Category Archives: Families

How to Plan a Truly Great Family Photo Session (Part 4: The Interactions)

This is the last post in the series “How to Plan a Truly Great Family Photo Session” (click here to start it from the beginning). Unless I think of something else to say about it of course! Today we’re talking about what may seem like the most obvious aspect of a great family photo session… the interactions between family members.

It’s one thing to spend time hanging out together in private in your home but it’s another thing to do it when someone pulls out a camera since that simple action is likely to make at least one of your family members (if not all of them) freeze up and instantly feel awkward. Plus there are different stages throughout your children’s lives and sometimes it’s hard to find an activity that everyone can participate in and have fun with.  Some families interact very naturally together without any outside help and others need something to prompt them, or to do together, to help them interact naturally.  You know your family and if you are the kind that might need a little extra push in this area (especially when there’s a camera around). Either way, I hope the Cottrell’s example might get some wheels turning for you….

(Somehow the kids kept losing important clothing items throughout the session so this picture cracks me up… and reminds me about Nicole’s relaxed, non-stressed attitude! See post 3 for more on that!).

The Cottrells have family snuggle time in bed on Saturday mornings.  This means, dad’s home from work and the kids crawl into their parents’ bed to hang out and start off their weekend together. What an AMAZING and special time to share in together every week! And since this is a regular thing they do together that everyone in the family loves, I can think of nothing better to capture on picture day.

When the Cottrell kids grow up and think of good times with their parents, I have no doubt they’ll think of Saturday mornings in bed together, so those are the kind of memories we want to preserve in photos.  Especially because it will make it that much more amazing when the kids grow up and keep the same tradition with their own kids and have a photographer capture the same memories with their family.  How cool would that be?!?

So why on earth would you rather have pictures of everyone sitting and smiling together in a park than family snuggle time photos?!

Because for some reason, family photo time has become the exact opposite of family snuggle time in many ways.  It has become so much colder.  Why is that?! We have digital now, we can take thousands of pictures and it costs us nothing! So we can afford to sacrifice a few blurry photos due to the kids jumping on the bed too much or a couple of dark pictures as we get the indoor lighting just right.  Posy- posy type of pictures come from back in the day when a single picture cost a ton of money to take and you couldn’t risk one not being perfect!  We can risk it now so lets make the most of it!

So while you’re trying to think of what backgrounds make your family look best (because that’s important too), make sure you take the time to think about what activities make your family the most YOU. Think about what each of your kids like to do to showcase their personalities.  The Cottrells’ little boy loves to sit at the piano and play (he seriously can play specific notes in specific order… I guess that’s called a song!) so they planned some of that time into the session.

Their little girl loves to entertain and tell dramatic stories (while jumping on the bed apparently!) so they let her go ahead and do that while they all sat attentively!

A major factor in the Cottrell family session is that the parents were very active participants.

Don’t forget, it’s not all about the kids.  I don’t care if you don’t like how you look right now, your kids will want pictures of you playing with them when they grow up whether you’re 100 lbs overweight with adult acne or not!

Family picture time is about so much more than looks and these pictures are for everyone so don’t get obsessed with yourself and how YOU look. Get in there and be great parents who really play with their kids and participates in their interests!

(Even if that means getting your head stepped on every once in awhile).

That’s the way people will remember you, rather than as someone who’s missing in all the photos because they were sadly insecure.

So be thinking of things your family does together.  How do you interact together?  I don’t just mean playing kids games either.  Do you hold your child while they stir the brownie batter? Lets get a picture of that. Do they imitate you getting ready in the morning or while you clean house? Lets get a picture of that.  Do you play dress up together, have dance parties, work in the garden, make meals together…. any of that is GREAT for pictures!  Just make sure you chose something that keeps you close, touching, and happy and your pictures will look amazing.

So let’s review what you’ve learned so far…

When you are planning a family photo session make sure you consider the right timing for the session, the style (pick 1 item to build your wardrobe, location, and props from), your attitude and expectations about the session, and what activities show your family as they really are at this stage in life.

