Each time I try to come up with different ways to describe to an imaginary family how they could prepare to take mini session pictures, I can’t help but think of that weird hangry stress period that takes place from the moment you order to the time that cheesy deliciousness arrives.
Yes, just like pizza fills our lunch or dinner “I don’t know you decided” conversations, mini sessions are an easy way to to get updated family photos every year.
Because they are totally affordable and you are able to satisfy your child’s short attention span in thirty minutes or less.
It’s a win-win, everyone is happy.
It’s fun fast and easy.
It’s something more and more short on time families are relying on these days.
And usually, somewhere around late April through early May in Texas, you could throw a rock and hit a professional photographer offering limited bluebonnet mini sessions.
It’s like a limited time coupon for a two topping pizza, showing up in your Facebook newsfeed and you think, YASSSS my dinner problems have been solved…..for today.
Here’s the thing, that’s where I’ve always struggled in this career of mine.
This whole concept of taking family pictures has boiled down to
30 minutes or less...if you’re lucky, some photographers give you 60 minutes.
Can you see why they make me think about ordering a pizza?
Anyway, it’s rush, rush, rush, We are short on time, We’re on a budget and Look, I can only get these kids to smile and simply look perfect for so long….soooo good luck.
Holy crap!! Uhhh, pressure much…
I’m not saying I can’t do it, I can.
BUT the thing I’ve come to understand about family pictures, especially the ones where a husband…wife…life partner…whomever loves you the most says to me
“Ohh wow?!?! How did you capture their personality so well?”
Is that in photos where someone looks relaxed and natural is when a person feels free to be themselves.
I’m no mind reader but I imagine their default thought isn’t, “let me turn on my inner actor.”
It isn’t, “let’s see if I can find the perfect pose, nail it and this whole family bonding time thing will be over.”
Nope, it’s that in some way, shape or form the reason their photosession was so successful is that each person had the freedom to trust.
Long before a camera came into the picture (see what I did there) it became less about preparing to look perfect but more about creating a level of comfort with one another.
Hey…stop thinking about that pizza, they said it would be here…it will be here.
But since you’re still waiting, consider this:
No matter if you live in Somewhere, Colorado or Someplace in Texas you are most likely looking for a way to turn the anxiety of taking family pictures stress-free.
And I get it, You might think since i’m a photographer, that I should know how to get my husband and children to relax in front of a camera.
Everyone wants tips…
Tips on how to prepare
Tips on how to relax
Tips on how to make perfect memories
You might even think “She should know natural pictures don’t happen when we are not pressured into color-coordinated presentation mode.
Even though I know better sadly that’s not the case.
The last time our family took professional photos together (cough….three years ago cough, cough) I went through that same process.
How can you achieve the freedom of looking for relaxed and naturally yourself in thirty minutes or less?
Its hard..it’s challenging AF but not impossible.
So here’s my number one tip:
Yep, that’s it. That’s the best tip I can give you.
But sadly many people won’t take the advice and run with it
It’s kind of like when someone in your family tries to go rogue and order a fifteen topping pizza because they heard someone say it was delicious.
(You thought I forgot I mentioned pizza earlier didn’t you…nope it should be here pretty soon. No don’t go look out the window, it’s not here yet!!!)
Okay back to this whole connection preparation thing I mentioned.
I am a bit of a social science research nerd and I decided to cross-reference (wow that doesn’t sound nerdy at all) mastering the art (and science) of networking with 3 tips on how to prepare for any sort of photo session.
Well, yes that would be fantastic but look I got kids and mine are never on time so I’m always worried about being late. Sure a ten-minute buffer allows you to get everyone the location on time and you’ll have time to wipe the crumbs off someone’s face.
BUT what if instead of the pressure “Can you just RELAX and be normal for like 30 minutes?!?!? We are making f*ing memories here!?!” you created a movement plan? You know actions you’ll take when you a) meet this photographer for the first time or b) reconnect with them after your face to face meeting prior to the session.
Something like, I will GUIDE them to what makes ME feel comfortable or I will ENCOURAGE my kids to be themselves. Yes…I know I know, it’s only thirty minutes but instead of focusing on the possibility of arriving late, focus on getting out of the car like a boss.
More than likely every single family member will make a great first impression
If your spouse, your life partner, your main squeeze walked up to you the first time you met and said:
“Hey sugar, I’m sure meeting me for the first time is awkward but I’ve brought along a few tricks to help you like me more 😉.”
Ummmm can you say…stranger danger!?!?
Most often the family photographer go-to method, specifically for mini sessions is allowing the clients and children to bring props that help everyone relax. It’s something comfortable and familiar that keeps them interested and since you are short on time, you can be in and out in 30 minutes or less.
BUT, what if you redefined what looking picture perfect meant to your family. What if you took your time to find a way to always evoke a sense of wonder. What if in thirty minutes every single person walked away from the photo session feeling not only appreciated but really special? I imagine it would feel great, wouldn’t it?
In order for the whole taking pictures together thing to work well, most people need a tremendous amount of freedom in order to relax and trust their impulses. Because of all the tension and obligation to make memories happen and Christmas card worthy is they try to damn hard to look interesting.
Stop trying so hard…it kills all spontaneity and creativity.
In the car on the way, dare each other to be their boring normal self.
Um…is this seriously a tip?!
Why is this a tip? How are you going to tell me to not stress?
Yeah I know I paid for thirty minutes but I hate having my picture taken.
So it’s ALWAYS stressful. The whole point of hiring a professional is to find a photographer who can make the whole experience light and fun.
Yeah, that’s a family pictures where you have a little more time but with minis, the reason they are marketed to you in that way is for you to stress LESS not more. It’s supposed to be a time where you can fit in quality bonding time. A fun activity to create and have memories captured of everyone you love TOGETHER.
But what if the photographer prepared you ahead of time by asking:
Instead of preparing you to give results on command what if you were able to establish a long-lasting connection that the photos they take are not just a tick mark on a bucket list but a valued prize that you’ve won?
If picture perfect is the truth you are trying to create with your images, the visual family narrative you wish for your children and family to remember you by, I wholeheartedly respect your decision.
Because if that’s the way you create the essence of wonder in your family who am I to judge?
So when I sat down to write this, I had to go back and look.
Go back through years of my own photos to figure out when.
When I started longing to be an observer of truth for others.
When I decided that picture perfect looked better unposed and imperfect.
When it became less about nailing the look of perfection.
When it became more important to feel the moment not pose it.
Then I remembered this day and thought…
They don’t like being forced into that overly coordinated looking version of themselves.
It’s my family but I wonder if this what happens when someone allows you to spend more than 30 minutes with them?
The more I’ve practiced this as “professional” I’ve come to realize, that what the key is to feeling and looking natural in pictures is one simple thing.
Freedom to do it wrong.
Freedom to not hold on to the right looking emotion or attitude.
Freedom to access our truest truths, deepest feeling and wildest of imaginative impulses.
We all look different and have different stories, yes.
But maybe today or sometime this week, I want you to imagine what freedom to do and look right looks like on your family.
You know, like really be willing to let your natural instinct come out to play.
My guess is, if you can, you’ll find it will release you from feeling obligated to force making yourself and your family look perfect in pictures.
I dare you to be free, get it wrong!
Because you might find that it frees you from the anxiety, pressure, and self-consciousness of looking your best.
If dare yourself to get it wrong and stop trying to force a connection in thirty minutes or less.
And if you have to, I’ve given you three tips (that are backed by science) on how to prepare your next family pictures.
The next time you create images full of wonder and deep meaning from those imperfect moments of life.
Whelp gotta run…pizza just got here…and I’m hangry.