 other places you’d rather be because, until you see your photos, you don’t know why you were dragged here.  Notice I said, until you see your photos.  This is your life, right here, right now.  Last year was different and next year will be too.  This is one hour of your time to create a lifetime of memories.  Your kids will look back at these photos in 5 years, 10 years, and once they are married with children of their own.  They will LOVE looking at these photos.  You are making a VERY short term sacrifice for something that will be cherished for years to come.  Is one hour too much to ask?   So loosen up and enjoy the fresh air.

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I look forward to seeing you this season!!!



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