5 Tips on how to get the most out of your documentary family photography session

January 01, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

With the nice weather finally here we have had many requests for outdoor family sessions.  I thought I would share with you some of what in my experience are the "do's" and "don'ts" of a successful documentary photo session with young children indoors or out. This will also give a preview of what usually takes place during the time we spend together.

I love photographing families doing their thing. Although posed photographs have their appeal, I believe that the true bond between family members becomes visible when they play and have fun together.  I love documenting the looks, the smiles, the friendly nudges and loving embraces.  But for all that to happen the stage has to be set long before the family arrives at our meeting spot.

1. Arrange the session around the child's schedule.  You as parents are the experts on your children and we rely on you to tell us when your little ones might be in the best mood. As a mom I know that this "phenomenon" usually happens when they had a good nap and their little bellies are full.  But is that not true for all of us?  And let's not underestimate the importance of a clean diaper ;) 

While there are better and worse times for doing photography outdoors we specialize in capturing your memories at any time of day. 

2. Allow enough time. We try and keep the sessions about an hour long.  Just about the right length of time for a nice leisurely walk in the park. Children can get tired and bored easily. This time is usually ample enough to let the kids and everyone else get used to me and the camera. Then once the fun begins it's my job to in turn make them forget all about me and  that is then the magic happens.  "Play" and "relax" are the key words here. In my experience, children don't do well when they are rushed or not enjoying themselves. If need be we will take time to take a break and have a drink and a little snack. I know I don't need to remind the parents to bring one along.  Having said that, sometimes we have to work on the child's timetable. I have had very successful sessions where the child cried for the first 45 minutes.  I just documented the crying and the parents comforting the baby. I was able to capture some very tender moments for the family that the parents were very happy with. 

3. Pick a spot.  You as parents know best whether your child will be happiest indoors or out. Do they like playing with their toys inside or a visit to the playground will be better to allow us to capture them at their best. Either way I usually arrive at the a little bit earlier to scout out the place for the best locations and the best light at any given time of day. It helps things go a little bit smoother once the little ones arrive. I have had a lot of experience with children of all ages having raised three kids (including a set of twins) myself. I have many tricks up my sleeve that I use to capture the little ones' attention. So the parents don't need to worry about coaxing the children to smile and look at the camera.  Besides sometimes a little touch or look can say more than a thousand words ever could...

4. Once there don't worry and stress too much about your child's mood.  Unless they are ill and not feeling well we will spend enough time together to get the best moments out of them. The beauty of a documentary family session is that all the moments are precious and worth capturing.  Even the tears and the tantrums.  The photographs give you a glimpse of a real family life in a way that the posed session never could.  They capture how everyone looks at a given moment in time but also documents the special moments, unique personalities and attitudes of everyone involved.

5. Bring something along to jump start the fun. If it's a birthday party then there is plenty going on already. When we are at a park then it could be your child's favourite toy or game. If the parents don't bring toys I often times bring something with me or find something to grab the child's attention and let them forget about the camera.

The bottom line is that it is important that we all enjoy this experience and that the session captures the uniqueness of each individual family.

Hope this helps you prepare for your session and that you enjoy the images!






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