By Bridget Parmenter
Congratulations, you did it! After spending hours online scrolling through countless gorgeous family lifestyle photography sessions, you finally booked your own with a local photographer. As you sit and dream of a perfect day that includes smiling children and a sparkling home; you look around and take in the reality. What you see is a chaotic home where your toddler is running around with pudding smeared all over her face, your tween is in a phase of wearing only neon green, the bathroom renovation isn’t done; oh and you haven’t had a professional photo taken since your wedding. Panic sets in. A stressed out family is not a family that is going to have a quality experience with their photographer so the less stress the better. It is Okay, I promise. Take a deep breath and let’s talk about some ways to prepare.
Do Tidy Up | Don’t Go Overboard
Family Lifestyle Sessions are exactly as they are advertised, they are about your life and life is sometimes; or honestly most times messy. A tidy space is great however you don’t need to hire anyone to deep clean. Try to have a few favorite spots planned ahead of time and focus on those to clean up. The other rooms can have doors closed and messes hidden. Be sure that the spaces you choose have plenty of light. Basement playrooms and dens are not the best for any natural light and natural light looks beautiful in lifestyle portraiture. A professional photographer can work in any light however the brighter and more inviting a space, the better. Living rooms, parent’s bedrooms and kitchens are typically great light filled spaces. Make sure items in these rooms such as dirty laundry are tucked away, dishes are cleaned up and animals are picked up after. However, keep the arts and crafts out that you were creating that morning, consider the pile of stuffed animals on the bed part of your story and embrace the train set up on the floor in the playroom. Your children are only small enough to make these particular messes for such a short time and having professional pictures of those playful moments is something you will treasure. You will also feel less stressed if you can let some of the chaos go.
Your children are only small enough to make these particular messes for such a short time and having professional pictures of those playful moments is something you will treasure.
Do Choose Complimentary Outfits | Don’t Match or Dress Too Formal
Choosing outfits is one of the biggest questions I get as a lifestyle photographer. I always tell clients to be comfortable. Comfort is key! However this is a special occasion so comfort should also look put together. Try to find pieces that are in the same color scheme with variations in patterns and hues. Choose an outfit you already love, lay it on your bed and start to piece others from your existing family wardrobe next to it to see if they complement each other. There is no need to buy new clothes if what you have already works. Take a photo and send it to your photographer to ask advice. A great photographer will have ideas on how to coordinate your wardrobe and if you do need to purchase outfits your photographer may have a great idea on where to shop for your budget. Stay away from any outfit that has busy patterns or bright colors. Family Lifestyle Photography is very much about your family connecting with each other and a loud outfit will only bring attention to the clothes and not you. If your daughter has a mustard dress that you adore and can’t wait to have photographs of; plan the outfits around that dress. You and your partner could wear whites, navy blues and a pop of mustard yellow in a shoe, tie or cardigan. Have fun with choosing the outfits and remember that during your lifestyle session the children’s outfits may get messy so don’t pick something too precious to get dirty. If children feel like they can’t play for fear of messing up their clothes they will be more stiff and less likely to smile for pictures.
Do Give Your Children Some Control | Don’t Worry About Perfect Smiles
Lifestyle photography is so wonderful because your photographer will capture the natural connections you have with your children as they interact with you and during those interactions you typically will get the best giggles, smiles and personalities. A photographer in the house may feel strange to some children so letting them know what is happening is best. Surprising them an hour before can cause anxiety or over excitement. This visit should feel like a friend is coming over to learn about how you have fun as a family and then capture photos of those moments. Choose some activities to do during the session that you know your children love such as reading a favorite book together or making your famous pancakes. An expert photographer will know how to blend into the background to capture these moments and not overwhelm your child. Stay away from new activities that they haven’t done before and will cause stress if it doesn’t go perfectly. Keep to what you love.
Choose some activities to do during the session that you know your children love such as reading a favorite book together or making your famous pancakes.
I have also found in my work that children really love to help. I typically start my lifestyle sessions by asking children to show me their favorite stuffed animal or something that they love in their room. I ask them where they like to hang out and what space in or around their house is their favorite. Giving them the ability to control what is captured and letting them know that I value their ideas is very helpful. If you prepare them the day before by asking them to gather one to three of their favorite things to share with the photographer that would help these moments go even smoother. Once a rapport is established, the children will usually feel more relaxed however all children are different and that isn’t always the case which is perfectly fine. Trust your photographer. I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful it is to capture your child exactly as they are even if that means smiling big just isn’t their thing that day. A toddler scowl and a teenager eye roll are just as beautiful.
Do Embrace Your Neighborhood | Don’t Just Stay Inside
Lifestyle Sessions are not just about your family life inside your home. Do you have a fantastic backyard? Is your house near the center of town or a beach? Choose other locations that your family enjoys to explore together. In my experience with families, adventuring together at the end of a session has given me some fantastic imagery. Be sure to look at the weather and ask any permissions ahead of time if you decide to capture your family in any local businesses. Some great ideas for neighborhood spots include, ice cream shops, bookstores, bakeries and pizza shops. These adventures are also very enticing for children who may have a hard time waiting for the session to be over. A trip to the local bookstore at the end of a photography session is a special treat. Incentives really do work for those littles!
Some great ideas for neighborhood spots include, ice cream shops, bookstores, bakeries and pizza shops. These adventures are also very enticing for children who may have a hard time waiting for the session to be over.
Do What Makes You Feel Good | Don’t Try a “New Look”
If feeling your best means that you want to have your hair cut or professional makeup done, that is great. I believe everyone should feel their best when they are being photographed, It isn’t however necessary to do these things to look fantastic in your portraits. I will never forget the look on my son’s face when we had family portraits done and even though my newly made face was beautiful, he said “mommy, that doesn’t look like you.” Be your true self. If you never wear makeup and wouldn’t feel like yourself with a fully done professional face maybe stick to some lipgloss and call it a day. If you love wearing converse but think it might look too dressed down maybe buy a new pair so they look fresh but are still you. If you are hardly ever without a pencil behind your ear because you are a writer maybe add that into some of the images...just be you! Trying a new look right before professional photos however won’t feel authentic. This isn’t the time for new bangs or the purple hair you have been considering. It is important to look at the images created and see an authentic and real family smiling back.
About the author: Bridget is an early childhood educator, professional photographer, mom of two school ages children and aspiring writer. She is excited to join us to share her experiences from toddler homeschool activities to ways you can get those family pictures you are dreaming of. She is an avid reader, sea glass hunter, tea drinker and advocate for taking the time to care for yourself. "If parents find ways to fulfill their creativity, mental health and interests; everyone wins."