A Rhode Island Wedding and Portrait Photographer. My goal when photographing every wedding is to leave my clients with a full story of their day. All the pretty poses with their families and friends are important, yes, but it’s those in between moments of laughter and excitement for what is, and what is to come that fuels my love for capturing weddings all these years later.
Hooray! You’ve hired BellaFoto Studios and want a picture perfect family portrait session. While we all know that rarely anything goes as planned in life, when you’re properly prepared for a family portrait session, the results will be amazing. Since I’m such a fan of lists (as you might already know if you’re one of my past wedding clients), I’ve assembled a collection of the most valuable advice for planning your family portraits:
Its no surprise when living in New England that portrait session scheduling revolves around the weather. Sometimes there are obvious reasons (rain and storms) but also its important to keep in mind if there’s excessive heat, fog, and wind. The fog tends to be a more frequent conundrum in coastal Rhode Island. There have been a few times I’ve been shooting a sunset family portrait session and the fog rolls in. Luckily I pack strobe lights and can fake a sunset if necessary, but the real thing looks WAY better. If possible, watch the hourly forecast the day before the session (I probably will be too), and if its not looking favorable we can reschedule to our backup rain date. For those who have not yet worked with me, I pencil in TWO dates for my out of town portrait clients for this very reason.
Also another common problem I deal with on the regular is excessive wind. Sometimes, there is no escaping it, especially if we have a beach session planned. But if you happen to closely follow the weather, and know the area in which we will be taking family portraits, it is possible to work with the wind. If you live locally, you could try doing a site visit before your session to get a feel for the environment. I do know certain areas in town that are notoriously windy and will advise my clients accordingly.
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall – I love them all! But you might not. There are advantages and disadvantages to portrait sessions taken in each season. Winter sessions are beautiful but I do need to do a little extra editing to reduce nose, cheek, and hand redness. Winter can be super romantic and possibly better suited for engagement sessions than families with small children.
Some of my annual clients tend to choose the same season for family portraits, for example the fall during peak foliage. This is because its a sentimental time of year for them, and they want to have a consistency in colors when displaying prints around their home. Fall is my busiest time of the year, so be sure to book early and schedule your rain date. Between October and mid November I’m squeezing in everyone who’s waited all year long for the leaves to change.
Summer also tends to book up quickly as I’m photographing weddings on the weekends, and nightly portrait sessions for vacationing families visiting southern RI. Most families tend to schedule a sunset session during the summer, so those dates fill up fast. However, day time sessions can also be beautiful and there is more availability on my schedule. I’m happy to recommend locations for both daytime sessions and sunset sessions in semi-private areas.
Spring sessions tend to revolve around themed mini sessions, so if you’re a mini-session-loving family, be sure to get on my newsletter list to get first dibs on booking these types of sessions. In the past I’ve done mini sessions with Magnolia Trees, Azalea Gardens, Tulip Farms, and Daffodil Fields. This season can be wet and muddy, and also its not always warm. That doesn’t intimidate me, its just something to keep in mind.
To expand on my previous thought about spring mini sessions in flower fields, I want you to know that I do in fact offer mini sessions periodically throughout the year. I do not always advertise these sessions, as I’m usually able to book directly with existing clients on my newsletter list. When I’m doing something new and exciting, like last year’s Christmas mini sessions, I advertise those to see who would be interested. The vintage red truck mini sessions sold out in less than a day! While mini sessions are a popular favorite with some clients, they are not suitable for everyone. Let me explain.
Mini sessions are a short and sweet, typically themed and decorated portrait session. They are meant to be posed, a quick “smile and say cheese” type of session. Mini sessions can work well for some children who do well with instructions but do not have long attention spans. These shorter sessions are also great for family pets to get their moment in the spotlight. With all that in mind, mini sessions are not meant to be scaled down portrait experiences. Full portrait sessions are longer because I include time for play and candids, and finding sweet little moments between different members of the family, utilizing numerous poses and a variety of scenery. If you prefer a more relaxed experience with a larger variety of portraits, then please schedule a full portrait session.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what do I wear?” While I’m no fashion expert, I do have a few thoughts to share on the topic. In past years there was a large trend of having entire large families wear matching outfits. Now we’re moving away from that concept to more outfit coordination between family members. On my pinterest account there are boards with examples of outfit choices and color themes. Obviously you’re going to want to take a few things into consideration when choosing outfits:
A. what time of the year (temperature appropriate outfit choices)
B. location of the session (i.e. flowy maxi dresses on beaches are gorgeous)
C. fit and comfort (this applies for footwear too)
Overall the most important thing you can do is wear something free from wrinkles and stains, and something that fits your body. If you’re uncomfortable and picking and fidgeting with your clothes because they are too small, or your heels are painful, then unfortunately that might show up in your pictures. Take your time and find outfits that reflect your personality, but also fit the occasion.
While you know I absolutely love sunset portrait sessions, it is just not reasonable to expect your toddler to be photogenic near bedtime. If sunset sessions are a high priority for you, then consider a session in April when the sun sets around 7/7:30pm, rather than midsummer when its dark at 9pm. Conversely, if you are camera shy and uncomfortable having your portraits taken with onlookers, an early morning portrait session makes more sense in a public space. If you have young children, we may need to schedule around their nap/meals. A hungry, tired child is not going to perform for the camera, no matter how much bribery is involved. Do yourself a favor and plan the session around your family’s schedule.
Have you thought about the goal of your portrait session? Do you want these portraits to be printed and framed as wall art? If so, let’s coordinate everything around the color scheme of your house. From choosing what season to photograph your family in, to outfit choices and ideal locations, we can plan together so that your prints don’t clash. Are you hoping to gift portraits to a grandparent or mother for mother’s day? In this instance we purposefully plan the poses to tell the story. Anticipate what you will do with these pictures after the session is completed, and then we can prepare the details.
If you’ve never ridden a horse, please reconsider planning a pony themed session. If you live on a farm and can’t wear walk in heels, don’t schedule a portrait session in the city. Honor the unique and fabulous person you are, and don’t try to be someone else just because you THINK it will look good on camera. Trust me, the average person is a terrible actor and the camera will not reflect your vision. The best images are authentic and story-telling. Please allow me to tell YOUR story!