tips & tricks

How to take your own family photos this year!

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I get it, the economy is ROUGH! The money for a full family session may not be in your budget. You value photography and LOVE the moments captured of your little, big or furry ones, but you can’t make the money line up this year.

Do not fret, you can still get some beautiful moments captured! You just have to be a bit more flexible, do some research, patient (and sometimes creative)!

If you are NOT a DIY-er, you lack the experience, equipment or just don’t want the stress- I understand that too! I get new grey hairs every time I attempt family photos. Reach out to your favorite photographer and see if they are hosting a mini session! A lot of times a mini session is about 15 minutes and you get a pre-determined amount of images (usually between 5-15). But a mini session is usually a fraction of the cost of a full session. Reach out quickly, most mini sessions are capped at a certain amount of clients and usually sell out quickly! Mini sessions sometimes have themes and setups, so make sure you ask about that too!

If you still want to tackle doing it yourself, keep in mind. You WILL need some items that are non-negotiable. One of which is a camera, it doesn’t have to be a billion dollar tool, but some type of camera is needed. If you don’t have one, ask around! Maybe a sibling, good neighbor, parent or friend may be willing to let you borrow. I believe it is POSSIBLE to use a phone, but know it will not yield the same quality results.

When I am taking my families photos, I use a variety of things. Check out the list below!

– Camera with your favorite lens ( I usually use my 28-75 for this to allow for a variety)
– Tripod
– Remote (I don’t use one, but some people find this essential)
– cute outfits
– bribery objects (I use smarties, but SOME kind of treat)

For me I chose a location first. For outdoor sessions, I choose my time of day during the best lighting. GOLDEN HOUR IS LIFE! Golden hour is the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset. Also, keep in mind it depends on where you are! Mountain areas, the sun will go behind those mountains a lot sooner than actual sunset- so keep that in mind! Same with a city location, tall buildings will block that light!

For my location, it honestly depends on that vibe I want. For fall, it’s usually a forest path with lots of colors. Winter, somewhere scenic with snow. You guys get the idea. It is completely dependent on what YOU want-BUT…make sure the light is good! If you’re shooting during golden hour, you have a higher likelihood for great lighting. Remember, you want the sun behind you so you’re not squinting or getting harsh shadows. The light should frame the back of you.

Okay, so you found a great spot and got everyone dressed, bribed and out of the house. Awesome! Now comes the hard part. Actually getting the shot. For me, I usually choose one or two main poses with my entire family. That keeps it simple and I don’t have a lot of changing things up.

I assemble my husband and kids where I want them while I set up my camera. I mount my camera on my tripod (its a cheap tripod from amazon, like $25 but it works great!) and adjust my settings. I use full manual mode, but if you don’t know how to do that, you CAN pop it on auto and get a decent shot.

Always check your surroundings! That trash can, weird sign, graffiti, people walking around, can take away from your end product. Try to position your subjects in front of them to block it, or make sure it is not in the shot (on one far side or the other) at all.

You can set up the timer on your camera and have there be a countdown for the shot. A lot of times it is about 10 seconds. You can run from pushing the shutter to get in the photo before the timer counts down. The camera usually flashes during that time to let you know it is still counting down.

There is also the possibility to sync a remote to your camera and you just push the remote once you are ready! I have not done that so I am not much help on specifics. It is important to know the camera body and model to look up how to do that. You can find remotes on amazon, at best buy, and possibly big box stores like Target or Walmart in the appliance section.

I use interval shooting on my camera and have found it to be the easiest way. I set up how many shots I want to take, the time in between each shot, and the total duration of shooting time. For example, I can take 5 shots in a 30 second span, 6 seconds in between each shot. That allows me the time to change poses or facial expressions. I have shown the menu options for how to set that up on my camera in the images below. But, higher end cameras most likely have this option- check out if your camera body does before the session.

I have found that to be the least stressful option, once I am in position the camera will count down (if I have set it up that way) and then just goes until the stream is over. I usually set it up for 10 photos at once with a few seconds in between frames.

Interval Shooting on Sony A7III

For posing variations, I try to get several options of everyone looking at the camera, as well as looking at each other. Other options may be to kiss, to tickle each other, or to make silly faces. Make it fun! It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a great memory captured!

For family sessions, I try to get photos of the whole family unit, each kid separately, some with each kid and parent individually, siblings together, and lastly parents together. This allows for some diversity for your frames at home as well as options for your Christmas card.

PATIENCE is key. This process is HARD. It is a lot of things to try to remember and juggle. The more you focus on making it fun, the more fun it will be. If you go in with the stress mindset, it will impact how everyone else feels too.

Last year for our Christmas cards I knew what I wanted. However, the universe was NOT cooperating with what I wanted. We got to our location after walking in the cold, and it was empty! Awesome, however, we became a sideshow attraction as we were on a popular lake. Any one who walked by wanted to watch us. Well, that amped up my anxiety. Raegan was also just not feeling it that day. She was crying and carrying on. No bribery worked. We took about 5 successful photos before I packed everyone up and we left.

Guess what, it snowed that night. SO! In case the day before wasn’t enough of a shit storm, I decided “LETS DO IT AGAIN WITH PRETTY SNOW!” This time was worse. We set up in the same location, threw our coats on the ground and raced to get the photos done. We actually got confronted by some snow-hikers because they felt we were endangering/mistreating our children by having them in the snow without coats for less than 10 minutes. They even threatened to call the police on us. So, that was a great boost to our morale and mood. I had to photoshop Rae’s head in our final photo because she would not stop crying.

Here are some of our family and couple photos we have done with my tripod and camera setup! We took some this time last year because I could not resist taking advantage of the fall colors. I did some in Paris, as well as a Christmas jammies in home session. There are also a few photos Kevin and I took in Charleston in June. We have done our own Christmas card photos for the last 3 years. I am sure I will blog this years session at some point.

So morale of the story is…IT IS HARD. But, it is possible to do. Let me know if you have any questions or if you try to brave it yourself this year! If not, reach out to a professional! It is our jobs to make the process WAY less stressful and difficult. However, if you see me out in public wrangling toddlers in evening dress, don’t mind me. Just send the good vibes. Also, please don’t scold me about my “poor” kids. They are not actually dying even if Rae is screaming and seems like she hates me.

xoxoxox- Brenda

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