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CHRISTMAS FAMILY PORTRAITS: TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL SESSION

It's almost Christmas time! And with the holiday season comes the best excuse to have a family portrait session. Isn't the best to send holiday cards to your loved ones with a current portrait of your family sharing love and having a wonderful time? Ideally the photos will show just that, you relaxed, kids happy, everybody looking at the camera, smiling (hopefully), but it's usually not that simple. We recently had a Mommy and Me photo shoot with Stressed and Blessed Mama Nicole Benedum , and she asked me about some tips for families to have a good time during photo shoots, specially when they have little ones. I was really happy to share some information with her and her followers. The interview below appeared originally in her blog, and she was really happy for me to repost it here. 

1. When is the best time to book a session during the day with small children?

Best time to schedule a session is right after a nap. It’s also a good idea that they have also had a meal. Then there will be no fussiness because they are either tired or hungry. Chances are, there will get upset at some point, and that is OK, but we must try to reduce our chances of that happening to the minimum. Ideally, early mornings are the best for family photographs: everybody is rested, had breakfast, and are relaxed without any troubles that could happen during the day. But it is hard to commit everybody to be ready at that time, as many people do not like to get up early. If that is the case, around 4pm or two hours before sunset depending on the season should be a good time to shoot outdoors.

2. What are some tips to get your kids ready to smile at a photographer they just met?

It is always ideal to have an in-person consultation before the actual session. Especially if you have little children, meeting before the shooting can give the photographer the chance to introduce themselves to the children, and get to know a little bit about them by being around them. That way he/she won’t be a total stranger the day of the session, and smiles will just happen. As my style with working with families is casual & lifestyle, I am personally not a fan of making everybody smile for the camera. That usually results in pretty forced unnatural smiles; and especially little ones cannot really fake that they are happy if they are not. I prefer to direct a little bit and instruct the parents to say something funny or silly to their kids, play with them, roughhouse a little, snuggle, hug, kiss. Tell an anecdote that everybody remembers and that makes them laugh and feel connected. It is better to make them smile because you are connecting with them, than to just ask them to do so for no reason at all.

3. What is your best advice for a family photo shoot in general?

Spend some time together before the session, either the day before or hours before. That works wonders for family dynamics, allows everybody to connect, talk about any unresolved issue, and just be more relaxed in front of the camera. If anybody is upset and had no opportunity to solve it before the session, it will probably show, but more than that, you probably do not want to remember that family photo because you were not feeling your best. Also, leave plenty of time to get ready, everybody should feel at their best, looking their best, and that is not going to happen if they are rushed. A family session should be an important event, because you are capturing that moment, portraits taken that day will be a legacy for your children. 

4. Do you have any advice of what NOT to do during or ahead of time?

Do not reprimand your children before or during the session, don’t tell them they HAVE TO smile for the camera, because they’ll be tense, probably in a bad mood, and they will just see it as a painful thing to do. Do not yell or demand, just let them be, let them interact, trust the photographer. You will be surprised to see how amazing your family looks when they are not pretending to be happy with a forced smile, but actually enjoying the moment and each other. 

I want to give special thanks to Princess Turned Mom Jenny Rose for inviting me to her home to have a wonderful time photographing her family. We had a Christmas themed photo session. We scheduled it for the morning, when her children had just had breakfast and were well rested. Hers was a full 60-minute session, which is very convenient when you have little ones and want to have portraits of different family combinations (all the family, mom and kids, dad and kids, kids by themselves, just mom and dad). With this kind of session you have a wide variety of compositions, plenty to choose from for albums, and wall art. Having a full session is also great if you want to have several outfit changes, and you think you might need a break to breastfeed, give the kids a snack or change diapers. Mini- sessions work great if all you want is to have a couple of portraits for your Christmas card, or for a small album or brag book. We'll be offering Christmas mini-sessions in Costa Mesa, San Juan Capistrano and San Diego on November 18th, 19th, and 20th. We are also up for your personalized full Christmas session; maybe you want to do it at home, putting up your tree, or outdoors at a location that has a special meaning for your family. Just contact us by clicking on the CONNECT tab in this site. Would love to hear from you! <3