Well that’s it!  Now you know how to do it, how to have a truly great family photo session! You know how to have the right style, attitude, and interactions.  But even with all that great info, the most  important thing is that you don’t think of this as picture day.  Think of it as a visual representation of the kind of love you have for one another and most of all… think of it as a great day you’ll have with your family that you want to remember forever. That will make it a truly great family photo session.

(Click to read the series from the beginning.)

 

Vincent – A Baby Story Video

“Video? Wait, aren’t you guys Radiant PHOTOGRAPHY?” Why yes, yes we are. However we also have Canon’s 5D Mark II cameras that happen to have amazing video capabilities and we also both happen to love the art of film! So because of those two strong coincidences, we decided to do a little experimenting!

When Pete and Allison called us while they were pregnant to schedule their newborn photo session (which was very smart of them because the best time for newborn photos is within 10 days after birth) we proposed a new idea for them to consider.

Not only did we want to do their newborn photos, but we also wanted to use video to tell their story as they excitedly awaited their little one!

 

Thanks to Pete, Allison, and Vincent for being so patient as we worked through the kinks of our new project. You guys were all very brave for letting us experiment with you!

 

 

 

 

 

Madison’s Sweet Sixteen Masquerade (by Josh & Kelley)

Josh and I think it’s safe to say that Madison and her family know how to throw a party.

A few years back, Scottie and Breanna were lucky enough to photograph one of their previous parties, a sweet sixteen bash for their oldest daughter, Morgan.

Now, two years later, Josh and I got to hang out with their family for the night. It was Madison’s big day, and they were going ALL OUT!  We’re talking beautiful decorations to match the masquerade theme, a tower of cupcakes, a fountain of chocolate, a Radiant photobooth for some laugh-out-loud entertainment, a DJ, a dance floor perfectly positioned for busting some moves, and SO much more!

 When you meet Madison, it’s hard to believe that she’s sixteen.  She’s what I would call an “old soul” who is “young at heart”.

(How sweet is this photo of Madison kissing her dad on the cheek?!)

She’s kind, caring, and thoughtful.  In fact, rather than begging for gifts, she asked her friends and family to donate to a charity!

(Can I take a moment and point out that Madison’s mom MADE that skirt she’s wearing?  I LOVE it!)

Madison obviously knows how to pick great friends as well.  Josh and I set up a photobooth during her party, and I swear EVERY teenager I took a photo of in the photobooth that night said “thank you” afterwards.  I’m not even kidding, they took the time to thank me for taking their pictures.  How awesome is that?!

Still, don’t be fooled, while this bash may have had some of the world’s most polite and caring teenagers on the guest list, nobody could accuse them of not knowing how to party!

While the living room was full of people putting on crazy props and coming up with hilarious poses for the photobooth, the backyard was similarly overflowing with fun while Madison and her friends showed off their moves on the dance floor.

Not only are Madison and her friends fantastic, but Madison is lucky enough to have an amazing family as well.

With all of the stress that can go into planning a party with your family, it would be understandable if a few unkind words slipped out now and then.  But that was not at all the case with Madison’s family.  Every single family member, from her grandparents to her youngest sister, seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves and they were all happy to be celebrating Madison’s big day.

You can tell that these girls really love each other!

Madison, you are for sure one of the best sixteen-year-olds we know!  Thank you so much for letting Josh and me be a part of your big day!

Click to see the rest of Madison’s Sweet Sixteen Masquerade.

Shannon and Keegan’s Mother and Son Session (by Josh & Kelley)

This family photo session has been a long time coming.

Meet Shannon. She is such a hard working woman.  Get this, she teaches fourth grade (yea, she’s one of those teachers that is there before the sun comes up, stays late, and is usually at the school working on the weekends as well), tutors kids on the side, is working on finishing up her doctorate, AND she’s doing all of this while being a fantastic mom to one of the most crazy cool kindergarten students that I have ever met. Oh yea, meet Keegan.

