Most people, when they have their first child, they run out and have some photos taken. They might do some maternity photos before the baby is born, and they might come back around for a first birthday update. But while parents are learning the ins-and-outs of raising a kid, life continues to progress and become more complicated. Just like it always has. If you have a second child, or a third child, you will one day look in the mirror and be amazed at what you can accomplish in 24 hours. By that time comes though, family portraits might be a bygone memory, even as you struggle to explain to your youngest child why they aren’t in the picture sitting atop the piano.

Or maybe you’re one of the folks who wasn’t able to do family portraits when you had your first child, and now there’s so much to think about, figuring out how to find a photographer and book a session and prepare the kids and all this other stuff, just doesn’t seem feasible.

Well, I’d like you to know that it is feasible and we’re here to make it as easy as possible. Still, I know how the mystery can make it seem a thousand times harder to do something you’ve never done before, or in a very long time. So, with that in mind, I’d like to walk through this whole family-portrait-process in intimate detail. Lets start from that moment you realize you want to have better photos of your family.

When you realize you want better photos of your family

As I said before, perhaps this moment came during an awkward conversation with your toddler. Or maybe when you saw your school-aged friends new family photos on Instagram. Or maybe it was when you went to the family reunion and you had to be the only family showing off with a selfie. Whatever the situation that brought you to feel like it might be time to get new photos, the first step is the same. You need to find a photographer you like and whose style resonates with you.

I suggest doing this: Do an image search with Google. Type in “Family portraits + [your city here]”. Look through the images that pop up and when you see a family you like, check out that photographer. If they’re local, send them an email and tell them how much you liked the photo you found. Presumably they will respond to your email in a timely manner and you can decide if they have a personality you’d like to work with. If they do, go ahead and book ‘em!

Of course, we don’t know what will happen from here on out as far as any other photographer is concerned, but if you start a conversation with us, here’s how we’ll respond.

Once you start a conversation with us

The first response from us will include answers to any questions you might have brought foreword. We’ll also share a digital brochure with packages and product information. The vast majority of our clients find just what they’re looking for in our brochure, but for those that don’t, we gladly offer up some custom options.

Most of our clients choose to interact with us via email, but we’re glad to work with you over the phone and text messages as well to answer question and help you coordinate your plans.

During your conversations with us before booking, we will give you space and time to think and be sure you’re getting just what you want from your session. We never apply that obnoxious sales pressure so many of us have come to hate.

Booking your session

When you’ve had time to consider all of your options and you’ve decided to book your session, the first step will be to choose a specific date. Depending on the flexibility in your schedule, you can tell us exactly what dates work for you, or we can offer you an array of options to choose from. If you have a specific preference for one of our members, we’ll make sure your schedules match before booking the session. However, if you have no preference for a photographer, we will send the photographer whose availability most closely matches your own, and whose skills most closely match the kinds of family portraits you want to create.

Finalizing your booking will require you to sign a digital agreement, and pay for your session.

With a date selected, finalizing the booking

Our agreements are all signed digitally, so you must have a valid email address. We’ll dispatch your agreement from an Adobe application called EchoSign. On the agreement, you’ll fill in personal details, and some details about your family to help your photographer prepare for the session. You should read the details of your agreement before you sign it and if there is anything that you do not understand, be sure to speak up. Once the agreement is signed, you’ll receive a copy of the signed document in a separate email from EchoSign.

With the agreement signed, the final step is to pay for your session so we can confirm the date and time for you. You’ll be able to pay online with a credit card, or if you prefer, you can drop a check in the mail! And with that, your session will be fully confirmed. There are still a few details left though, specifically where we’re going to shoot.

Picking a location

If you’re unsure of where you’d like to hold your family portrait session, we will leave that up to your photographer to help you decide so that they have as much creative control as possible. The location for sessions is usually selected no less than 7 days from the shoot, so if you booked your session a few weeks or months out, the location may not be selected immediately.

What makes a location a good choice has to do with what kinds of family portraits you want. For example, if you’d like to capture how fun and relaxed your family is, a photo session at the beach is probably a good choice. But if you’d like something more formal, shooting in your home or at a national monument will be a better option. It’s important to keep in mind though, if you want formal style portraits, but you have very rambunctious children, you may be in a no-win situation. Ultimately, it would be better to have your images naturally reflect your children’s personality than your’s.

Some locations may be good in the morning, but not so good in the evening, and vice versa. So if you know your kids are good in the morning, but fall apart in the evening, you want to make sure your photographer knows that so they can help you navigate around all the choices. In this same vein, a lot of locations have playgrounds nearby, so you should consider whether a playground on the premises would help your kids cooperate or make them extremely distracted.

