Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

How To Get Your Family Ready For Portraits (and How to Help Get Amazing Photos of Them)

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

I thought about entitling this post, “how to get your kids ready for family photos while wrangling your spouse, being queen (or king) of everything, keeping the kids (and spouse/partner) clean, keeping the pets off of you and making yourself look reasonably cute.”

But that was way too long.

In my house, I am queen of everything. (Thank you One Bad Mother for introducing me to that phrase of perfection). That’s not discounting how awesome Brian is (truly; full time job and shoots with me, knows just the right thing I need to hear at all times, makes me laugh until my sides ache, coaches Ian’s soccer team, is already cultivating Michael’s left footed kick…) but in most two parent houses-certain tasks tend to fall to one person. Doctor’s appointments, school related things, homework (Common Core and I are going to have issues; I can see it)…this includes the Herculean task of getting your family ready for photos.

There was a reason I put off getting photos done until last year. I knew how this was going to go and I didn’t want to pay money to have my family look fabulous while I felt like a hot mess. So, I thought; no, we are scheduling this out and I’m running this day just as I would a wedding schedule. (minus the Tiny Dictator that was a 14 month old Michael). (And no, these aren’t from our family photo session, just me making my kids, yet again…pose for me. Note the 3 layers of shirts…)

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And it went as well as I could hope for (with a 14 month old-we even got one where all 4 of us are looking at the camera and look adorable). I’m totally not Humblebragging; I was floored at how well it went. I followed the same advice I’ve been giving clients for years (and get asked for all the time) so I thought; a) let me elaborate on it and put this in writing in one place for everyone and b) holy *&$% if I put it in writing am I jinxing it for myself this year? (I’ll let you all know-and then I will promptly take down this post and make offerings to the photo karma deities).

So here it is: I hope it helps ease the stress of trying to capture one brief moment in time where you: look adorable, can send a holiday card where everyone can see how gorgeous your kids are, gives you something to put on the wall, and you can pat yourself on the back for raising amazing tiny humans.

1) Know your audience.

As some of you may know; I’m also a children’s social worker and an ASW and one of the very first things they teach us is to “meet your client where they’re at.” What does this mean when it comes to your family?

YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE WHO THEY ARE FOR THIS ONE MAGICAL DAY. (This part is long)

Michael is now 2. He is a developmentally appropriate 2, which means that he switches from being my little snuglette; our little snickerdoodle, one of the lights of our lives…to a screaming banshee who’s one tall step stool away from climbing up and swinging naked from the ceiling fan with one hand, while waving his skull diaper around with the other. (How could I not get him these)?

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Ian is 6; and a stereotypical oldest child which means he’s good to go but super easily distracted by shiny objects and tablets (um, which he obviously only gets for 30 minutes a week while we all create one of a kind artwork and make organic meals and snacks together. *cough*). He responds well to bribes and copious amounts of praise.

Brian is 40 and takes very specific instruction well. (And is an Excel master-I am awestruck. This has a point).

What does this mean to you? A) Allot extra time for whatever version of Michael you have in your house. Think about how long it takes them to get out the door on their worst days and DOUBLE that. If they’re at the “me do! Me DO! I pick!” age, give them choices for everything from clothing to shoes. And then add another 30 minutes onto that.

B) Have everyone try on outfits once or twice before your session. Start with the older one and make sure the younger one sees you praise the older one. (Go with me on this one). Repeat this once or twice. Bribes to get the older one to look happy while doing this are OK (I’ll get more into that below). Super OK.

C) Make sure (double, triple make sure) that your “easy child” gets lots of praise and acknowledgement for looking cute, for helping, and let them know how much you’re looking forward to this. (Also, give them choices as well. They may not act like it, but they still want to know that their opinion matters).

D) Work with your spouse’s/partner’s strengths to get them involved. There’s a reason that Brian does a lot of our detail photos for weddings. He is methodical and can visualize objects in a multitude of ways. When Ian was born, he made color coded spreadsheets for who was caring for him when we went back to work, feeding times, even the per-diaper cost for specific brands. So, I know that when I need help getting the kids ready for something important, I need to give him VERY specific requests. And he’ll knock them out of the park. If I do that thing, where I think (totally not genderizing-this could apply to moms or dads), “but he/she SHOULD KNOW!” that’s just going to suck for everyone.

Meet your partner where they are; work with their strengths.

And for you single parent homes where all this falls on you-my mom raised my sister and I by herself (she is my hero) and I asked her how she managed to get two small children ready for photos by herself. “Well, I already had the outfits in mind, left extra time…and honey, I didn’t have Michael. You need to leave an extra hour for that kid.” (Thanks, mom).

2) Feed Them. All of them. Including yourself.