(Just look at that face, you can already tell that he’s cool!)

When Josh and I heard that Shannon and her son hadn’t had a family photo session done since around the time Keegan was in diapers, we knew we HAD to get some photos of these two together.

Now when I said Keegan is crazy cool, I meant it. Check this kid out!

I don’t think I’ve ever met a kindergarten student with a motorcycle like that. It goes so fast! Guys, I couldn’t even ride a normal bike sans training wheels until like the fourth grade and Keegan was out on this thing doing crazy tricks!

(I think Josh would have asked to try the bike out if I wouldn’t have been around. No joke!)

If I had to pick another way to describe Keegan, other than cool, it would be energetic.

This kid was running around, climbing trees, doing push-ups… but his mom was keeping up with him the whole time!

Shannon and Keegan, thank you so much for letting us be a part of your latest family session! Let’s do it again soon!

(Click to see more of Josh and Kelley’s family photo sessions!)

How to Plan a Truly Great Family Photo Session (Part 3: The Attitudes)

In this series about planning a truly great photo session (click here to catch up) I’ve decided to really go at it on this one because this topic is incredibly important! When I say that “The Attitudes” are very important to having a truly great family session, I mean the attitudes of all the family members involved. No, this isn’t an “attitude is everything” speech and I don’t even mean everyone should be happy (although that would be great as well).  What I mean is that there is a lot of pressure and expectations for family picture day. So many in fact, that those things alone can actually ruin picture day… and the pictures that go with picture day.

So when I say attitudes I’m talking about your attitude about the session. That is what will REALLY set the tone for the day.

So let’s talk about the Cottrell’s attitude towards their session
I mentioned in the first post that Nicole came to me with all sorts of ideas and most of it was based around a family photo session done by another photographer that I had shared on my personal Facebook page because I loved it so much.  The thing with this session was that this couple’s SEVEN children were all super well-behaved, seemingly expert fashion models who all apparently came out of the womb with the ability to hold their own unique poses for as long as a photographer requested.  Seriously, these kids snapped into poses so difficult that even adults can’t do them and held them long enough for the photographer to get several great shots from it… it must be genetic or something.  Whatever it is, it is definitely a high standard to base your photo session on… which we made the mistake of doing.

Only, it wasn’t actually a mistake because it happened to turn out great for one reason and one reason alone… the parents let go of their expectations in the very beginning of the session.

Sure a perfectly poised, well manicured group of little ones is quite a stunning site… but a slightly off kilter, very rambunctious set of siblings having a blast together is even better than a “perfect” photo.

(This picture of her dad trying to prevent her from crushing her brother’s head makes me literally laugh out loud every single time I see it. See, Scottie just now came in the room to see what I was laughing about).

I think we all know that natural is better, but for some reason it’s still hard to believe it and we still try to get the kids to sit and behave like angels for a good hour and a half.  Not going to happen.

Even if it does work out from time to time, I’m not totally sure that’s the way a family photo session should be!

Every once in awhile, we are able to get some cool posed shots with kids, like this one of The Ellison family…

(Best signage ever!)

…but I STILL like the ones where they got to be themselves much better!

So here is Nicole and Jon trying to pose their munchkins into perfect little manicans while the kids continue to jump and bounce right out of their hands.

I’m not kidding, that little girl bounced around CONSTANTLY.

I felt lucky that we were able to get at least some pictures without her red curls standing straight up over her head!

So I was sooo relieved when I saw Nicole and Jon just throw up their hands and say “whatever, let’s just let them do their thing”.

(I totally love this picture where both kids are unhappy and Jon and Nicole are just cracking up about it! Chip and Kay have a similar photo below from their session where both kids are crying and they can’t stop laughing because they’ve just chosen to enjoy every second of it no matter what).

Below is the photo series where you can actual see Nicole making the choice to relax and let go!

Ha ha I LOOOOVE IT!:-)

I remember a lady I used to babysit for had 3 GIANT prints hanging in her hallway and each one was a photo of each of her kid’s screaming, crying face filling the entire frame!  Awesome.

