This is the first post of a series I will be doing on how to create professional looking images of your kids yourself. Make sure you sign up for our e-mail list so you don’t miss out!
1. Schedule it! If you want to take pictures of your kids like a pro, you have to treat your shoot like a pro and make an appointment. In this case it just happens to be with yourself. It is so easy to continue to say “we really need to take some good pictures of the kids.” Life is busy. Life is crazy. For me the ONLY way I am able to get this done is to pick a day and put it on the schedule. If I don’t, I just sound like a broken record saying over and over that it needs to get done. The best thing you could do is pick two dates. One day that you can shoot for and then also a backup in case it rains or someone gets sick. Make sure you share this date with your helper (see #4) so everyone is on the same page and knows to keep their schedule clear.
2. Pick the Day. Since we know scheduling it is the number one obstacle toward getting it done you want to use these guidelines to pick the best day for your shoot. Obviously the first thing to do is check the calendar to see when everyone is free. Once you narrow it down to the available days there are a few things to consider.
- Day of the week- I prefer to do my kids shoots Monday- Thursday if possible. Generally during the work week there are less people around public places so I don’t have to wait until people move to get the spot I want or use as much effort composing the shots around (or later editing out) people in the background.
- Check the weather. The more favorable the weather the easier it is to have happy kids. Give yourself the best shot to catch those little faces smiling!
- Check the calendar for the location. Make sure there are no big events going on there that day or other things scheduled that would bring a lot of people in or otherwise make it hard for you to photograph your kids.
3. Pick the time. Since I am not a professional I always try to give myself the best chance I can to get amazing pictures. One of the best ways to do that is to take the pictures during the time of day that produces “magic” light. This is usually the hour surrounding sunrise and sunset. Since getting our family up and ready for pictures for sunrise is just not going to happen, we do ours in the hour preceding sunset. You don’t want blaring sun but that perfect magical light you get as the sun starts to set and is no longer providing harsh light that produces hard sharp shadows but softer light that makes faces glow. You will want to figure out what time sunset is in your area for that day (I Google it) and plan to be there an hour before so you don’t miss the window. I usually figure out when the sunset will be, then go backwards to what time we want to arrive and then what time we need to leave the house
As you can see in these photos the light adds a beautiful glow to the kids faces and there are no harsh shadows created on them. These were taken about an hour and a half before sunset on an overcast day.
If you try to have your shoot in full sun and can not find a place with open shade, you end up with results like this with harsh and usually unflattering shadows on your kiddo. I mean my little guy is pretty cute shadows or not, but I much prefer the first set of images as art.
4. Find a helper. Unless you have older and very cooperative children I would never do a shoot without a helper. Anytime I have tried to go at it alone it is a disaster! You will have your eyes in a viewfinder and will not be able to run after kids, set them where you want them, and get them to look at you and smile all while doing that. If you can, then kudos to you, you are super mom because this has proven to be an impossible mission for me alone. I prefer my husband to do this because Daddy is always great at getting smiles from the kids. If Daddy is not available you can use your mom or dad, siblings, or even a good friend. The only big recommendation is that it needs to be someone who can come alone i.e. not bring their kids along too. You will have much more success if you both can focus solely on getting great pictures of your kids without having half of your attention on watching other kids. Other children are usually a big distraction for your kids as well.
5. Pick a location. We have lived in a lot of places across the country and from big city to very small town there are always amazing places to take pictures. Look for a place that has character or shows the local flair. When we were in South Carolina I had a favorite spot that had beautiful trees with barns, silohs, and broken down farm equipment. Always remember safety first with little ones, but that to me embodied the rural area of the south we lived in. How did I find it? It was something I just saw as I was driving down the road. In Florida we took pictures on the beach and in the sand dunes. In Las Vegas we have used the gorgeous mountains as a backdrop. Places that you want to avoid are places that could be dangerous (ie live train tracks, and places that are not age appropriate) or places that have undesirable things in the background. We have a great place in Texas that has a big red barn and some retired tractors, but it is in the middle of a suburban neighborhood so the shooting options are very limited if you don’t want the houses, streetlights, and roads in the background. Those things can work in some scenerios but definitely look out of place when you are on a tractor. Places to look for are:
- Local Parks
- State or National Parks
- Historic Sites
- Downtown settings
- Open fields
- Botanical Gardens
- Architecturally interesting buildings
These have been taken in all different parts of the country in different types of places. No matter where you are you can find a beautiful and unique place for your photographs. When all else fails, Google local photographers in your area and check out where they do their shoots.
Stay tuned for steps 6-10 in Part 2 of 10 Steps to Planning a Mommy Photo Shoot where we will talk about how to figure out what to wear, tips for having cooporative kids, making sure you and your gear are ready to go, and best of all a FREE printable Mommy Photo Shoot Planner!