I literally cannot tell you how many times people have shown up to sessions where it’s obvious after 10 minutes the kids (and spouse) are super ‘Hangry.’ And I get it; I do. The outfits are perfect, the hair is fantastic, you don’t want anyone to get messed up, and nobody needs that weird banana/snot looking crust combo by their kid’s nose. But why risk losing the opportunity for what could be great photos? Pick light foods, small items; if your kid will allow it without going into a tailspin, put a large spare shirt over them (some kids LOVE the chance to “dress up” in mommy or daddy’s clothing) and remind your photographer to check their faces before they start snapping (no family photographer should be insulted by this – sometimes we’re so wrapped up in capturing that perfect expression that even the most seasoned of us may miss Goldfish crumbs).

Also, a lot of times people do this because they want to use a favorite restaurant later as an incentive for doing well. That’s AWESOME! We love incentivizing things. And a well-fed family responds even better to incentives.

3) Simplify the accessories.

I cannot tell you how many cute hats, shoes, bow ties (and so on) I have for my boys. I also can’t tell you how much session time is dedicated to parents who want their children’s accessories to be perfect. That is OK to want your photos to match what you envision. My boys each have waistcoats to match dad; I totally get it. Try letting your wear the accessories at home for a bit, see how they look and how much time it takes to keep it in place after they’ve been walking and playing for awhile and let that help guide your decision whether you should include it in a session.

4) Naps.

Kids have this amazing way of knowing exactly when there’s something important to do and how important their nap is. And then they don’t. Or they go down late. Or not at all. Or go to sleep as cute as Gizmo but wake up like Stripe. If your little one still takes naps (naps are so amazing-why don’t my kids know this?); try and schedule about 2 hours before the nap if at all humanly possible. When we try and mess with their naps; they know. Oh, do they know. If your photographer absolutely has no options available before nap; leave at least an hour or two of a window AFTER they normally wake up to schedule your session.

But wait…when do I get ready??

5) Parental Units

It is an absolute guarantee in life that if your outfit is fragile, delicate, expensive, or perfect and nothing else will do; one of your offspring will wipe snot on it. You know your family best; but in my experience, for those of you who wear makeup-do hair and makeup first (and don’t forget to bring a touch up kit with you); hold off on the outfit until the last minute. It is OK to give your littles extra screen time to get this done. They won’t remember the extra hour of EthanGamerTV or Paw Patrol they got, but they will have these photos to look back on when they’re adults. When the kids have had snack and are close to being put in the car-THEN it’s outfit go time. Also, if you have another parent with you, workout beforehand (like, a day or two if possible. Then again in the morning) when the grownups are getting dressed in relation to the kids.

OK, you did it! You got there in one piece! So, you can just let the photographer take over, right?

Almost…so close…

6) Bribes and bodily functions.

No, I don’t mean to just make sure everyone goes potty. Let your photographer know what incentives your kids are allowed to have during the session to get them to smile. And give them a heads up on the types of things that make them laugh (see, “bodily functions.”) Even if they’re not smiling, that’s OK because they’re your gorgeous babies-some of my FAVORITE photos of Ian are where he’s not smiling. But even if it’s not to get them to smile, anything we can do to help them get comfortable with us is a huge plus for your photos. And let us know if they have a special reward or surprise afterwards so we can use that.

Bribes are the best…

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7) You better ______

This part is a hard one to write. For YEARS I was training manager at a major chain portrait studio and the number of times I heard parents tell their kids, “you better smile,” “don’t ruin these photos for me,” “Now we have to do them again and it’s your fault” (I stepped in immediately when I heard parents go down this road), “daddy can’t afford this…” was astonishing. I have countless examples of parents doing this. I can understand the pressure we, as parents are under to get great photos. They’re expensive, they’re time consuming, there’s a good chance they’re going to be sent to countless friends and family. Also, if we wanted people to see our daily lives (with spilled milk, kids eating apple slices for breakfast as we rush everyone into the car, kids in PJ’s until noon because mommy has an editing deadline, Michael’s curls taking after mine – so, so, sorry – NINETY MILLION LEGO AND DUPLO SETS ON THE FLOOR), we’d “selfie” it and be on our way.

But that’s not what we want. We want people to see *how* we see our gorgeous families – so there’s a lot of pressure. Despite that; when you’re tense, so are they. I, and most photographers, can see in a child’s eyes immediately if they’re nervous or unhappy. When you feel yourself reaching that point where you’re about to say something, perhaps you shouldn’t (all parents have ‘that point’) take a breath and stop. Hug somebody. Check Facebook. Check Instagram. Tell your family you need a minute. Then come back and realize that they are gorgeous little humans no matter what. Smiling or not.

