AE Wiley Photography. raleigh family photography

Raleigh De-Stress Photography Sessions | Advice From the Expert

AE Wiley Photography, raleigh photographer portraits I was a photographer before I was a mom, and I got it, sort of:  Having family portraits done is stressful.  Lots to iron, lots to tote ~ stressful.

But now that I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old, I so get it.  The morning of portrait day doesn’t exactly have the ambiance of sunlit fall foliage and happy families cavorting, at least at our house.  Actually, getting ready and getting out the door for pictures can be a virtual guarantee of bickering, crankiness, spilled drinks, and crumbs in the happiest of families.  Mine included.  

So, let’s dish a little about how to minimize the stress and maximize the return on your family portrait investment ~ of time, money, and most of all, of emotional energy.  I can’t say that the experience won’t still cause a bit of stress (after all, few things worth doing are devoid of all stress), but having just had family portraits done for my own family and being in the middle of a busy fall of family sessions, I have some thoughts about how to make portrait day more about fun and less about crazy.

1.    Choose a photographer whose work you really love.  

The best predictor of what a photographer will create for your family is what she has created in the past.  Don’t be afraid to ask to see a whole session’s worth of images rather than a Facebook sneak peek, and look for shoots with kids about the same age as yours.   Would you be happy if this were the gallery of images that you had to choose from?  If so, be confident in your choice, and let her work her magic with your kids.  

ae wiley photography, raleigh family photography

2.    Work with your photographer to pick a great location.

If you have a particular aesthetic or look in mind, let your photographer know.  She will likely have some favorite spots to recommend, too ~ ones that work well with children at different ages, at the time of day your shoot is scheduled, etc.  If your children are very young, prioritize their happy times, and err on the side of locations that are close to home so that you don’t spend their happiest time in the car.    

3.    If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Repeat after me:  “It is okay for me to choose my outfit first, and if someone needs a new piece of clothing for portraits, it may as well be me.”  Most moms, and that definitely includes me, are self-conscious about something, whether others can see it or not.  The reality is that our children find us beautiful, and these portraits will be more valuable to them as they grow up.  Splurge a little on something that you look great in, own it, and know that love shows.  You’ll be most pleased with portraits that show a happy mama.  And so will the rest of your family.

AE Wiley Photography. raleigh family photographer

4.    Choose clothes that flatter your family and photograph well.

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of clothing selection, since for most moms that’s the most stressful part of portrait prep.  Once you have your own outfit chosen, select 2-3 colors that go well with it and that are darker than the skin tones of the family.  If your family likes things casual, jeans are a great option that you probably already have.  Solid colors photograph better than prints, and all of the skin that’s showing will compete with your faces for attention ~ so less skin showing is generally better than more skin showing.  You can get a great idea of how colors fit together if you lay out everyone’s outfits on your bed and snap a pic ~ and don’t be afraid to text it to your photographer for confirmation that you’ve hit the clothing jackpot.

5.    Talk about the reasons for the session with your family, and emphasize that it’s going to be a fun day. 

For very young children, let them know that a nice lady is going to play with them, and take pictures that they can see soon.  With older children and teens (actually, this worked very well with my four-year-old), let them know what it means to you to have great portraits of the most important thing in your world.  Frame the day as one full of good things ~ family portraits and lunch out, for instance.  That works so much better than treating it as a chore with a bribe at the end when it comes to encouraging genuine smiles.

6.    Talk budget beforehand with your spouse and with your photographer.

Custom photography is an investment and a labor of love on the part of the photographer and the family.  We truly want you to love what you hang on your walls, and we can help you get the best value if you let us know your goals and your budget.   My advice is to prioritize at least one significant wall piece from each major session.  While most of my families do choose to include digital files in their purchase, they also tend to find that it’s the wall art that they love to live with and ultimately value the most.

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Beth Wiley
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