Caroline Maxcy Photography's fall has been jammed packed with so much good stuff. So much so, that I haven't even posted a thing on my blog here for you all for coming up on a month now. Eek! The last month has included everything from my very first Art Festival appearance (where I snagged a prize, complete with a ribbon!!), to our fall This is the Day Beginner's Photography workshop where another group of lovely gals scooped up a whole bunch of camera knowledge plus some inspiration and a few new friends, to the Annual Florida Hospital Gala where I got to photograph The Temptations (!!!), to session after beautiful session full of fall family loveliness. And this is where I am going to begin catching up with you all, right here in the middle of my Fall Family Photo Session Season. While I normally wait to the end of the season for a fall family photo recap, after all the Christmas Cards have been posted on refrigerators and mantels across the county, I thought I'd share with you all an extra special session I did with my very best friend earlier this fall in Tampa, FL (complete with captions).
Right smack-dab in the middle of my 20+ Family Sessions I have scheduled for this fall I have found that I take for granted the "excitement" and anticipation in the process of gathering your kin together, getting all dolled up in your best duds, hair freshly combed and praying through smiling teeth that your kids aren't picking their nose as you train your gaze on the camera with your most authentic grin. Come to find out the process is a bit stressful for most families. From the very first decisions on where to go (you can check out my Pinterest board with Location Ideas in Central Florida by clicking here if you don't have a fantastic piece of family property or a park with personal significance already in mind). On to what to wear to put your family in the best light (I'll help you out a little with that too if you want to check out my "What to Wear" Pinterest Board by clicking here!). And then there is the how to keep your kids (and husband) interested, having fun and smiling here and there too during the session. What if the three year old decides to not listen to a single instruction and run about wildly (and they always do)? What if the one year old decides to shove their entire hand in their mouth the entire time (and they always do)? And what if my husband is done with it all after 10 minutes and tells the kids they can no longer get the extra special "bribing" treat of bags full of candy and ice cream and oreos you promised, resulting in a complete meltdown (this may happen from time to time too.)
Here is the thing… this is real life. Your family is not that much different from any other (and yet completely unique all in its own). Everyone has kids that would rather be digging in the nearest dirt pile and a husband that would rather be fishing (or even working!) than smiling at a camera with a strange lady behind it. But you know that this time in life is precious and even if the session doesn't go just as you imagined you are capturing an heirloom for generations to come of a moment in time of your lives right here right now. Every little detail counts, even the hand in the mouth, the digging in the dirt and the knowing gaze between a young mom and dad. You value all of that and I work to make the process as comfortable as possible and capture a lovely story along the way.
So here is my advice to you and the same advice I gave my best friend as we hopped into the car and headed to our family photo session destination of choice, relax, enjoy your kids, enjoy each other, and let's just have some real life, real story fun for the next hour or so (with my camera on hand)...
So here you have it, The Anatomy of the Family Session:
Now let's begin… Meet the Bachman kids, pre-shoot. (Eek! Those little guys have my heart! And luckily I have a spare room with my name on it at their Tampa home)...
Tip #1: Trust your photographer.
As we sorted through clothing in her living room to come up with the best complimentary combinations my best friend asked "Do you think it is this stressful for every family?" And she went on to say the one thing that was making her a bit more comfortable is that she knows that I know and love her kids. Here is the thing, I may not know and love all of your kids (yet) but if one is a photographer of people you can probably bet that you love people. Seriously it is the diversity and uniqueness of humankind that makes my heart sing and I absolutely love capturing that with my camera. It is why I do it. And I have ended more than one shoot walking hand in hand with a three year old I just meet an hour before. Trust that your photographer is going to take care of you guys, that they are going to use their expertise and knowledge to put you in the best light and that they love the process.
Tip #2: Choose a location that works for your family.
Do you have a lovely home where many memories have been made, a favorite park or fishing hole? Where will your family feel comfortable and the most themselves.
For the Bachman family session we decided on The University of Tampa for our session. It is gorgeous. Right on the water, lovely architectural details, a lush park, overlooking downtown and less than 10 minutes away from their home. The location has been the backdrop for many park visits for their family and is an icon in their family's home town. Perfect.
