Families are messy. Especially when there are kids involved. And that means that no family portrait shoot will ever be perfect. This fact of life is one of the reasons why I love family portrait photography – you never know for sure what you’re going to get.
I mean, yes, you’re going to get photos. Yes, the professional photographer (me) will ensure that the lighting is right, the composition is great, the color looks fantastic, and the posing is the best we can do. What we can’t control are all of the people and personalities in a family. Those are the wild and hilarious variables.
The number one piece of advice that I give to parents before family portrait sessions is to be realistic. Babies cry and poop – whenever they want. Kids do that ridiculous smile where they brace their teeth and close their eyes. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes people have stains on their clothes that they didn’t notice. Sometimes we end up doing photos in your living room even though you didn’t make it look like a Martha Stewart commercial.
The number two piece of advice that I give to parents before family portrait sessions is to be realistic. (Yes, I did that on purpose!) Whether we’re dealing with toddlers or grandparents, we’re going to shoot for an hour and get the photos we get. Not everyone will smile in every photo, not everyone will have their ties on straight, not every child will give you the smile that you want. And it’s likely during that hour that at least one person will have a meltdown – it’s usually the 2-year old, but you never know.
If you haven’t already guessed, the number three piece of advice that I give before family portrait sessions is to be realistic. This is your family on an average day, not television where everything is controlled and practiced.
And the final piece of advice that I give families (this one is going to be different!) is to treasure their portraits as time capsules, little moments afterwards only exist in two places: your memory and on the digital file. Sure Bobby’s hair is a mess, Suzie has a chipped tooth, and your teenager insists on the boyfriend-of-the-month being in the photo. But you will treasure these photos anyway because these moments are all part of your family’s story.
I am just the storyteller.