Tips from Olivia
Fewer things can make a mama break out into a cold sweat more than the mention of FAMILY PHOTOS. As a family and baby photographer, and as a mother myself, I try to simplify the process as much as possible. The entire point of having photos taken is to have a timeless image that you, your children, and future generations can look back on and cherish. I want the experience to be fun, but that’s easier said than done when you are trying to get cranky kids and a hungry husband to put their best face on for the camera. Planning is key, and I’ve come up with a list of things to consider when trying to create the perfect picture.
Choose the Location First Before you begin planning outfits, decide on the setting. Some of my favorite spots to create a timeless family picture are places that already have a fun ambiance. In the fall, Alabama color comes alive and I like to take families to shoot in cotton fields or in the autumn leaves. Hays Nature Preserve is also a great spot to shoot year-round because of the woodsy atmosphere and the Flint River as the backdrop. For a really personalized shoot, front porches are another favorite. (And you don’t have to worry about your kids getting wrinkled/losing hair bows/getting dirty in the car!)
Out of all these spots though, downtown Huntsville is by far my favorite spot. With the square, the old buildings, and the brick sidewalks I can get great shots of families just walking around and enjoying the history of this beautiful town. Many times you can hear live music in the background and you will always find people strolling and checking out the food trucks or just sitting outside having a cocktail or a cup of coffee. Kids enjoy downtown because there is always something cool going on for them to see.
Time of Day I cannot stress this enough: choose a time of day when everyone is most likely to be happy. It can be tricky when you have little ones, but make sure they have napped and eaten and are reasonably comfortable in what they are wearing. Make sure everyone has been to the potty, and bring along some water in case someone gets thirsty. (Please no colored or messy drinks…it’s a disaster waiting to happen.)
Ideally, the best time of day for a natural light photographer is first thing in the morning (9 or 10) or later in the afternoon (from 3 to 6 depending on the time of year and when the sun sets). Just stay away from the middle of the day when the light is too harsh for pictures.
What to to Wear There is no real right or wrong answer to this one, but I encourage my clients to dress how they feel comfortable. Having said that, you do need to dress cohesively as a family. For example, if one person is wearing jeans, you probably don’t want someone else in a cocktail dress. Stick with something casual like a cute wrap dress or skirt instead. If all of the kids are dressed in heirloom clothing, then the adults should go for a more formal look and stay away from the jeans. Also, pay attention to the weather when you are taking pictures outside. This is Alabama after all, and it’s not crazy uncommon to have 90 degree heat in October or for it to be 40 degrees and freezing in April. As much as it might cramp the seasonally-inspired style you had envisioned for the picture, don’t go overboard with wool sweaters and boots or sundresses and sandals if the temperature is going to make you so uncomfortable that you are visibly miserable in the pictures.
To simplify, I usually tell people to start with one outfit and then coordinate the other outfits around that one. Neutral colors are great for inside/studio shoots. Bright colors work great outdoors, just be sure to stay away from too much pattern like plaids and polka dots. And just a tip—because we are in the South and it’s part of our DNA—seersucker does NOT photograph well. The tiny stripes tend to confuse the camera lens. Over accessorizing is also a no-no. Just keep it simple.
As for hair and makeup, if this part stresses you out, keep in mind that we have some wonderful professionals here in Huntsville who can do that part for you. I’m always happy to make a referral for you.
Relax and Have Fun Crying kids never make for great pictures. Fighting couples with forced smiles don’t either. Kids are more likely to be relaxed when their parents are relaxed, so choose your battles and emphasize that the sooner everyone cooperates, the sooner you will all be done. And as a photographer who deals with little people all day long, I tend to be able to get kids to do things that parents can’t get the kids to do. A good photographer is always going to have a few tricks up his or her sleeve to get a smile, so just relax and let them work their magic.
Lastly, and most importantly, don’t get so caught up in everything being perfect. And keep in mind, “perfect” doesn’t have to mean that every hair is in place and everyone is sitting perfectly rigid with frozen smiles on their faces. Years from now, you will cherish those little crooked smiles and cow-licks, and it’s okay to have laughter and expression when you are taking the pictures. For me, the very best part of taking family photos is getting to watch how a family interacts and loves one another. If I can capture that on film, then I call that a perfect picture.