8) Pick someone you trust-and then trust them. Anyone who knows me knows that, ironically, other than a few instances, I have terrible luck picking photographers. My wedding photos were a disaster (but the reshoot was gorgeous), I once hired a family photographer who sent me blurry photos shot from upward angles with so many filters to hide the crap it was astonishing. One who couldn’t stop complaining about her last session. Another who arrived late, brought one broken camera that kept malfunctioning, and had ZERO ability to make Ian laugh…I could go on (I’ve got an amazing core group of photographers that I now love, and use for Ian’s headshots and family photos; and will often refer to them if I can’t take a job-but that’s another story). Talk to them before the shoot, discuss expectations, any samples of their’s that you love, the particulars of your children, anything you’re self conscious about-talk to them. Whether it’s a $50 mini session (no, we don’t offer those) or a standard photo shoot (That’s us) make sure you’re both on the same page. The one thing I didn’t do with the photographers I chose that didn’t work out very well was talk to them beforehand about what I envisioned and what I liked about their work that made me hire them. I love it when clients show me Pinterest boards they like, or sample photos, or tell me which of my photos they like-it helps me shape the session for them.

9) Don’t forget to remind everyone about post session incentives (and, if your budget allows, offer them a small surprise they aren’t expecting – and let them know at the beginning of the session that there’s a surprise waiting for them as well).

10) Remind yourself, again, in the words of One Bad Mother (But this goes for dads as well), You’re Doing A Good Job.

Sidenote: regarding ALL the images. You don’t want all the images. Truly. You never want all the images. Just go with me on this one.

So…what have we been up to?

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Yes, I’m still here! Like that gorgeous dress you buy in the hopes of having just the perfect occasion, but never wear as much as you should-my blog is still here. And we’ve still been shooting. But, there have been a few wonderful, and pretty incredible changes over the past few years.

In order of importance, with no chronological rhyme or reason…this guy:

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Who then turned into the spirited, funny, energetic, cheeky, snuggler-extraordinaire you see here (and he was totally digging this outfit):

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Then, while pregnant with Michael, I finished my MSW; a dream I put off for far too long (yeah, that’s right—with honors. And yes, my darling husband asked me a million times to take off the glasses before the photo. He tried).

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But, since it was my love of photography and photojournalism that brought me to social work, there’s no way I could ever dream of giving up photography. So yes, we are definitely still shooting. We’re only taking on a few weddings and portraits a year now, but it’s a part of me that isn’t going anywhere. In the next few weeks I’ll share some of what we’ve been up to during my woeful blogging hiatus. But for now…hi, it’s good to be back.

Happy Valentine’s Day (Wait, no, not like that)

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Let me just start by saying that I love Valentine’s Day, but not for any sort of romantic reasons. Unfortunately for Brian, we started dating at that awkward period right before Valentine’s Day – so I immediately and clearly told him that I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. He looked kind of confused by this statement, like, it was a test and he would get in trouble by not doing anything. Subsequently, he chooses to ignore this every year, which both annoys me, and makes me smile to no end. :-)

Valentine’s Day reminds me that not only do I love everything of the schmoopy (that’s a word and I’m sticking to it) variety-pink, sparkly, floral, hearts, rainbows, and the lot; but, this day reminds me that there are many different kinds of love other than the romantic kind.

This morning, I wished a Happy Valentine’s Day to my friends, tried to make a valentine with my son, gave my cat some extra treats, (and wished my fabulous husband a happy Valentine’s Day somewhere in there). This is the kind of day that reminds me of the conversation hearts we would exchange as kids; of the overly sweet, sticky red, heart-shaped lolly pops we hoped to get from our childhood crushes with our cards. This day always reminds me of the adorable shoe box greeting card holders that my mom used to painstakingly make with me; how she made sure that I made a Valentine’s Day card for everyone in class, and would always give my sister and I adorable heart-shaped chocolates that made any disappointing Valentine’s day better; and made any good Valentine’s Day just perfect. Even though my job is to be surrounded by romance, this is the day that reminds me to celebrate all kinds of love in the world.

So, to not only my husband; but to my mom, sister, son, friends, derby sisters, fellow photographers, and my lovely clients who had us (or are planning to have us) with them during their celebration of love: happy Valentine’s Day.

Facebook

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Have you checked out our Facebook page yet? We not only post the most latest announcements and specials, but all of our latest sessions and weddings are posted there, as well! Check out some of our recent favorites:

One of my favorite families ever: I ADORE seeing these two grow up:

And meeting new families is always a bonus!

And meeting the beautiful children of my former brides and grooms is so special to me:

And as always, shooting the Penny Lane Centers charity events is always an amazing thing to be a part of (recognize some of these faces?):