Let me start by saying that I am not a style blogger and don’t consider myself a fashion icon.
There have been many mornings before work where I’ve worried whether my outfit looked alright and resorted to asking for advice from my husband and two kids.
However, I’ve done a ton of family photo sessions over the years and understand the struggle and stress involved with getting out of the house looking presentable and keeping everyone in a good mood so we are happy in front of the camera. Or at least look happy in front of the camera.
I’ve blogged about the suckiness of family photo sessions here.
Spoiler alert: it ain’t for the faint of heart. On the same token, it gets a lot easier as your kids get older, so moms of really young kids, you’ll be out of the woods soon!
We recently did a family photo session with Synthia Denis, the talented Tampa-based photographer behind the lens at Synthia Therese Photography. We met Synthia five years ago when she was one of the teachers at the daycare my oldest daughter attended. She subsequently developed a photography hobby that morphed into a business and it’s been fun to personally watch her grow, both creatively and professionally.
I am so glad to have our yearly family photos out of the way with a final product that was amazing. (Another spoiler alert: these photos will be on our Christmas cards, so I was able to cross another item off my to-do list.) Synthia asked me to pick my five favorites, but because I loved all of them so much, I ended up buying all of the 60 photos she took at the session. (Yes, she’s that good!)
We took these photos at Cypress Point Park which is just south of Tampa International Airport. (I live in Ballast Point and #aintnobodygottime to drive with a 3 and 5-year-old all the way to Fort De Soto in St. Petersburg, even though it’s a gorgeous location.)
Here are some takeaways on how to style your family for photo sessions:
1. Coordinate Without Being Matchy-Matchy. In this session, I based my and Jason’s outfits around the girls’ outfits, which I purchased at a Hannah Kate trunk show my friend hosted at her house. As you can see, the girls’ dresses coordinate, but don’t match perfectly. I pulled colors from their dresses when choosing my and my husband’s outfits, which were items we already had in our closets. I got my chambray dress from Zara last year and while they are sold out, you can get a similar one of good quality here.
2. Get Inspired from the Internet. If you’re at a loss for what to wear, this is where Pinterest and Google come in handy. Also, plan a couple weeks in advance of the session so you have time to order outfits online if you want something brand new. The internet has some nice color palettes you can use as inspiration for coordinating outfits. I found one this one from Pinterest to be helpful. Remember that light and airy colors appear best on camera and are often the most flattering on any skin tone and hair color.
3. Avoid Distracting Patterns or Accessories. My usual philosophy with little girls is “the bigger the bow, the closer to God.” However, many otherwise great photos can be ruined by an unnecessarily enormous bow on a child’s head that blocks features of another family member. For photo sessions, I try to choose bows that lay flat on the girls’ heads and avoid patterns or accessories that are distracting. I want the primary focus of the picture to be of me and my family and not a statement necklace or a logo. Also, it’s best to avoid extremely small patterns such as gingham or teeny tiny polka dots because most professional cameras have a hard time picking them up and they can look psychedelic in the final product.
4. Keep Non-Staining Snacks on Hand. To avoid “hangry” meltdowns, keep snacks on hand that won’t stain your children’s clothes. For a personality pick-me-up (and since I can’t/ won’t give my kids Mountain Dew or Red Bull like I’ve seen on those pageant reality shows), I like to keep Smarties and Altoids in my purse. They won’t stain your kids’ clothes, but in case of an emergency, also pack stain removal wipes for the photo session. I’ve also been known to bribe my kids with ice cream after the session if they do a good job and smile pretty for the camera.
5. Show Your Photographer Your Outfits in Advance. Ask them for their honest opinions. Before my beach session with Synthia, I snapped a few photos of two outfit choices and texted both of them to her. She chose the outfit she thought would work best for the session. We didn’t have to worry about any outfit snafus or misunderstandings because we both were on the same page.
6. Dress Appropriately for the Location. If you’re taking photos at the beach, consider wearing light-colored flowy outfits with open toed shoes. If you’re doing your photos in a metropolitan area and it’s in the evening, consider wearing something more flashy like sequins and high heels. Avoid wearing clothes that blend in with the backdrop. Below is an example of what not to do based on a mistake I made last year. My photographer for this session specifically told me we were shooting in a public park, but I didn’t dress for the location and showed up in a cute dress and heels, which kept sinking into the dirt. (My bad!) Our outfits would have been more appropriately suited for shooting on a dock with sailboats in the background at the country club, not at an outdoor, woodsy park. Lesson learned!
7. Ensure Your Photographer Has Experience Shooting Young Kids. (That sounds weird, but you know what I mean.) Our recent family photo session with Synthia went quickly (around 20 minutes) because Synthia was intentional about her vision and how she wanted the photographs to ultimately look. She gave the kids specific instructions on where to stand, what to do with their hands, and where to look in relation to the camera. This is so important when young kids are involved. You don’t want a photographer who doesn’t have an advance plan who will have the kids wandering around everywhere and hoping for a good picture. Doesn’t work that way and will drag the session out and drive everyone crazy. You want to make this as painless as possible.
Thanks to Synthia for a great session.