As the oldest of 10 kids, family portraits were quite the undertaking. This event typically took place around a holiday. There were matching sweaters until there were too many kids to coordinate, plus, we became old enough to protest matching clothing. We were in a department store studio with umbrella flashes hanging high in front of us, interchanging fireplace scenery moving behind us, and endless props that coincidentally weren’t utilized due to having so many people there in the first place.

You would think as a photographer, these became the moments I would forever cherish with my family. And you would be wrong. I abhorred it. We older kids waited with hurting smiles, growing impatient as the poor photographer attempted to coerce the younger kids to simultaneously look at the camera, keep their eyes open, stop squirming out of someone’s arms,  genuinely smile, while trusting that all of the older kids were poised and ready for ‘that moment’. Time seemed to slow in that tiny, dark, fireplace backdrop filled space.  Keep in mind that parents were not aiming for an entire album, or even multiple options; they wanted “the one”. And the more that time passed, the more challenging it became to achieve ‘the one’, the one that would be sent on Christmas cards and printed for our home. My parents were not hard to please, and yet, the entire process felt like an undertaking.

The scene is a little different now. My siblings and I have families of our own and no longer hang out in the stockroom of a JCPenny’s or other department store, waiting for the ‘the one’. Now I’m the photographer shooting for the “one”; eyes directed at me,  genuine smiles, and an energy that matches the family. These moments are the goal, yet frustrations often compound with each moment the goal goes unmet during a shoot. Rather than feeling like family portraits are naturally stressful or that your family is going to be the exception to achieving ‘the one’ image,  I’m here to break down both the photography experience and tell you your family is awesome and deserves to have every part of your life captured.

What is a mini-session?

A mini-session is a portrait session in a shorter amount of time with fewer delivered final images. Mini-sessions are typically between 15-30 minutes in the location and date of the photographer’s choosing.

Why do I need a mini-session?

You value memories. I know this, because your camera roll is full of what’s most important to you. You value photography. You value looking back on images to recall ‘that season’; the humorous, stressful, relaxing, happy, sad, trying, and heartwarming parts that make up your life. Pictures have a way of doing that, like music hitting your ears and smells that take you back to your past.

What do I wear?

For Her

Getting professional hair and makeup done is something I recommend because that fresh look loves the camera while giving you the chance to treat yourself before portraits.

Statement necklaces, belts, hats, and earrings that don’t compete for attention with your natural features look absolutely stunning, bringing your look together.

Softer, lighter tones, and muted shades bring attention to you as opposed to what you’re wearing.

Say yes to long flowy dresses or skirts because it adds movement to your images. There is no such thing as too dressed up so rock that flower crown, tulle skirt, or sequined gown. Most women, including myself, have areas of their body that they are self-conscious about. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features increase that confidence we’ve been talking about.

For Him

Ties, bow ties, or pocket squares really up the class on a blazer or sports coat.

Long-fitted dress pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. Mixing up a suit coat, blazer, or sport coat (think layers) with a different color pant add visual interest and create a timeless ensemble.

Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong compliment to your handsome features. Avoiding pinstripes or plaid patterns as well as graphics and logos, bring the attention back to your masculine features as opposed to what you’re wearing.

I encourage guys to get a hair cut no later than 2 weeks prior to the session. That way, if you’re not completely satisfied with your hair, time will give it the opportunity to grow before your session.

How do I coordinate clothing?

Think “complementing” rather than “matching” one another.

Dominant colors are primary colors in the outfit while accent colors take the smallest piece of real estate in your ensemble.

Aim for each person to wear a different dominant color and tie in varying accent colors. The goal is to visually break up colors and shades so that you’re not all wearing the same color on top and bottom. This can be a challenge if there are several little ones to coordinate, so I recommend starting with mom and then coordinate dad’s and the little’s outfits based off of what she’s wearing.

How do I mentally prepare?

If you’re bringing kiddos to the shoot,  let them know beforehand just how important this is to you, and that you will offer them something they want following the shoot if they are cooperative and smiley (i.e. a family game night, snack, or gift). Parents say setting expectations before the shoot and offering something exciting works like a charm, even if they’re younger!
Bring favorite toys, snacks, food, and any props that may get them smiling. Sometimes little ones can get fussy and these are a great way to occupy them as well as get them smiling. Some ideas of props are pastel or light colored blankets, stuffed animals, pastel colored toys or anything sentimental to you and your family. If your kiddos have a favorite toy that will get them smiling while the camera’s on them that would be awesome!!!
Just breathe
Now that outfits have been chosen, kiddos have been prepped and your session is reserved, take a deep breath and remember why you want pictures taken. You want to remember this season of life, so choose to remember it well. My goal is for stress and over-preparing to be eliminated before you even decide to reserve your spot. Images tell a story, and I want yours to reflect your love for what’s most important rather than whether everyone looks and acts perfectly. I cannot wait to have you in front of my camera!
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