First and Foremost, Engaging and Relaxing Everyone
The number one thing that I make sure to do during a family session is introduce myself, share a little bit about me, go over the plan for the session together, and then I try to instantly connect with your kiddo(s)! Depending on the age of your child, I will spend the first few minutes getting to know them with playful questions or silly games. I want them to know that the next 45 minutes to an hour is going to be so.much.fun! I also often spend time getting to know dads/husbands a bit as they often (not always) are a bit annoyed/stressed and I want them to start relaxing, feeling comfortable, and get them to realize that this session was way worse in their mind and that they might actually enjoy it. I also want mamas to know that yes, I have a plan, and yes, I am completely flexible, so they should not worry one bit as I have lots of tricks up my sleeve to engage everyone (thank you years of teaching Kindergarten and years coaching teachers!).
Catching the Traditional Pose
Next, I take out my camera and play around with my settings while I let the family play and interact as they normally would for a bit. Then it is really time to try to bust out that traditional, everyone smiling at the camera together, pose. I like to get this shot done first while everyone is fresh and willing. Once we get that traditional shot, then I will engage your family in fun interactive ways, getting everyone to loosen up, smile, laugh, spin, dance, tickle, hug, and more. We do this all together as a family first. Then I make sure to capture each combo of family members. Mom with kids. Same flow....smile traditionally, engage with fun prompts, switch to a new combo of family members. Dad with kids. Just the kids. I also love to catch a solo shot of each individual kiddo. Then I sneak the parents away for one of just the two of them as a good reminder of how they got to this family of theirs in the first place. I am using traditional and stereotypical language here for sessions, yet please know that if you are a family of two moms or two dads, the same flow applies for parent 1 and parent 2 and I would LOVE to photograph your session as well. We do not discriminate here at Sound Roots Photography.
Finding a Variety of Locations
When on location, I will have pre-selected two to three locations where the lighting looks great and it achieves the vibe we are going for. So for example, during a recent session at Seahurst Beach in Burien, I had the family start on the little bridge under cover of the trees with the light and the Puget Sound peeking out in the blurred background. Next, we moved to a cozy spot sitting on a log surrounded by tall grasses. Finally we bounced between the water's edge and the bank of the little river. Each spot had a unique feel to it, yet the flow remained the same. Traditional, lifestyle, and finally documentary (no prompting from me...just letting the family engage and interact and I just stand back and capture whatever may arise).
But what about the Lifestyle Part? Tell me more...
Ok, I kind of glazed over that part. This is where I have the most fun with families. It's also where you get to tell me, "no thank you, that's out of my comfort zone" if needed. I've requested that a parent carry their child piggyback only to find out said parent had a bad back. Do not feel bad if you have to say no to one of your photographer's prompts! This is all part of a session. I'd feel WAY worse if a parent didn't tell me and then someone got hurt during a session. Lifestyle is so much fun because my prompts really change depending on how many family members there are and also depending on everyone's personalities. For a family of three we do a lot of "nose kisses", lifting kiddo high in the sky, parents swinging child by the hands, playful tickles all around, staring contests, piggy back rides, peek a boo, walking towards and away from the camera, and more. With larger families we can do most of those things, plus pile kids on a parent, make a kid sandwich, sing funny songs together, tag, family hugs, and more.
I still have reservations about lifestyle sessions...
That's totally normal. Most of us feel more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. Especially if we are still figuring out what it means to be a parent. My number one tip to you if you are still feeling hesitant is to reach out to your local photographer and explain your hesitations. They will likely have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. Maybe you are a little uneasy due to weight or body image issues and they can try to use specific angles. Maybe you're not all that into the traditional smiling shot at all and they can just skip that part. Maybe you have an idea for using a prop from home, but your not quite sure how to use it. They will work with you and will most likely appreciate a new creative challenge. I know I do! Another approach if you still feel hesitant would be to ask for an in home lifestyle/documentary session. In home sessions are great because everyone is already in their comfort zone. Children can engage with their own books, games, and toys and the photographer can just direct you to great areas of natural light within your home. If you happen to be in the Seattle or South Sound area, I'm happy to connect with you and engage in meaningful conversation regarding your specific family needs before ever discussing payment or session specifics. You can reach me at Ali@soundrootsphotography.com .