My Family Portraits
I spend a lot of time on this site and on social media stressing the importance of getting in front of a camera. This is especially important for moms because we tend to be the ones documenting those daily moments and events but somehow end up not being in any of the pictures. It’s so easy to be the one in control. I’ve used the excuse myself that with all of the family photos, I’m present in them because you’re seeing all of those people through my eyes.
But years from now, your kids, your spouse, the people you care about, are going to want to see you in the images too.
So in spite of my anxiety and self-consciousness, I know the importance of getting in the photos with my kids. I’ve been saying for the past couple of years now that I wanted one final portrait where my husband and I are taller than our son. I’m 5’9″ and my husband is about 5’10”. Our son is now 5’8″ and still growing at only 13.
Making Family Portraits Happen
I knew that my boy was not likely to stop growing anytime soon so we needed to make this happen and I was thrilled when another photographer, Nicolette Dixon of Nicolette Dixon Photography, proposed the idea of trading family sessions. I would do portraits for her family and she would take photos of mine.
After it was all done, I thought it might be helpful to read how a photographer walks through the process of getting photos for her family. I definitely know that it is a challenge so you can see how I managed.
Being on the Other Side: location
After setting the date, I knew we had to pick a good location. This is always challenging. You see, I don’t think of my family as the gorgeous, Pinterest model family. We’re goofy. We’re awkward. We don’t necessarily do well in nature but we’re not trendy urbanites either. Our happiest place after home is anywhere books are found. As I was looking over Nicolette’s portfolio for ideas, I saw one image and knew immediately where it was- in front of the Carnegie Library in Oakland. That was the spot for us.
You see, our story began in Oakland. More than 20 years ago, Andy and I were students at Carnegie Mellon. We had our first adventures as friends walking around campus and Schenley Park and then our first date up in Squirrel Hill. He proposed to me one afternoon as we had a little picnic on Flagstaff Hill.
Then, after a short detour to Baltimore, our story brought us back to Oakland. With our son and daughter, we lived in a little house just over the bridge from the dinosaur playground. Andy was a post-doc at CMU and I took care of the monkeys. We loved the library and I took weekly trips pushing the double stroller and then pulling our wagon to the library to keep up our supply of storybooks. When we weren’t going to the library, we were walking to Dave and Andy’s for ice cream or to church at Bellefield. Oakland was familiar, comfortable, like home.
It was the perfect place to have our portraits taken.
Being on the Other Side: outfits
This part was so much more difficult than coming up with a location. If there is a trendy gene or stylish bone, I do not have it and judging from my photos growing up, I never did. So how do you choose outfits when you don’t feel competent? Well, I tried to keep it simple and start with myself and my daughter. Luckily, I have one of the best kids who is easy-going, supportive of her stressed out mama, and happens to look good in just about anything. She was eager for a jumpsuit because apparently that’s the thing right now and she helped me find the cutest, comfiest red dress.
I knew I didn’t want us to be all matching but I did want it to look coordinated. That’s always the most challenging part. I’m not good at explaining what does look good together and why, but I can tell when things don’t look good (at least to me).
I knew that we were a casual group so Sadie and I would be on the dressier side while Andy and Caleb would be more casual and as always, comfort was important.
I still ended up getting 2 shirts for both Andy and Caleb, looking at all of the clothing laid out together on my bed and then taking 2 of the shirts back. And I highly recommend that strategy. You need to see things together and returns are such a blessing.
Being on the Other Side: the session
Ok, so this last part is where I’m probably no help to people. I’ve been very fortunate to have a husband and kids who value me and understand my desire for nice family photos. My husband is happy to smile and pose as much as needed. My daughter is a ham who loves the camera (as you can see from just clicking around my blog a bit) and my son is one of the sweetest young men I know. He’s not a fan of pictures. He prefers to be looking at books rather than cameras but he loves me and will go along with these.
I tried to let Nicolette know that Caleb would be done fairly quickly and we did our part of making silly faces to get both of the monkeys to look and smile (yes, even at 12 and 13, you need to do that sometimes). He’s not smiling in every photo and that’s ok.
And in the end, we left with some really great shots. Many of these I’m going to treasure always.
He’s not tall than me! He’s standing on a hill!
And even at 12, she can ride on Daddy’s shoulders!
Nicolette was so sweet and patient with my awkward crew.
I definitely recommend her for family portraits!