Family sessions are always a whirlwind! I know many photographers that run from family sessions and are strict in only photographing couples and weddings. I love my couples and I will cry at every wedding but my family sessions have such a special place in my heart! There is a special sort of magic that stirs the moment a family lovingly interacts. It’s in their laughter, embraces, and the joy they inatley have when together! Those are the emotions that get my heart skipping, and the giddy squeal in my voice. As a photographer I aim to capture this pure emotion and endless love between people.
When entering a family session I am on the other side of my camera working magic on how to seamlessly coax these bold emotions out of my clients. I daily practice and sharpen my skills in emotional intelligence because every person and every family will bring different emotions with them. However, I have a few staple prompts that have never failed me.
Pro Tip: Not only learning who your clients are but also giving your clients a clear understanding of how you photograph long before the session is the key to success! The magic starts before they even inquire!
(1) For Mothers: Look for something you lost.
This is a favorite right now and let me tell you why … I ask the mother to look around as if she’s lost something. The mother shows me so many looks and a variety of poses as she’s looking left, then right, and up and down. These movements enable me to look for the most dramatically lit moment and capture it as she authentically continues to search for what she lost! For more interaction I will encourage mom to have her child help her look.
Many times this prompt will end in genuine laughter as every mother can relate to looking for something that a family member has truly lost. (In my house it’s typically some child shoes)
(2) For Parents or children: Spin!
With little one in the arms of mom or dad or just holding hands I will shout SPIN!! This is always the cure to a cranky child during a session. Without fail the little ones will start to giggle, laugh, and begin to realize I am a fun stranger that is encouraging mom and dad to play instead of stand still!
(3) For Children: Let’s Race!
I used to struggle with families wanting to stand still and pose like the awkward family poses that hang on grandma’s wall! I usually humor my clients and snapping a few of those but then I encourage my parents and their children to have fun! Prompt the children to race, then capture the child celebrating this victory with mom and dad consuming the joy of their children! Give the family space to do what you are asking and react authentically. You might have a moment of seeing mom comforting the child who came in second or dad high fiving the child who won! These are small emotions that were true in that exact moment. You didn’t tell the child to “pretend” or “fake laugh” you were able to witness the authenticity in this silly prompt.
Your parents may have wanted “grandmas pose” to hang on the wall but I will guarantee you that years down the road she will cherish those little emotions that show happiness, sadness, excitement etc. These are the images that will allow mom to relive these moments with her children even when they are grown and gone. (I dare you to even try this with adults!)
(4) For Older Kids: Get their stomach rumbling!
Photographing older kids use to terrify me. What do I say to them? I can act like a fool and the babies will always laugh but older kids … they are a little harder to crack! But I found my trick!! I ask the kids what their favorite meal is that their parents make. Once they respond I will ask them to go run up and give mom/dad a hug and thank them for making them that meal! The parents are typically surprised and
(5) For Couples: Guess this drawing!
I always capture mom and dad in their own moment during family sessions. It’s so easy to get lost in the mundane at home and it is so important for children to see their parents in love and reacting joyfully together. I will tell my couples to get close and cuddle. I will encourage Dad to trace an image with his nose on mom’s cheek. If kids are nearby I’ll have them look up and see if they can guess too! The reaction from both mom and kids is always my favorite.
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