When planning your session with me, take a moment to look through the family photos on my website and decide what “feel” you would like your session to have. If we haven’t yet chosen a location, ask yourself, “Do I like the textures of a field or natural environment? Do I like the feel of an urban location or the simplicity of the studio? Would I like some of each?” If the latter sounds like you, then you should know that right outside the door of my Chaska studio there are historic brick buildings, a white gazebo, the woods and the Minnesota River with nature trails, a field and a lake with a dock. We can get a lot of variety there. And while I love my studio and surrounding area, I also love to shoot in places that are special to people - the bridge where Mom and Dad got engaged, the front porch of your new house... (Note that some locations may require us to pay for a permit.)
I love to coordinate clothing with locations and backdrops, so I am happy to consult with you to plan the style and colors of your photographs. Later in this guide I will share tips and inspiration for what to wear, and what to expect during and after your session.
WHERE WILL MY SESSION TAKE PLACE?
I know lots of great locations for photo shoots. You can choose whatever setting feels right to you - from studio to urban to natural, to anywhere in-between. At my studio in downtown Chaska, I can provide quite a bit of variety. In additon to the indoor space there are historic brick buildings, a beautiful white gazebo, the woods along the Minnesota river, a field, a lake and dock. If there is a place that is meaningful to you, like the lake, the farm, the orchard, or downtown, tell me. We’ll go there! (Note that some places require fees or permits for professional photography.)
HOW LONG WILL THE SESSION LAST?
Typically sessions last between one and two hours.
WHEN DO YOU SCHEDULE YOUR PORTRAIT SESSIONS?
I usually shoot weekends and evenings, and, if we’ll be shooting outdoors, most often in the last few hours before sunset for the best light. I occasionally do sessions in the morning, but greatly prefer evenings.
WHAT HAPPENS IF IT RAINS ON THE DAY OF OUR OUTDOOR SESSION? In the event of rain during a scheduled outdoor session we will either use an indoor location or reschedule for a different date (I build rain days into my shooting schedule). And a few times, I’ve actually shot IN the rain - so that’s an option, too, if it’s not pouring or storming out!
WHAT IF I NEED TO RESCHEDULE?
Not a problem. I know that people get sick, or emergencies arise. I appreciate 24 hours’ notice if you need to reschedule, and I will find another time for you.
I REALLY WANT THIS SESSION TO GO WELL. WHAT CAN I EXPECT DURING THE SHOOT AND WHAT DO YOU DO TO HELP US LOOK GREAT?
Sessions with me are fun and relaxed. I don‘t expect your kids (or you!) to perform for me, or to be perfect. I expect you to be natural and to be yourselves. Why? I want you to enjoy your session so when your look at your pictures you remember a lovely day together. I also want you to look forward to coming back! I will start with posed photographs of the whole family, and then we’ll do individual shots and family combinations. Then we may do some candids and other setups. I will help you with posing and give you plenty of feedback as we go. I’ll probably sing to the little ones (or any dads that need extra coaxing to smile...) and make up some games. If I need help getting a child to smile I will call upon you, and I will ask you to get yourself as close to my camera lens as possible to get good eye contact. I may also take a child aside if necessary.
HOW MANY PICTURES DO YOU TAKE? DO WE GET TO SEE THEM ALL?
I take many, many pictures. When I prepare your proofing gallery I narrow them down to the very best ones, at least 35. You will not see blinking shots, outtakes, unedited proofs, or 10 of the same shot. I carefully “polish the gems” when I edit and show you only my best work as a complete gallery - the full story from your session.
DO YOU DO RETOUCHING?
Yes, it’s included. In addition to my custom hand-edits, I remove blemishes, and do other types of retouching. More involved edits like braces removal will incur an extra charge.
What to wear
Here is some general advice for how to plan your outfits for your family photo shoot. For more specific direction with examples, click here.
Coordinate, rather than match. Start with one outfit you love and build the rest of the look from there. Pull colors from your inspiration piece or find other colors that compliment it and are in the same color intensity. For example, all medium shades, or all soft neutrals.
Stay away from bright neons - they don’t photograph well. And if possible, avoid stark white, and go for cream, instead.
Dress for the setting. In a field, I love casual, cozy looks in either cream and gray, or everyone in medium shades, or deep, rich, shades. For an urban setting, try deep, rich colors or gray and black, or something fun and vintage. In the studio I love really simple looks - soft creams, grays and tans, a solid, neutral tank... It is important to have everyone in the same color intensity so that the overall look flows together.
It’s also smart to consider the colors in your home, since that is where your photographs are likely to be displayed.
If you don’t consider yourself a fashion plate, then try something timeless. Flowing or smocked dresses, simple cable knit sweaters, pants with suspenders... I love timeless looks!
Layers for everyone. Layers add depth, interest, and color (as long as we don’t overdo it). Belts, vests, cardigans, scarves, necklaces, jackets, hats...
Wear what feels good! Maxi dresses look good on nearly every woman, as do a good fitting pant. Make sure you dress everyone in clothing that fits well. You really don’t need to buy things with “room to grow” - in fact, a little smaller is better than a little too big. Clothing that is baggy does not make people look good in pictures, but a well-fitting or even slightly small (but not skin-tight) piece will skim the body and be much more flattering.
Dress up your feet, too. I love boots in pictures, as well as nice dress shoes, cute sandals, or colorful deck shoes or top-siders. Barefoot is another great look.
If you need further family wardrobe inspiration, check out my Pinterest board with tons of family and child session clothing ideas.
Preparing for your session
Try to have the whole family rested before your session - that includes you, Mom! (I know, I am giving you a huge list of things to plan, do and pack. But still... plan in some rest time, too.) Make picture day a special day, and keep things relaxed before you come.
Hair should be clean and brushed and styled simply. Have haircuts done at least a week before your shoot.
Hands and nails should clean and trimmed - I love using hands in photographs!
Let me know if you’re bringing a pet. If your dog is coming along, make sure Sparky gets lots of exercise before the shoot. We’ll have a mellower pup that way.
Come ready to enjoy yourself. My sessions are pretty much as they look - relaxed, sweet, happy, and fun. Trust me - I promise to give you my best.
Bring easy-access snacks for a little break, if you think they will need it. I know kids get tired and hungry, or just need a little breather, so it’s great to have something on hand. It is nice to have bottled water or juice also. For little ones, bring clean up wipes, diapers or pull-ups, just in case you need them.
Bring a hairbrush for touchups.
Pack some extra clothes or layers, in case of spills or chills!
I usually carry bug spray with me for those mid-summer sessions, but if you have a preferred kind, bring it.
Don’t forget any props you want: a stuffed toy, a special book, a family quilt, anything that is special to your family. I love incorporating important things into my sessions.
A FEW MORE THINGS
Don’t worry about blemishes or breakouts. Everyone gets them (everyone!) and I am a good retoucher. It’s not an issue. Skip the spray tan (and the real tan!). It can look orange in photographs and you don’t need it. And tan lines are distracting!
Avoid extra-large bows on small-sized girls. They can overwhelm, as well as flop over eyes and get in the way. Small bows are cute, though, and so are hats! I don’t ever bring treats, candy or toys to reward cheerful cooperation from kids (or dads!). But YOU may!
Just show up ready to have fun and feel special. Bring your ideas, your thoughts, your personality, and don’t worry about a thing. It’s going to go great!