[dropcaps]M[/dropcaps]oms, how many times have you looked through your camera roll only to find that the only pictures of YOU with your kids is a raw, un-styled selfie? And raise your hand if you’re always the one behind the lens. I’m going to share with you my top pieces of fashion advice – and my amazingly talented professional photographer’s photography tips – for taking the perfect family photo that you’ll want to share with everyone. These tips are GOLD! Please read and then SHARE this with all your mama friends and family so that they, too, can step out from behind the lens and capture the perfect family photo.
As a personal stylist, one of my jobs during photo shoots is to work with the photographer to help style the clothes so it creates a beautiful and cohesive look. I do this for my website and social media photos, and recently, I had the pleasure of having my amazingly talented fashion photographer take some shots of me and my sons. So I’m going to share with you my best tips for what to wear for a family photo shoot, and how to make sure you’ll get the best pictures if you’re taking them yourself.
It’s always a good idea to have your location and theme fit with your outfit choices. So whether you want to work your location and theme around a particular outfit, or vice versa, it’s key to make sure they all mesh together well. For example, I once had a photographer tell me that a family from New York came down to Naples, Florida to do a family photo shoot on the beach. However, the dad showed up in a full suit. You can guess that that type of outfit isn’t conducive to South Florida heat and humidity. Picture a sweaty, uncomfortable dad rushing to get the shoot over with. Yikes!
So try to be strategic about what outfits will look good in what locations, and what locations will best highlight your favorite looks. A bright and boldly colored outfit choice will love a muted background, whereas an all-white outfit will especially pop against a colorful background.
“A bright and boldly colored outfit choice will love a muted background, whereas an all-white outfit will especially pop against a colorful background.”
We’ve all seen those family photos where everyone from the parents to the kids to the dog are wearing the same sweater. Don’t be that family. Be YOU. Wear the types of outfits you’d normally wear, but choose pieces within a color scheme that aren’t exact replicas of one another.
You can see in my own family photos below, that I chose to let my beautiful boys stand out in their plaid tops and colorful looks, while I chose a neutral chambray romper – but the colors all went very well together, and we were all comfortable in our own outfits.
This is super important. If you’re not comfortable, you’re going to be fidgeting, or worse, you’ll be worrying about how you look in your outfit, and you’ll be unable to take a great shot. Likewise, if your kids are uncomfortable, they’ll complain even more than they may already be doing, because, let’s face it, kids don’t really like to sit for family photoshoots. So plan ahead and make everyone try on their looks in advance, so you can get the best feel for what outfits will work the best.
We all have those pictures laying around the house that are COMPLETELY dated. For me, they’re the photos from the 80s, where I had crimped hair or a perm, bangs curled three inches high and hair sprayed to death. I don’t have those pictures framed in my house. No, those are hidden far, far away in the depths of old family photo albums.
But when we take photos, we usually have full intentions of displaying them in some way, for a longer period of time. Perhaps you want a great photo to stand as your Facebook Cover image, or maybe you want something to blow up and hang in your family room. Maybe you’re even taking your holiday card photo that’ll be mailed to all your friends and family.
When choosing your outfits, try to pick ones that will be relatively timeless. Usually this has to do with a simple silhouette that excludes really trendy elements. A plain, crewneck or v-neck sweater, a simple shift dress, or a pair of jeans with a button down blouse. When in doubt, go for neutral colors and patterns, rather than bright or trendy patterns – unless you absolutely need this type of look to achieve the photo’s theme (ie – Christmas shoots largely involve reds and greens).
For this section, I interviewed my professional photographer, Tamara Boxx of The Painted Boxx. She’s unbelievably talented at fashion and family photography, and I was so amazed at how she was able to capture the perfect pictures of my very active (and not always agreeable) boys. I knew she’d have all the answers for those of us who are never quite sure how to get our kids to behave for photos. Here’s our Q&A session:
Q: How do you get kids to give you the perfect smile?
A: It’s all about the candid shot. Children tend to become more comfortable if you have them do an activity instead of pose.
I like to have siblings whisper a secret, joke, or something funny in each other’s ear. I will also have them play a game they like (ninja warrior is best).
Q: What are the best ways to get a good angle?
A: I always tell people to look at photographs of themselves and pick a side they feel is their “good side”. Only a bewilderingly tiny percentage of the human population is actually what is considered symmetrically perfect. This is why they look great in every picture, whether it’s straight on camera or at angles. Enter your super models and other ethereal beings. We mere mortals do, indeed, have a good and bad side.
So find your good side. I like to tell my models to practice in the mirror tilting their head up and down, left and right at a 3/4 angle. When you do family photos, if you are concerned with your waist, you can place your hand on your hip and turn in slightly. Always remember that whatever is pushed closer to the camera will appear larger.
“Always remember that whatever is pushed closer to the camera will appear larger.”
Q: What are some tips for having the best lighting?
A: First, decide what the mood for your picture will be. Lighting is crucial. Morning light puts off a softer, bright feeling. Direct light is harsh and bold, while evening light is golden and dramatic. I usually shoot in the morning or evening because it gives off the least amount of harsh shadows. (And as a side note from the author, we shot in late afternoon/early evening light for the photos in this article).
When shooting outside, you really should try to avoid direct light in the harsh parts of the day. If you must, try to find nice shaded areas such as alley ways, overhangs, bridges and so on. If you can’t avoid it, find an object putting off interesting shadows that you can use to create interesting effects. You can use this technique to compliment fabric patterns or to add drama.
Q: How do you choose the location for your photo shoots?
A: Color scheme and lighting. I always talk with clients about wardrobe. I find complementary colored structures or landscaping for clothing. The more pop the better. I also love old buildings and finding random walls. If you actually just sit and look around, you will be mind blown.
Q: What types of props should we use, both to get the kids to not cry, and also to make a really cute photo?
(Background: I asked this question specifically because she brought two amazing props to our family photoshoot – a beautiful, old-fashioned lollipop and a vintage glass Coca Cola bottle (complete with straw and a can of Coke that she poured into the bottle). What she achieved with these simple props was magical.)
A: Kids hate to be idle. I always have an activity. I give the smaller kids bubbles or a soccer ball. Something to give them an incentive. Girls, I give glitter and have them blow it at me. They LOVE the glitter and bubbles. Bringing too many props can sometimes cause arguments between the kiddos, so keep it to fun, interactive, small toys.
Q: What should we NOT do when taking our family photos?
A: It is important to remember kids really don’t understand the significance of why they are being forced to smile for some random lady with great shoes. So NEVER get frustrated. Never come with the expectation that all of the kids will be on point, because they won’t. They will squirrel and it will be great to capture every single hilarious bit on camera. GO WITH IT. Remember, it’s all about the candid shot.
Q: Any other tips for getting the perfect family photo shoot with kids?
A: Make sure they have a snack. Do not put them in something insanely stuffy or uncomfortable. Remember, we are navigating choppy seas here, so let’s not make it stormy. Finally, have fun with it. Laught with your family and remember that those photos are part of forever.
My purpose, as a stylist, is to answer all your fashion and style questions. If you’re planning a family photo shoot – whether or not YOU are taking the photos (by the way, a tripod and delay timer or iPhone shutter remote work very well to take your own photos) or hiring a photographer to do it for you, feel free to reach out to me to get ideas for what to wear and how to style your own shoot! Ask me any one style question for $5, or grab a month of unlimited style questions for $25. It’s a solid, affordable investment that will help you create a lifetime of photographic memories!
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