As we arrived I counted at least five other photo sessions that were going on at the same time! I guess every had the same idea on the fantastic location. But I love out every photographer can see things a little different with new and diverse eyes and every family is unique in its own. I love seeing a new place for the first time and was immediately drawn to the sparkling leaves of the bamboo. So this is where we began.
Ahhh… those Bachman's are gorgeous (seriously, their little guy was on the cover of a magazine when he was a baby.) All of the above photos were captured in the span of about 5-10 minutes, which just so happens to also be the precise amount of time the 3 year old decided was appropriate for smiling and look at the camera with the rest of her family. Haha. We got a few more here and there but had to work extra hard (with lots of bribing and maybe counting to 3 at one point.) I am learning to take advantage of those precious first 5-10 minutes (for the sanity of the parents) when things are new and little ones are up for cooperating to capture the family's desired posed photos up front so we can relax and get the rest of the story for the remainder of the session without the stress of "stand here, look here, now smile!"
The rest of the session was a little like this...
Which brings me to my next tip...
Tip #3: Have fun and relax a bit.
Your kids aren't always going to be sitting perfectly and smiling at the camera but seriously is that even real life? If you have kids under the age of 10 (or any age for that matter) the way your session's images turn out is entirely dependent upon your response and reaction as the parent. Like I mentioned to the Bachmans right off the bat, just enjoy your kids and enjoy the process and we will capture beautiful photos along the way, even if your three year old decides to run about wildly or your 5 year old decides he'd rather have candy corn for teeth. I promise.
Next for our Bachman family session we started crossing streets and exploring and making fun of it. And bribing with things like this...
The candy corn photo is probably one of my favorite of the day. It was more than likely not on mom's perfect family session photo Pinterest board but it is pure joy from a little guy having some fun with his treat. He deserved it. He was seriously a champ the entire session. And look at that sparkle in his eyes! Plus I think that dad (and myself) ate more candy corn that day than anyone else.
Tip #4: Bribing.
Yes, I strongly support bribing on family photo sessions. Bribe the kids. Bribe your husband. Bribe the photographer. Hehe. You can bring treats for along the way during the session (like candy corn) or you can make it a fun family night with the promise of going to their favorite restaurant or out for ice cream afterwards. I like ice cream too. I'm just saying.
Tip #5: Prepping.
I also suggest showing your kids (and husband) some of the types of photos that they can capture during the session beforehand. Get them excited about having fun and having some ownership in the session. It's their story too! This is extra important too for your spouse. Let them know what the outcome from taking out an hour of your afternoon will be. Let them see it is worth it!
Tip #6: Make it an Adventure.
As I mentioned before I like for the entire family to feel like they have ownership in the session. Ask your spouse for location ideas before hand. They may have a great and unique idea. And I always try to make it an adventure for the kids. I will say, "let's go on an adventure over here!" I ask them to hunt out good photo spots (with a little coaching, of course.) They get really excited about their finds.
We let the three year old pick out our next location and got really excited about her choice. I love her proud grin in these next photos. Yay for more family smiles!
Next we ventured down by the water to explore some more...
And captured some sweet, sunny pics of mom and dad...
while the little ones did a little bit of this… (we called it "grass swimming"). Score for picking a location the kids were comfortable at with room to play!
And then I had them take one last stroll down this gorgeous little palm tree lined path. The excitement you see in the kids eyes may have to do with the fact that I had been taunting them for a full day about an extra special treat I brought for them for after the session, that was in my camera bag… by my side... that they were walking towards. I get excited about treats too.
Tip #7: Cookies.
They got their treats (cookies!) for a job well done and the rest is history...
Until, of course, I decided to dress the three year old back up the next morning and capture a smiley photo (that I only got by making the silliest of faces just to the side of my camera while clicking away. Easy-peasy.)...
I love that Bachman family and I love that they invited me in to capture a bit of their story, every last bit of it. (And if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a peek into our pajama dance party we had later that night in the living room.)
I hope the "Anatomy of a Family Session" helps calm the nerves of my future families set to make their way in front of my camera in the coming weeks. Can't wait to capture your family's authentic story and have fun along the way!