It's holiday card season and we all know that family photo shoots aren't as easy as it looks. And finding the right photographer is half the battle. Luckily for me, my best friend happens to be an amazing professional photographer. This means I get to have gorgeous portraits of my family and the inside scoop on how to have a super successful session.
Professional photographers want you to hire them, and they're generally super nice people. They're so nice in fact, they may not tell you these insider secrets. So I sat down with San Francisco based photographer, Meg Messina, and got the low down on what photographers really wish they could tell families, but probably won't.
My most successful sessions happen when my clients open up to me and are honest about what their family is actually like. Since my photography style has a more daily-life-as-fine-art approach, my goal is not to deliver a bunch of images where every member of the family is looking directly into the camera and smiling.
Don't get me wrong, those are lovely and it's nice to have a few in a collection, but those images don't actually tell a story. They don't tell me anything about this family and who they are as a unit and as separate individuals. I want my images of a family to conjure up the memories and feelings of what family life truly felt like, but that's impossible if you're pretending to be a perfect little unit.
2. Barking orders at your kids makes my job impossible.
The best family portraits capture authentic but positive moments. Capturing these types of images also means that children don't always need to smile—some children are more serious and quiet, or goofy and energetic. The idea is that the personality of the subject will come through in the image. To make a portrait of someone, I need to be able to connect with them, especially children! And that's not possible when parents are ordering kids to smile or shaking a rattle in a baby's face to get her to look in a certain direction.
Children can get over stimulated so sometimes it's best to just keep a calm, mellow energy and not make huge demands of them. They're more likely to give an authentic smile or awesome expression if they're actually having fun in the moment! Take a little well deserved break from being in charge. A photoshoot should be fun—maybe a little tiring, but certainly not stressful, so relax and enjoy the process!
3. Quit focusing on the negative.
I wish clients would be more forthcoming about what's exciting to them about family photos. People are always quick to offer up what they're worried about (a messy house, looking fat, kids not listening, etc.) but they almost always have to be asked about what they're looking forward to. I know humans have a propensity to focus on the negative things and I'm happy to hear those worries as it can help guide my shooting, but it's also important to consider what is exciting about portraits of your family.
4. Matching outfits are a major embarrassment.
Please don't wear matching clothes, pretty please! Unless you get up on a normal morning and everyone in your household coordinates their plaid shirts, this is going to look sorta ridiculous and really dated. I know from experience cause me and my siblings have a hideous portrait in matching denim shirts... against a denim studio backdrop! It's a family gem for sure, and if you want something like this for fun and humor go for it. Hit up a cheesy portrait studio in your white shirts and khakis and laugh it up! But a little simple, light coordination is all you need for a professional session. Just be casual and wear something you love.
5. Haggling is beyond rude.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with setting your budget for family photos and finding a photographer that falls within your range. There are a lot of people doing a lot of beautiful work for a wide range of price. But please, puh-lease, don't ask a photographer whose work you love to drastically reduce their pricing to fit your needs. There's a reason photographers set their rates where they do and it's almost always a very carefully considered thing. There are so many areas of life where haggling just isn't part of the purchase process and photography should be one of them. You're getting archived moments of life to enjoy for years and even pass down to people you love. That is worth something and it should be approached from more than just a price point consideration.
Just like shooting the actual session takes time, the post process portion does too! The film needs to be processed and scanned, the selections need to be made, color corrected, and uploaded or printed. Even digital images require amble editing. The whole process takes time and you are not the only client I have. So be patient! The goal is that you'll have a collection of amazing images for years and years, so that can, and should, take some time to create. It should also be noted that constantly asking when they will be ready does not make the process any faster.