How to Plan a Truly Great Family Photo Session (Part 1: When to do it)

What do you think of when you think of family photo sessions?  Green grass, matching colors, and pearly whites? Well OK, but we think of a lot more than that and we want to share some of our insider info with you on what it means to plan a perfect family photo session!

Considering that a lot of what we have learned as been through experience, we’re going to tell the stories of some of our past photo sessions to give you ideas about what you can do well.  The main session we’re focusing on is The Cottrell Family session because I titled their original blog “The Cottrells Are our Dream Team” and really that still holds true.  The Cottrell session is the one that we show people whenever we want to impress them and make them think we’re the best photographers alive.  It’s the session we show off to other photographers when we’re teaching photography classes so that they know we know what we’re doing and that they should listen to what we’re saying.  The thing is though, that while this photo session turned out AMAZING, it had just as much to do with who the family was as who the photographer was (listen closely and you can hear the sound of my ego blow).

So what gives? What is soooo special about this family that they were able to create such a perfect session? Well for starters they really are just a special family. They definitely are a rare and creative breed who are the trend setters in our world.  The thing is, just because they’re creative enough to have figured this out on their own, doesn’t mean that you have to be able to do the same.  They’ve set the standard and now you can learn from it.  Their tricks can be taught!  So that’s what I’m going to be teaching in this special blog series that will pop up on the Radiant blog from time to time about “How to Plan a Truly Great Family Photo Session”.

And so we begin….

I believe that the key to a mind blowing, tear inducing, life time of remembering family session can be broken down into 3 categories.

1. The style

2. The attitudes

3. The interactions

Bam!  Now you know it all! Well, not really.  But let me get you started at least.  There are good reasons and times to have a family session and there are not quite as good reasons and times to have a family session.  With kids, particularly infants and young children, there are definitely different times and stages that will help your photo session live up to it’s full potential….

For infant photos…

…you want to shoot your baby within 10 days of being born. Yep, that’s right.  You have a 10 day window, which means you still feel terrible after what your body just went through, and you still don’t know exactly what you’re doing as a parent.  But that’s OK because we know what to do and we will do our job best if you sit back and let us do our thing. Once they’re more than 10 days old, they begin to be much more difficult for us to pose, they have their eyes open more (but they are never actually looking at the camera so sleeping eyes are best), and they have developed favored positions which means they are less moldable and poseable for us. So to schedule a newborn session, the best idea is to call when you’re pregnant and let us know your due date so we can put it on our calendars and at least make sure we don’t fill up the weeks surrounding your date so that our schedule is flexible enough to work with you on that 10 day time frame when the baby actually comes.

For baby photos…

… anything after they can sit up on their own is great.  That’s why people usually do 6 month photos… they are a lot more responsive to people by that age so they interact better and their little personality begins to show through a little bit better.  So aside from your sleeping infant photos, this is probably the time that will remind you the most of who your little one was as a baby.

For 1 year photos…

… this has less to do with their developmental stages and more to do with commemorating the year. I love the idea of yearly photos to see how your baby grows and to give you a marker to remind you that you haven’t had photos done in awhile so you don’t just wake up 10 years later and realize you forgot to schedule photo sessions for the past 9 years!

Anytime past the 1 year mark….

… these have a lot more to do with family interactions than anything.  We want to capture your child’s personality and their role and relationships within your family. This is the stage I’m going to be focusing on when I talk about “Family Photos” in this series. Mostly because that’s the age the Cottrell kids were at the time of their session so it helps me talk more specifics. Of course many of the same principles will apply to earlier in life so you know, just use your brain to make these tips fit for you and your family.

When the Cottrells scheduled their family photo session….

When Nicole (the mom) was inspired. The ages of her kids weren’t as relevant as some of the beginning years so that gave her the flexibility to wait until she had an idea. THIS is genius. I had shared a photo session by another photographer on my personal Facebook page because I thought it was such an amazing session.  Nicole saw the post and was immediately inspired by it so she called me saying, “I have a good idea, we should do it”. And I love that.  During our first call, she was just rambling on and on with ideas. This is a huge deal because SHE knows her family way better than I do so for her to come with her own ideas versus relying on me to come up with ideas made the session work 1,000 times better.  By the way guys, I only have so many ideas so they definitely begin to repeat after awhile!  I need LOTS of help from you to come up with a creative family session! They were HER ideas to represent HER family as who they really are.  And that is always the goal of a family session!

So start looking for inspiration!  When you see it, call us and go with it! I just started a Pinterest board called “Ideas for Clients” that you can start following to give you that little added push! And actually that inspirational board is what inspired me to start this blog series!  I kept coming up with good tip ideas from the Cottrell session so I figured I’d put it all together and share it with our fans! I hope you love it!

If you want to know each time we post the next part in this series  Like our Facebook page to stay updated!

Read part 2 HERE about the first of the 3 things that make a family session truly great: the style.

December 12, 2011 - 10:54 pm

Jonathan Cottrell - We can’t wait to do another photo session soon, with our newest addition to the family in tote, Beckett.

And you guys deserve to give yourselves more credit–you guys are the bestest.

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