I’m not a mom yet, but according to my mom, you just miss your kids being little. 

That means you miss their little feet, their little hands, their ever changing personalities at different stages… even maybe the way they looked when they cried.  That was who they were then and it was your whole world for a time… and you might not have a single picture of it. You might wish you could remember their pouty face, but you just can’t quite recall it and you wish you had a picture of it.

(or you’ll miss their little mischievous face… like the one this little guy is showcasing for us!)

No one with grown children has ever told me they wish they had more pictures of their kids smiling at the camera or sitting up straight in green grass. That’s not life, it’s not them, and it’s not you. You, your kids, and your family in this particular stage you are in is what we’re trying to capture.

Another important note on this point is that… WE DO NOT JUDGE YOU!!! 

Sometimes I think half of the reason parents spend majority of picture day trying to wrangle and control their kids is because they’re embarrassed by their kids “bad” behavior.  Just so you know, most people in this world (including kids) don’t love picture day. Which means we’ve seen it all and it seems like at almost every single photo session the parents have said to us, “I just don’t know what happened today, they never act like this! Of course it would happen on picture day!”

Yeah, of course, because when else are you commanding them to do things they never actually do in normal life, or getting in huge fights and then smiling like it’s all OK 15 seconds later, or punishing them for being shy, or yelling at them for not being happy?!  It’s a weird thing, picture day is!  And kids don’t like it anymore than adults.  But it doesn’t have to be this way!  It can be MUCH more natural and relaxed and even actually… fun (gasp)!  Sure, we’ll try to get at least 1 or 2 photos of the whole family sitting, smiling and looking good and we don’t want ALL the pictures to be them crying and screaming! We want a balance that shows who you really are!

Sometimes that means you are all posed so we can see your faces to just know what you actually look like, and sometimes that means you are upset, and sometimes laughing uncontrollably.  Don’t limit yourselves to only show one side of your family on picture day.  Especially when it comes to your kids… let them be themselves, not the version of them you want them to be that you’re excited to show off to people.

(As you can see in the following two pictures, upside down is as good a side as any to show off … maybe even better than right side up at times!).

Stop worrying about how everyone is perceiving you…from the family members who will see the pictures, to your photographers themselves… none of your memories matter as much to any of us as they do to you.  Relax and allow us to capture the meaning in your life, not the vision of a perfect family that you have in your head.

(Uh oh, someone’s about to be in trouble!)

So while I just went on and on about relaxing and being “real”,  I know there is still some level of order and organization that needs to go into a family photo session, so I say, follow the Cottrell’s example and bring along a third party to take care of all that for you.  Nicole and Jon brought along the kids babysitter on family photo day. So when it came time for clothing changes, rounding them up, making sure they don’t run straight into the busy street that was 2 feet away…. all of that was handled by the babysitter so that Jon and Nicole could JUST HAVE FUN with their kids!

When you are chasing them around and digging through the bag for their snacks, while trying to smile and look all put together… the stress and tension in you does show up.  We have had several family sessions in the past where it has been difficult to get a single photo of the parents smiling.  That is so sad!  We want you to remember the moments that we’re capturing as some of the best times your family ever had together! I know that real life does get in the way and prevent you from spending fun, quality time with your children as much as you’d like to, but that’s why you bring along an assistant to take care of the real life stuff to allow you to be your real selves with each other (not just the jumbled balls of stress you tend to turn into) and truly enjoy your family without all the junk getting in the way that makes it difficult.

So while you’re working on planning the timing and style of  your session… make sure you take time to think about your expectations. Having a plan is good because we’ll at least start with that.  But once things get rolling, take a deep breathe and let it go… and then start laughing out loud a little bit and I’ll bet that will make everyone else start laughing out loud a lot. And you’re on your way to a truly great family photo session.

In Part 4 (click to read it!), I talk about how interactions affect family photo sessions.  Click here to start this series from the beginning.