15 tips – How to prepare for your family photo shoot!

Now we’re getting into the busy Autumn season, I thought it might be helpful to write a quick list of 15 tips to help you prepare for your family photo shoot!

I’ve been a Cardiff family photographer for 14 years and so I’ve met a lot of families, in all seasons, all weathers and loads of different locations all over South Wales. Every time I go on a shoot I learn something, either a tip for myself (there’s no point in wearing wellies in the sea if they have holes in them) or for my clients.

family photo shoot with Gemma Griffiths Photography

Don’t worry!

1. You are beautiful. A lot of people have a little panic about their appearance once they have booked their shoot. They worry about hair, eyebrows, weight – all the usual stuff. But, let me tell you now – stop worrying about it. You are who you are and you are loved by your family. A stray hair or a couple of pounds on or off won’t make any difference to your shoot. Take a long good look in the mirror. Say “I love you” to your reflection and move on. Sometimes parents will say they just want me to photograph their children and they don’t know if they need or want to be in the pictures. I strongly recommend that you get in the frame. You are just as important as the rest of the family and you need to exist in photos too.

2. Enjoy. Think of the photo session as chilled out family walk in beautiful countryside. No phones, just nature in all her glory and a friendly photographer to keep you company. There’s no pressure for anyone to perform or behave in a certain way. I have two children myself and have been in this business a long time. Your children won’t do anything I haven’t seen before!

3. Don’t say cheese. It’s very tempting to say to the kids ‘Say Cheese!’ or ‘Smile nicely’ or sometimes, say ‘Smelly socks/sausages etc’. Saying those things to your children will result in a fake, stiff smile, sometimes with teeth gritted. My advice would be for you to have a think about what your child/ren might think is funny in advance of the shoot. Do you have a family joke, or something that you know will make them laugh – genuinely? I’ve never seen a comedy fall fail but that might not be the best option if you want to keep your outfit clean. The point is, the more relaxed you all are, the more relaxed you will look.  Feel free to mess around, pull faces, tell jokes etc. Everyone will look much more natural in the images as a result.

4. Don’t look at me. One of the best ways of getting natural family pictures is for you to forget that I’m there. I don’t need you to be standing stock still with a fixed grin every time I point the camera at you. I know it can feel a bit weird, trying to behave as you normally would when someone is taking a photo of you but honestly, it’s the best way. I’ll be directing you throughout the shoot, so don’t worry about knowing what to do. I’ll be shouting (only shouting because I might be far away), things like, ‘look over there!’, ‘don’t look at me!’, ‘look up!’ etc.

 

family photo session at the beach

Be prepared

5. Outfits. What you wear for the shoot is super important for a number of reasons. Firstly and most importantly, you need to feel comfortable. I’m not talking about trakkie bottoms and pj top comfy, but you, on a good day, feeling happy with what you’re wearing. Next, it’s important to make sure that you all blend together. There’s no need for matching outfits but try and choose colours that complement each other. Choose a colour palette of two or three colours if possible. Wearing patterns is fine – florals, stripes, spots, checks etc. It’s best to avoid big logo’s or pictures though. No one wants a massive Hollister or Adidas logo in middle of their image.

The right colours can depend on the location or season. Don’t worry though, I’ll send you a big Pinterest board full of outfits for some inspiration. Head over to my blog to see a family shoot with the perfect outfits!

6. Hair cut. If you’re going to get your hair cut, do it a week or so before the session , just in case you need to get used to your new style!

7. Have a chat to the kids. If your kids are old enough to be blackmailed with chocolate buttons then they’re old enough to have a chat with about the session. Explain that we’re going for a nice walk and going to have some pictures taken. There’s plenty of time during the session for kids to run around, pull faces, fall over, have a snack etc, so there’s no need to put any pressure on them to ‘behave’. The more relaxed and natural they are, the better. Everyone has different parenting styles, so I’m not going to give specific advice on how to talk to your own kids but remember that the most important thing is that they are happy and enjoy the experience.

8. Bring snacks. It’s worth bringing along a treat that might be persuasive, just in case. Chocolate buttons work well, chewy sweets, not so much. Chewy snacks are difficult because they take a while to be eaten and sometimes get tucked away for later, leaving your child looking like a squirrel. Biscuits and crisps leave crumbs on the face. Marshmallows are sticky. Have I mentioned chocolate buttons? One of those, placed directly into the mouth, generally does the trick.

 

family photo shoot near cardiff

9. Speak to your partner. It’s usually one person that books the shoot (well done Mums!), which means that sometimes the other partner (hello Dads!) doesn’t know too much about the process. This can sometimes lead to ‘Grumpy Dad’ syndrome. So, to avoid this happening, it’s worth having a chat to your partner about the shoot. Show them my website so they can see other family shoots. Talk about the cost of the session. Discuss what you might like to do with the images afterwards – wall art or family keepsake album etc. Try and engage them in the process so that it doesn’t feel like a chore.

10. Timing. Think about when you’d like to book the shoot. Try not to book the session during or after an important event – family wedding, big night out, World Cup Final – to avoid upset and/or hangovers.  It’s best if you’re all perky and well rested.

11. Supplies. Apart from the aforementioned chocolate buttons, there’s a few things that I’d recommend bringing to your shoot. Extra layers and a change of clothes are useful in case anyone falls over or gets chilly. If your shoot is at the beach, bring towels. Wipes (for little noses) and a hairbrush are also handy.

12. Your rug. I’ll always ask you to bring your own rug or blanket to sit on. It’s mainly to protect your clothes and make sure you don’t get them wet or dirty. However, the rug/blanket will be in the pictures with you. If you have any gorgeous knitted, checked rugs or blankets from any National Trust shop then we’re onto a winner. But, any plain, neutral coloured one will do. If you bring along a bright neon pink rug, then that’s what we’re going to be using. Choose carefully…

 

family photo shoot vale of glamorgan

It’s all in the details

13. Phones. My advice would be to leave your phone in the car for a few reasons. Firstly, it can be a distraction during the session – the last thing you want to be doing is checking your email whilst we’re out and about. Secondly, it can be tempting to take a few pictures yourself, whilst standing behind me, but this can be very distracting for the kids, who don’t know who they should be looking at. Finally, if you have your phone in your pocket it can give you a big phone shaped bulge – which is never a good look.

14. Embrace the wildness. If you like perfect hair and creaseless clothes, then perhaps an outdoor photo shoot isn’t for you. Outside, it can get windy and hair will fly all over the place. Personally, I love the windswept look, especially on the beach! There are ways to try and control fly-away hair with hair bands and clips etc but it’s important to realise that you won’t be getting perfect hair in every shot. For me, it’s more important to try and capture your family love and interaction together and I don’t mind if you have a few hairs flying around your face.

15. Clothing choices. Think very carefully about what you’re going to wear, from your top down to your shoes. Try things on and look in the mirror before the shoot. Sometimes clients will be unhappy about their choices after the session and that will affect how they feel about the images. If you feel uncomfortable in an item of clothing – don’t wear it.

So, there you have it. All the things you need to know to prepare for your family photo shoot! You family shoot will be full to brim with love, fun, jumping, twirling and squeezing. Relax in the knowledge that I’ve got your back. I look forward to seeing you soon!

 

 

 

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Gemma Griffiths is an outdoor family photographer based near Cardiff in South Wales. She offers shoots in all over South Wales, including, Cardiff, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, RCT, Bridgend and Swansea.

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