When “Say Cheese!” doesn’t work, try these ideas for a flawless photo shoot
By Sydni Ellis
Saying “cheese!” rarely works. Getting the perfect family photos seems to take a Herculean effort, which is why the professional pictures I have with my four- and two-year-old’s feature their M&M-stained lips and Buzz Lightyear toys. At least they’re smiling, right? While family photos are by definition unpredictable, there’s a fair amount of pre-planning you can do to help the experience go more smoothly. Follow these tips to get those beautiful images you desire.
Plan your outfits a week in advance. Full disclosure — I have bought outfits on the way to a photo shoot before. It got the job done, but it was also stressful. Try to plan all your outfits at least a week in advance. Make sure everything fits, is clean, wrinkle-free, and looks good together. For senior portraits, have a couple of different outfit changes plus any school logo t-shirts or uniforms they want to incorporate.
Color coordinate. Since my sons are 18 months apart, I used to dress them in identical shirts and shorts. My family photographer told me it’s better to get coordinating colors in different shades to make each person really pop. You can search color families on Pinterest to get a good idea of colors to pair together, then line up the outfits next to one another to see for yourself. Online picture storage company Shutterfly recommends several combinations, including navy and crimson, blush and teal, glitter and white, light blue and tan, navy and yellow, and more.
Decide on a location. Sure, a studio may be the traditional route, but outdoor lighting can give a more natural feel to your photos. Keep the pros and cons in mind for each situation. Elderly family members may have an easier time sitting in a temperature-controlled studio instead of braving the outdoor elements, while toddlers may feel more comfortable and happier outside. Decide what type of pictures you want and what works best for your family.
Have a picture goal. Do you want pictures to celebrate your family and post on Facebook? Do you have a high school senior who needs pictures on postcards to mail graduation announcements? Do grandparents want a photo album keepsake or beautiful prints to display in their home? Having a picture goal will help your photographer know what kind of photos to take. Some photographers offer prints, some do weddings and big events, some do heavy editing, and some provide seasonal minis that allow families to get fun, updated pictures every few months. Knowing what you want before talking to the photographer will help you both be happy.
Go with the flow. If your kids have short attention spans, don’t be afraid to bribe them with ice cream or extra screen time after the photo shoot or snacks during the shoot if they smile. Also, if your mom always squints in pictures, try taking photos in a studio or early in the morning when the sun won’t be in her eyes. It’s good to have a plan for your photo shoot, but don’t be afraid to go with the flow.
Often, inspiration will strike your photographer during the shoot, so have an open mind and be willing to try new poses, move to different areas, and more. Once, my photographer took my family to an area she had set up at a friend’s home to take pictures with her miniature horses across the street. It made for amazing, spontaneous photos that I love — and could have never predicted.
Perfect photo shoots may be rare, but perfect pictures are possible. Any image that captures your loved ones in this moment is something you will cherish forever. If smiling isn’t working, embrace the tears and the craziness. Chances are, you’ll love the realness of these pictures even more.