In addition to being a blogger and writer, I own a photography business that I operate in and around the DC and Baltimore metro area where I live.
I am insanely busy right now.
Like barely sleep, work all day busy.
Because family photos.
I love that I have so many wonderful, devoted clients whose smiling faces I get to see each year at this time.
However, I also know that every family can’t afford to make this an annual expenditure. Quality family photographers are not cheap. There is something to be said about people who have a true creative vision when it comes to capturing family moments. And, in my opinion, not everyone can connect with their clients and make them feel comfortable opening up themselves to be seen in an authentic way that allows capture of their true selves.
And then there are the people like me who are so strapped for time that they can hardly even remember whether or not they brushed their teeth this morning, let alone to think far enough in advance to book a family photo session.
I would always recommend investing in a professional photographer –mom (or dad) who is always behind the camera can get on the other side and the photographer can step back, see everything, and capture it in a way you will cherish for always.
But, just in case, here are some tips to help you do a pretty good job without hurting anyone in the process.
DIY Family Photos and Christmas Cards Tips
1. Know what you want. When The Dudes were little I spent countless hours making props and finding perfect outfits and posing and reposing them on the couch when they’d slip over because their back muscles weren’t strong enough to sit up for long or because their 3 year old brother kneed them in the face. It was exhausting and, inevitably, I would wind up choosing the one where the dog was sitting on their face while their brother was picking his nose because that was what our life was anyway. So little has changed…
Think about what you want in advance, then you won’t waste time sweating and yelling at everyone.
2. Consider props. They aren’t necessary, but they can be fun. Personally, I like to use natural props. Like the dog. Or the trees in the ground at the Christmas tree farm. Which brings me to the next tip…
3. Capture an experience. A day at the tree farm, an afternoon baking cookies, you and your kids decorating the house. Those moments are worth capturing and sharing too and snapping some photos while enjoying those things can alleviate some of the IT’S A FAMILY PHOTO SMILE OR DIE pressure.
4. Dress appropriately. I get this question as a photographer more than any other. I always respond the same: wear something theatfits your family. Don’t match, coordinate. Khaki and white shirts are evil. Be colorful. Have fun. Don’t put your baby in a sailor suit. Don’t make your husband wear a tie. Capture who you really are in life, just maybe the clean version. Oh, and check out my what to wear for family photos Pinterest board.
5. Be mindful of technical things. You can take a great pic with your iPhone. Seriously, you don’t need a DSLR. If you are, make sure you’re using it correctly, otherwise your results could be unsatisfactory enough that you’ll wish you’d just whipped out your phone and taken your pics with that instead.
6. But, if all else fails, don’t forget the power of editing (do you use Picmonkey? It changes lives.)…
Crop out ugly things (like dogs peeing in the background) and add pretty things…
Like words to enhance your final product. You don’t have to spend $100 for 50 cards if you can do some of the design yourself. I just took a great photo and added words, with PicMonkey, to the bottom. They are ready to print and mail!
7. Pay attention to the light. Photography is really about two things: composition and light. One through four above cover composition, light is something you have to think about in the moment. Make sure you have plenty, but not too much (strong, midday sun is not your friend). Don’t make your family stare dead into it (squinty is not pretty), and beware of shadows from the sides. If you can drag them out in the early morning you will make magic, but you can also wait until late afternoon (where I live, in December, 3:30 works well) for another chance.