There are few moments in life quite as daunting as the annual family photo shoot. We go in with every intention of beautiful smiles, matching clothes, and fantastic attitudes. But let's be honest here, if not managed with the utmost care it may melt into a crying, whining event from our #momlife nightmares. There's fussing over the clothing -- not to mention the stress of finding a date when everyone's available. Then there's making sure the weather is OK. Oh, and nap times! In the end, just making sure you don't lose the youngest member of your troupe to the nearby lake is a feat in and of itself! And this is all before you even sit down to say cheese. It can be rough my friends, but what if there were another way? What if those yearly photo sessions could even be downright enjoyable? Here are seven things NOT to do during your photo shoot that will make it a memory you absolutely treasure forever -- photos that will (hopefully) capture flawlessly:
Choosing neutral outfits ahead of time in styles that you know your family likes will always be your best bet. Clothing can very quickly make or break a photo shoot. Your best bet is to go for all neutrals and everyone will look fantastic every time. Try to avoid any clothing covered in words, characters, or trendy prints. But what if your little darling decides he can -- and will -- wear his bright red cowboy boots and there is absolutely no way, whatsoever, he will be participating in photos without them? Then you roll with it. Don't fight him! At the end of the day, a kid who is cheerful and galloping around in red cowboy boots is one that your photographer would rather have over the one who is sulking, crying, and uncooperative. If some garment or accessory made it to the photo session that you absolutely do not want to be included, do your best to distract and remove it. But if it becomes a concern, just chat with your photographer and ask if they can work around it. There is always a way to work with items. In the end, it just adds to the memory of the day!
There are very few beings on this planet who appreciate being rushed. So, before you even start preparing anyone else, make sure YOU are completely ready to go so you aren't rushed or forgotten in the fray. Then, try to have an hour longer than you think you'll need to start getting everyone else ready. Slowly start doing hair. Feed everyone a snack, request everyone use the restroom, and start slowly dressing everyone. Try not to yell, rush, overreact, or fuss over things that truly don't matter. You'll be shocked how much easier it is to dress your family when you're not shoving shirts over their heads but instead relaxing together getting ready. Never schedule photo sessions during nap time or during a big game (your husband, particularly, will not be a fan of this) unless you want the attitudes to be less than stellar. Trust me on this one, it's just not worth the fight!
Locations with a lot of distractions will prove difficult for your family to stay focused, engaged, and cheerful. Not only that, your photographer will have to attempt to crop various people and objects out of your images. Distractions to avoid include crowds of people, heavy traffic, playgrounds (unless that's the look you're going for), fluffy animals, and ice cream trucks. In all seriousness, the more relaxed and neutral your location, the more relaxed the experience. Choose your photo shoot locations carefully!
Bribery works. Plain and simple. Some tried and true favorites include gummy bears and fish crackers (easy to eat, not messy, and don't usually contain allergens) but any small one-bite snack will do the trick. Hide the snacks in your purse and pass them off to your photographer for doling out at appropriate moments. You might be surprised what you can get a two-year-old (and sometimes even a 40-year-old) to accomplish when they know there's something in it for them.
There are a thousand and one ways to make people smile without making them talk about dairy. Saying "cheese" puts your mouth in the shape of a smile...but really it ends up looking pained and often quite fake. Instead, try one of the following for authentic laughs and smiles from even the most stubborn session participants: throw them in the air, tickle them, squish the person sitting/standing in the middle, spin around in circles, sing a song, tell a story, tell a joke, ask questions in rapid fire, jump, dance, act a fool, or just plain ask them to laugh at you. It works like a dream!
Most amazing moments during a photo session take place when you're fully engaged with your loved ones -- laughing, goofing around, and having fun. There is nothing that can halt that moment more than someone continually telling their children to look at the camera or sit still or to basically cease their good time for the sake of a photo. Every camera on the market today is capable of shooting faster than you can move, so just let them do it! Unless a child is running into oncoming traffic or about to dive into a body of water, let it go! Oftentimes, your photographer will be able to get your children to behave exactly as they need them to at a moment's notice (much like teachers do!) so don't be afraid to let them take the reins, sit back, and just have fun with them. It's OK not to have everyone looking at the camera and often. Those end up being the best images!
Photographers are part-time magicians. They're able to do incredible things during photo sessions that you could only dream of being able to accomplish with your smartphone. But if there is something specific you can tell them that might make their lives easier, definitely do! If you know you have a kid who will do better if you're out of sight, make sure to let them know. If you know you plan to make a book for grandparents with these images, tell them because it might change how they plan to shoot the images. If your child tripped over their own feet and have a big boo-boo you'd like to avoid in the images, share that because it can be done! At the end of the day, photographers just want to make sure their clients are happy with their experience. If you have some insight as to what will make that work best for you, or you have an amazing idea, never feel bad about sharing that information!