10 Tips for an Awesome Photo Session

Young family session in Miramar South Florida by VSD Photography

When helping clients plan their sessions I hear many of the same concerns over and over. Questions on clothing, location, and kids behaving. I address them all, and more, and ease my clients' worries, so I thought I'd come up with tip sheet for my clients to help ensure your photography session is as awesome as the end images will look!

1. Style for your family's personality

Describe a weekend your family would love. What activities would you do? Your answers can say a lot about what you'll feel comfortable wearing to the photo session. I'm not telling you to come dressed in sweats and jerseys, but find some smart-looking casual outfits that your family will feel comfortable in. If you're more of a formal family, then you'll naturally feel more comfortable in "Sunday clothes" and dressy attire. Chances are you dress up for church on Sunday or when going out to dinner.

The point is to BE YOURSELVES.

One thing I will caution any family though: If you want your child to be happy on the day of the session, do not dress him or her in layers of clothing that they are not used to. Your child will not be happy and you will be stressed. If you want a specific look, that might be a bit strange, for your youngster, try dressing him or her in it several times before the actual session. Get them used to the look and the feel of the new outfit.

2. Plan out your hairstyle - taking into account the awesome South Florida humidity.

Pretend your hair is like your young child in the example above -- you know darn well that it will not cooperate if you try to do something new to it right before a very important event. We've all tried it. So, plan out how you'll want to style your hair. Try it a couple times. In the heat of the day. Your hair smells your stress and likes to mock you. At least mine does. Trick it into thinking this is any old style that you're used to wearing.

3. Plan for the location - (shoes, ladies)

You and I will sit down and discuss various locations and what suits the look or vibe you're going for. Now it's time to get real about the shoes. If we're planning a session at the beach, heels aren't a good match. It will be obvious about what kind of footwear everyone should wear. And this goes for the rest of the outfits, too. Location, outfit, shoes: it's like a table with three legs -- they all need to be the same or else the coffee, water bottle, or glass of wine on the table will fall over.

4. Bring bribes snacks for the kids (and yourself)

I'm a believer in rewarding for a skill learned and not bribing for good behavior. Soooo, let's just call this learning the skill of being present, presentable, and pacified for Mommy. Make sure everyone is well fed and watered. No one is at their best when they're hangry and dehydrated.

5. Psych up the kids (and Dad)

I can almost guess the reaction of Dad when you said, "I think it's about time we had pictures made." The look. The eye roll. The "why don't the pictures from five years ago count?" comment. The children may have given the same reaction. Ask them to help plan out outfits (and then guide their decisions like the expert wife/mother you are); ask them for suggestions on poses you could do as a family. Hey, I'm game for whatever they come up with (as long as it's legal, Dad). Promise Dad a night he'll never forget -- whatever that entails. Promise the kids a trip to Chuck-E Cheese. It's a little bit of give and take. And if all else fails, remind them "happy wife, happy life".

6. Think about the end products

When we meet for your initial consultation, I'll go over the different prints and products that I offer. It may be a bit overwhelming if you haven't had pictures made before, or if you've only ever been to someone who has given you a CD of your images and left you to figure things out on your own. I'm here to hold your hand and guide you to happiness. You don't have to know everything that you want on the day of your pre-session consultation, but before the session it's a good idea to begin that thought process. If you know you want a certain gallery of images, or a certain size of wall art, or an album with specific poses -- I'll be able to photograph for those during the session.

And speaking of poses -- I'll be creating my own posing list, but if you have specific poses in mind, write those down. I want to make sure you get what you're after, during the session, and then once your final products are delivered. The tears should be of joy, not because something was missed.

7. Get good rest

I don't know about you, but my bags don't need any help showing up on my face. A good night's sleep and lots of water do wonders for puffiness and moods. And this leads directly to. . .

8. Don't over-plan your day

Most of my sessions are in towards the evening, so a lot can happen during the day to wreck that awesome mood you woke up with after an amazing night's sleep. Don't plan a day at the beach or a marathon shopping session (or insert whatever would tire out and tick off your crowd). Keep the positive vibes rolling throughout the day and they should roll on into your session. Which leads directly to. . .

9. Relax -- kids can smell fear

Threatening your kids (or Dad for that matter) to smile or else only makes them determined to do the opposite. Like, it's war. I'm not that worried if someone won't smile, especially a young child. We'll get some amazing images with your family interacting in fun and precious ways. That usually makes everyone crack even the least of a smile. I also tell moms who are worried that their kids won't look at the camera, that's fine too! We know your babes have eyes. I'll take authentic and distracted over ticked and bawling because Mom is stressed. So relax, Mom. If you've followed the tips above, you've done all you can to make this session a success. And just for clarification: success to me isn't that everyone is looking at the camera and smiling. Success is capturing the true nature of your family in images that you will bring tears to your eyes when you see them for the first time. Where you'll say, "yep, that's exactly like my child."

10. Reward your family for a job well done

You did it! Your photo session rocked and everyone in your family was a super star. I'm convinced it will go off like that! Take everyone out to celebrate. Ice cream for dinner! Why not? Dad might deserve a special beer. You might deserve a yummy glass of wine. Make the session a special occasion that your family enjoys, and the next time you mention that it's time to get pictures made again, they'll all shout in glorious unison that it's the best idea you've ever had! (I may be dreaming on that last bit -- photographer's wish!).

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