Tips for a successful photo session

If you don’t know who Becky Higgins and Project Life are, you need to check them out.  Becky has been a master in the memory keeping industry for years!  Check her out at @beckyhiggins or www.beckyhiggins.com and her project life app.  You might not know this about me, but I used to teach scrapbook classes years ago.  I have always loved photo taking and photo keeping!  I’m a little slower on the keeping part on my own personal photos but you know the saying, the shoe maker’s children rarely have shoes!  Right?!  Sadly that’s a truth.  I’m trying to be better.

Becky recently reached out to me and asked me if I would share some tips for their newly released podcast “Tips for a Successful Photo session”.

You can hear the podcast here.  And read the show notes here.

I share a lot of things with my clients in my session guide and as we set up our sessions, but thought I would post some of them here too:

This is what I shared with Becky as tips from a photographer’s point of view (and they shared a lot on their podcast too):

  1. The most important thing is to do them.  Don’t wait until  you are your perfect weight.  Don’t wait until it’s the perfect weather.  Don’t wait until you have the perfect outfits.  Just don’t wait until everything is perfect.  Make sure you have updated pictures as often as you can.  I have known too many people who experienced tragedy who wished they would have taken the pictures.
  2. I think this comes with confidence in the photographer and knowing how the session will work, but I’ve found that sessions with children go smoother when the parents let me direct the kids.  Obviously I need help managing the babies and toddlers physically, but I have tricks and means of motivation for most ages, and for the most part kids are really good at following what I have them do.  My goal is to get the natural and best smiles and expressions too so I am going to do everything I can to direct them, help them relax, have fun, be themselves and then snap like crazy.  What doesn’t usually work is parents yelling in the background things like “do your natural smile not your fake one!”, “don’t do that smile”, “open your eyes more”, “don’t make that face”, etc. etc. etc.  Natural smiles come best when they are naturally produced and in all my years of photographing families, hearing those commands yelled out rarely yields the desired result.
  3. Also, I realize that getting pictures done is stressful:  men and boys generally hate it…picking out clothes is a lot of work…you are investing good money so you want to make it count…life seems to get extra crazy on the session days of course…and sometimes we just have unrealistic expectations about how it’s going to go.  All that stress can cause Mom/Dad to be in a bad mood when it comes time for the session.  And then kids pick up on that and then they start acting out too.  And then parents get after their kids and then everyone is upset!   Back to ‘letting the photographer direct the kids’…parents, try really hard not to get after your kids during the session.  It just stresses them out and upsets everyone.  Try to hold your disciplinary comments for later and not during (keeping them away from something harmful is the exception obviously).  Let the photographer do the talking/directing so there is one chief and they kids aren’t confused.  This also helps diffuse the kids from the before mentioned session stressers.
  4. Don’t worry about everything being so perfect (I mentioned unrealistic expectations above).  Good communication with your photographer is super important so you do know what the goal of your session is.  Everyone has different perspectives so making sure you’re on the same page helps a lot!  From my perspective, the goal is capture how you remember and feel about your family at that time, not to paint some picture perfect image of them.  I can work out the details and the posing, but no amount of perfect posing or technical savvy makes up for lack of emotion or natural expressions and connections in an image.   Here are some other examples:  If your kid throws a temper tantrum during the session, you better believe I am going to take some pictures of it.  We will get the smiley good stuff too, but those funny (later not necessarily now) moments really will be some of your favorites.  Also if your kid has a space between their teeth or a missing tooth, let’s embrace it.  If they have recently cut their own hair, let’s remember that too.   If you have a kid that loves to throw her hands on her hips and give some cute sass, bring it on.  It actually makes me a little sad to get parents requesting that I photoshop their kids teeth perfectly straight or change things about them for the sake of it being “perfect”.  I have found that in pictures like most things, we usually remember the not so ordinary stuff over the things in life that go smoothly, so embrace who each of you are right now and how life really is.  Ok, lets’ be honest, my job is to make it look slightly better than real life, haha, but you get the point.  Believe it or not, you’ll look back on those more natural photos and remember that stage of life lovingly and you won’t be so worried about the perfection of it once they are grown and gone.
  5. Moms:  a good photographer will pose you so you look skinny and the most flattering possible, so don’t fuss the whole time about your weight.  We get it, we know most women are conscious about their bodies and want to look skinny.  Feel free to communicate ahead of time with your photographer about any concerns you have (“I like this side better” or “I am self-conscious about this”, “don’t put me in the front”, or “what do I wear to look the most flattering”, etc.) and then trust a good one to make magic happen.   I also know that many of us hold off on pictures or have anxiety about the end result because we have that last 15 pounds to lose, or we don’t like this about our bodies at all or what not, but the important thing is that you are capturing the image.   Your kids don’t see those extra pounds, they just see YOU!  This goes with tip #1.
  6. Run your outfits by your photographer.  I have all of my clients show me what they are thinking of wearing ahead of time so I can catch anything that might overly stand out or might not be flattering. I also provide my clients with a pinterest page of ideas of what to wear and help where I can since I know this is one of the hardest parts about coordinating photos.  What to wear is super important to a session but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.  That doesn’t mean that clothes have to be fussy or costly, it just usually means smart choices that flatter and compliment each other are usually the best.  And no matter what, what you wear will be dated in a few years so don’t stress too much about it because you’ll make fun of it down the road the same as if it were a million dollar outfit vs. something you already owned 😉.

Hope this helps you too!

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