It’s beginning to feel like fall and that means it’s time to start planning family photos for the annual holiday card. Every September after the kids get back into school I get to work on scheduling our family photography session. Then comes the outfit selections. It takes a lot of advance planning to make a family holiday card look casual and effortless.
I love giving and receiving family holiday cards and I hope that tradition never goes away. I love seeing how the kids and families grow and change from year to year. But it is a very stressful endeavor for all involved. I’m in front of the camera a lot and I enjoy it but I realize that not everyone does. Add to it the idea of coordinating outfits for several family members without looking too matchy-matchy and this can put a mom over the edge. And we haven’t even gotten to the stress of the actual photo shoot! So I put together a quick planning list to help you prepare for this year’s family photo session.
1. Select A Photographer And Book Early
The best photographers get booked super fast. This is every photographer’s busiest time of year and the weekend slots fill up. Have you ever heard that the best time for a photo shoot is early in the morning and in the late afternoon? It is. The lighting is absolutely beautiful at those times and if I’ve learned one thing over the years, it doesn’t matter what backdrop or location you are at — if the lighting is great you have a very high likelihood of having beautiful photos.
2. Pick Your Location
You may or may not have a choice when it comes to location. If you do, some considerations to keep in mind: do you prefer and urban (street scape, buildings) or rural location?
3. Choose A Color Scheme
I try to pick three colors for our color scheme. I want the focus to be on us and not anywhere else so I try to choose colors that complement our skin tone and the background. For a refresher on choosing your best colors read my post here. For the focal point of our color scheme, I always like to start with my kids’ outfits (my daughter specifically because there are so many choices in girls clothing). Once I select an outfit for her, I work in complementary colors for every member of the family. I’m usually last because I have the most clothing options of anyone in our house so I always know I’ll be able to find something that works. But, if you have an outfit you are dying to wear, by all means start with that and work everyone else around what you’ve selected for yourself.
4. Choosing Outfits
I follow two principles when I’m choosing outfits for family pictures: (1) everyone should feel comfortable in their clothing; and (2) to dress as you (ideally) normally would. My favorite holiday cards are the ones where the image captures the personality of the family. So I’m a big proponent of wearing the type of clothes you would normally wear when you are all together on the weekend. Now my kids usually wear sports shorts and whatever free tee shirt they recently picked up so I’m definitely going to elevate the look above that. The point is you don’t have to get all dressed up in a gown and suits if that’s gonna make too much of a fuss with the family (unless you want to) — and it’s perfectly fine if you want to do that too. But I do think it helps to lay off the pressure of family pictures if everyone feels comfortable in their clothing.
5. Picture Day Tips
Getting out the door and being on time for the photography session is always stressful. I try and make it as easy as possible by doing a few simple things a few hours before it’s time to get ready.
- Steam or iron clothing in advance and lay out everyone’s clothes so there is no confusion about what to wear. This also gives you plenty of time to negotiate any objections to clothing selections.
- Pack the kids’ shoes in a bag and put it in your car! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten to our photo shoot and I’ve looked down to see one of my kids in a grubby pair of sneakers. I’m usually in way too much of a frenzy to notice what they’ve slid on their feet before we walk out the door.
- Prepare a bag of treats or decide on an “end of photo session treat” in advance. It’s the added incentive that can get you just the smiles you want when the pictures are snapped.
Finally, it is so much easier to have a happy family picture if everyone is actually happy. That will not happen if mom is upset and yelling or crying because the family isn’t doing what they are supposed to be doing. I might be speaking from experience here. So if things go wrong, KEEP CALM, it will all be okay. I promise. No one else will know you are secretly fuming about all the things that did not go exactly as planned (because you are hiding it so well).
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