… And if the weather is terrible

It’s a bummer when it rains on the same day as a portrait session. If it’s actively raining when you’re supposed to be having your session, we’ll have the option to move the session into your home, or reschedule to you and your photographer’s next mutually available date. We always try to be as flexible as possible, so if we believe we will get better images by rescheduling your session, that is what we’ll try to do. And likewise, if shooting indoors is not an option and rescheduling is not an option, we’ll gladly shoot out in the rain!

Dressing the troops

Before the session, you’ll have the dreaded task of dressing your family for your portrait session. But it’s really not so bad! Try to follow these guidelines and don’t stress too much about it:

  • You should be comfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, no matter how nice the outfit is, it will show in your photos. Make sure you’re comfortable.
  • Don’t force the kids to wear something they hate. Ideally, you don’t want to have a fight with the kids before your session. The photos will suffer more for that than they would from being dressed differently than you’d like.
  • Let the older kids dress themselves. Older kids and teenagers especially have a “I’m pissed off so I’m putting in as little effort as possible” face. The culprit is often their clothes. Give older kids agency to dress like themselves, within some boundaries, such as…
  • Go with matching color pallets, forget matching colors. Everyone in jeans and a white t-shirt can come across as tacky. If everyone matches perfectly, it’s going to come across as a little silly. Pick a few colors or materials you like, and ask everyone to use them however they want.
  • Pick your battles. Reiterating number 2. You should come to your session with as much positivity as you can, and avoid clothing battles that will undermine anyone’s ability to do that.

When the session begins

Your photographer will typically arrive 10 to 20 minutes before your session begins to scope out the area, choose some favorite spots and look for anything that might’ve changed.

The session itself will then begin with some light conversation, sometimes a little bit of candid shooting, and if there are small children, almost always some play. It’s crucial that your photographer build a rapport with your children and this typically begins before too much shooting takes place. Ultimately, your children are in charge and if they refuse to be in any photos, they won’t be. So your photographer will try to win the kids over before moving onto any really serious shooting.

With introductions and some playtime behind us, if you know which images they are, we’ll start shooting the highest priority ones first to insulate them from the kid’s attention span. We try to move at the speed of the kids to keep them from getting bored or uncooperative and we ask that parent’s do the same. So, if you have a lax disciplinary style at home, do not all of a sudden become a boss-man when the session starts. Keep your parenting style consistent for the best results, and avoid correcting an uncooperative child unless your photographer asks you to.

When your session is over

Your photographer is not watching the time very closely. They are focused on whether they have all the images they want and need. When they, and you, feel good about what you’ve captured, or when the kids say it’s done, your photographer will wrap things up.

Before leaving they will take a moment to let you know what to expect for delivery. Answer any remaining questions you may have and then head back to get your images in the oven.

After your session, it will take about 10 days for your images to be sorted and processed, and for most family portrait sessions, you can expect to get between 60 and 80 images. During this time, you can expect radio silence while the elves are working. But be sure to keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram where we might just post a few previews for you!

When your finished images are delivered

When the big day finally comes, you’ll receive an email to notify you that your images are ready. There will be two links in that email.

The first link will take you to your private gallery on our website. You’ll be able to view your images immediately after setting a password for your account. From there you can order prints and redeem credits or prints you might have gotten with your package, and invite friends and family to see your images.  The second link in the email will download all of the images from your session in a zip file. You’ll need to take this step from a desktop or laptop computer.

Once downloaded, we strongly suggest backing up your images on various computers and cloud storage services to ensure you always have them safe at hand.

And now that you have your images

Now what? Well if your package came with prints, books, albums or other products, head over to your online account and redeem them! We offer prints in a wide range of sizes, we also offer framed prints, canvases, coffee table books, heavyweight albums, and gift items.

There is, of course, no obligation to purchase your prints from us. If your package included high resolution digital files, you’re free to have them printed for personal use wherever you like. Print up some images for the walls in your home and for the desk in the office. Consider some high quality framed prints for gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles. Canvas clusters also make great gifts and are an interesting way to decorate your home in a modern way.

Whatever you do, just don’t let them sit there as 1’s and 0’s on some disk somewhere!

Is there something else you’d like to know?

So this has been a very detailed look at the complete portrait session process, from wanting to have portraits, all the way up through to having them in your hands. If you were feeling anxious because you weren’t sure what to expect, hopefully this has helped. But maybe there’s still something that’s mysterious to you. Don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know! Tweet at us on Twitter, find us on Facebook, or send us an email with your questions. We’re always happy to help!