The first time we tried a professional family photo was less than ideal. We had in-laws in town and wanted to capture the moment. My then 3-year-old was not digging the concept. Standing still is BOR-ING! He chose to play peek-a-boo the entire time, ducking down between the other adults and popping up excitedly, taxing the patience of all involved, including our poor photographer. I wanted so badly to have that PERFECT family photo, with everyone sitting still and smiling into the camera. Not so much!
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
A few weekends ago, our family spent the afternoon with Seacoast photographer Ashley Shea of Ashley Shea Photography, who shared some insights into how to make a family photo session fun and stress-free. Ashley was the ideal partner in this endeavor to capture a moment of our family-life. As a mom herself, she understands that kids are squirrelly and need to move, and that perfection isn’t the goal.
I love documenting real moments — authentic, tangible moments that are uniquely yours. Creating portraits gives me the opportunity to make personal connections and capture moments and emotions so they won’t be forgotten.
What to Wear
My first question for Ashley was what to wear. She advised that we start with neutrals — denim, grey, khaki, black or navy — and select one pop of color that you can include in the palette. I chose charcoal and denim for our neutrals, with a pop of burgundy. The color pop can be as simple as a bit of bright t-shirt peeking out from under a sweater, a statement necklace, or a great pair of shoes.
Where to Shoot
The next hurdle was to figure out where to shoot the photos. Ashley suggested we pick a place that held meaning for us — some place we could look back on and remember fondly (not just for the photos). We chose downtown Portsmouth because I wanted something that looked distinctly like where we now lived. Our last family photo was taken on the beach in California shortly before we moved to New Hampshire. Other ideas to consider: local parks or green spaces, or even your own backyard. The setting isn’t as important as being comfortable!
What to Do
Clothes, check. Location, check. Now, what to do about the kids?! Ashley mentioned that a lot of families plan a special outing for after the shoot. (We bribed our kids with dinner at Flatbread as an incentive for good behavior.) But the most important thing to remember is — don’t stress. Get your children excited for the photo session. It’s going to be fun! Make sure everyone has eaten, and bring snacks just in case. Even though we worked with a professional, Ashley Shea Photography, didn’t mean we shouldn’t be at ease.
Instead of worrying about whether the images will be perfect, try and accept that life isn’t perfect. Just relax and have fun. Great photos are reflective of your life. If one child won’t sit still and the other refuses to look at the camera, that’s okay. We’ll just go with it!
One of the things we appreciated about Ashley is that she didn’t seem to mind when our boys started to lose interest. As they explored, she just followed us with her camera, capturing them as they played on the swings, wrestled in Prescott Park, and giggled over giant acorns outside of Pickwick’s.
My favorite images are where everyone is engaged and interacting with each other. I don’t believe every picture needs to have everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. If you are relaxed and connected as a family and loving on each other then you’ll have more beautiful, natural images.
Most Importantly: Be In the Moment
I found myself getting anxious when the boys weren’t willing to cooperate, but Ashley reminded me that what’s most important is to relax and be in the moment.
Creating beautiful images is a mutual effort between the family and photographer. If you’re feeling tense then that will most likely come across on camera. If you can relax and be in the moment with the people you love then you’ll help create family photos you can cherish forever.
The end results, as you can see, are unique, fun images of our family. Not too polished or perfect, but casual, laughing and loving on one another. Our photo session with Ashley Shea Photography was a pain and stress-free experience!
Be sure to check out Ashley’s website, follow her on Facebook or Instagram, and schedule your own memory-making family photo shoot!