A candid session – Tips for you, Family! | Dallas, TX family photographer

Family picture season is over for most of us, but many of us (including me!) are waiting til the spring for their annual family session (or fall of 2017! ). Either way, I believe this blog post is timely and relevant.  The idea for this article has been brewing in my mind for months now, particularly after I shot this family and just fell in love with the results.  In this article, I’m talking to the families…what you can do (and not do) to have a candid and fun photo session.

Let’s face it.  Any photographer or any individual with a “good” camera can use their tool, figure out the settings and take a decent picture. Being technically good is a must – yes!  But really, a great photographer becomes great when the shots are more about the people and less about the camera.  I feel that I have really tried to hone in on this craft, with lots of self-critiquing and really using my “Mama skills” – for lack of a better term – to understand how to facilitate shoots that are more casual, fun and candid in nature.  And there are lots of articles and tutorials and classes for us as photographers to become better at this.  But, I realized that there might not be as many resources for the families to help with this type of shoot.   I had an ephipany.  What did I do or actually not do to help facilitate the candidness of this shoot? And what did this family do that made it one of my favorites ever?

Families (Moms AND Dads)…here’s are the tips that I came up with!

  1. Forget about Pinterest.  Nothing stifles me more than when a client comes to me with pictures to try and recreate from Pinterest.  And they will even say, “Well, it doesn’t have to be just like this, but…”  But for me, and I think that I am speaking on behalf of other photographers, too, I can’t get the image of the exact shot out of my mind. (And this is really why I don’t get on Pinterest much, unless it’s to find a recipe or craft to destroy with my kids.)  I become very caught up on recreating an image pixel by pixel which is basically a creative buzz kill.  This family came with no list, and no plan, except to capture them as a family.   Focusing more on interacting with your children and spouse, and less about recreating a shot you’ve seen, will keep your stress level low! You might even be amazed that the shots your photographer captures are even better than your Pinterest board.  I know, everything on Pinterest is perfect.  But your family’s pictures will be perfectly imperfect when you forget about the “musts” and the “recreations” and just. be. you. and try to have fun with it.  
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  So much planning goes into the outfits and accessories.  And I know, it is important and it helps set the tone and look for your shoot.  Plus, the navy bow matches the pillow on your living room couch.  But guess what, you are dealing with humans who DON’T CARE.  There will be so much smeared snot on those expensive, navy pillows before you even have those canvases ordered. If Grace does not want to wear her bow, and James does want to wear his suspenders up, deal with it, Mama.  This mom did not get upset that he didn’t want to wear his suspenders the correct way.  She would’ve preferred it, yes, but she knew it really wasn’t worth the fight.  We pick our battles everyday with our kids…what makes us think that picture day will be any different?  The accessories are adorable.  But a crying 2 year old for the entire session because we’ve fought with them about wearing their accessories we stressed over for weeks, is not very adorable.  Anyway, you get the point.  My best friend and I have a motto for life and it keeps us happy…or at least, sane.  MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.  Stressing over the little details will make you and your spouse grumpy, and it will trickle down to your kids.  Don’t fret over the minutia.
  3. Be spontaneous.  This is a very loaded tip, and I know you’re already rolling your eyes. Kinda like when someones says to “just act natural.”  So how can we just be spontaneous?  What if we’re that family who plans everything?  Here’s what I mean.  Don’t wait for the photographer to tell you exactly what to do.  I know that this is tough because I often have families who have their pictures taken seldomly and they are unsure of what they should be doing.  But my advice is to just play around with your kids and try to forget about the fact that the photographer is fiddling around in her bag looking for a lens.  When my clients are not expecting it, and I start shooting…these become the best shots!  This family just started playing in the field together and chatting with each other as if I weren’t there.  And then when I was ready and wanted to get a particular shot, then I directed them and steered them in a different direction.  They weren’t so hung up on asking me, “Now what should we do?”  They were low-key enough and trusted that I was going to get shots that they would be happy with and that when it was time for “something else”, I would let them know.  Your shots are only going to be as fun and candid as you are willing to be.  A good photographer will definitely help facilitate this, but he/she can only do so much. She won’t move your arms for you and she doesn’t know those inside stories that make your pre-teen belly laugh or those ridiculous noises that totally send your preschooler into hysterics.  Take the initiative and have fun with each other without necessarily being directed with every move.  And this is the one day that I encourage you to not be so bossy to your kids – let them lead.  It will encourage their spontaneity – and yours – too. 🙂

  4. Do your homework.  Ask around and really research who you want to hire to photograph your family.  You need to make sure that the pictures you are expecting are the pictures that you have seen the photographer post on their Web site and social media sites…AND their galleries.   I know this is kind of a trite piece of advice, but I see it happen with clients and the photographers they’ve chosen in the past.  Are their shots mostly posed?  If so, and you’re wanting more candid shots, then that probably is not a good fit for your style.  Also, before booking, I would ask the photographer if you can see a gallery – or two – of a recent family session.  I am happy to let potential clients see my work from an entire session so that we are both on the same page.   Just a sneak peek of 1-2 images will not give you a true picture of what an entire session is like with the photographer.  Seeing a full gallery can help you know the flow and style of what a “typical” session looks like.  Also, go more off recommendations of friends/family who’ve used them and not just on Facebook reviews or site testimonials from people you don’t know.  It will give you a better idea of the personality of the photographer.  This family hired me based on a recommendation from another client who has used me for many sessions over the course of 3 years.  She did her homework, and felt confident that I was the right one for the job.  (And I am not saying I am the right one for every one or every job!)

  5. Avoid the mini session.   Don’t get me wrong, I love offering mini sessions.  I do it every year.  It helps me to book sessions because it’s what clients want. It’s also faster and easier for me post-shoot than a full session.  BUT, a mini session is quick and it is more about just checking things off – family pic-check!, pic of just kids-check!, pic of individual kids-check!. I mean, you already have that Christmas card chosen and you need to fill those rectangles. 🙂  Mini sessions are perfect for getting those 5-7 images.   But it’s not going to give you the time you need for taking it easy and being spontaneous and relaxed like a full session will allow.  When I don’t have a session before and after, I know that I can take as long as we need to get as many images as possible.  We aren’t rushed and we can shoot until we run out of light.  I think that most other photographers would agree that while minis are necessary in certain seasons (fall, mainly), they aren’t adequate for capturing many of these candid moments that might not emerge until the last 10 minutes of that hour and a half session, or images that aren’t on your “checklist.”

I realize that there are lots of factors and other variables not covered.  This article is not intended to be scientific or all-inclusive.  Rather these were just some thoughts that came to me on what made this session so special and resulted in so many lovely images.  I hope that your next family session with whomever you hire to shoot it, will be fun and candid and that the art in your home will be a perfectly imperfect reflection of that. ♥

© Allison Andrews, J Allison Andrews Photography

2 comments
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  • Lee Ann Johnson - Great informative article!  Well written — the girls keep telling me we need up-dated family photos!  You’ve inspired me — now I just need to get us all together! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • jallisonandrews@gmail.com - I would love that, Lee Ann! I’ll be ready. 🙂ReplyCancel

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