Can you relate?: You spent the last two days figuring out which outfits to wear, practicing in the mirror how to smile so that crooked tooth doesn’t show too much, next thing you know it’s the day of the session and you’re fretting over whether your kids got enough sleep to last the evening shoot, you’re rushing to hairspray every last strand in perfect place and as you head out the door, you hope everyone looks good and that your toddler doesn’t have remnants of dinner on her face.

But that’s not where it ends. You show up at the park, meet your photographer and suddenly that shirt you decided to wear just doesn’t fit well, you get flooded with a wave of insecurity and panic… and lo-and-behold, your kiddo has dinner all over their white shirt!

Preparing for your family photo session can be difficult to say the least, and all that stress often happens in the days and hours leading up to the start of the session. Your photographer hasn’t even taken one photo yet and you’re already wishing you could cancel.

This may sound like an exaggeration, but often, parents will feel some or all of these emotions before a session.

But I’m here to tell you that it shouldn’t be that way!

There are ways to alleviate some of that stress, if not all, with a few simple tips.

1. Decide what to wear several weeks before your session. This means that if you want your family photos done in September, start planning outfits in July. Choose a colour theme, then find the outfits (add a simple pattern or floral in the mix) and lay them out on your bed to see how they look together. If something doesn’t look quite right, adjust it, and if you need to buy new clothes, you’ve got lots of time to do that. Also don’t be afraid of sending the photo of your outfits to your photographer and getting their advice. Your photographer has lots of experience with what looks good on camera, what looks good in the location you’re using, and what looks good together. Also, look at what other families are wearing in photos and get inspiration from it.

2. Make sure your outfit feels good as much as it looks good. If you’re going to be wearing something new, make sure to wear it for at least half a day to see how it moves, fits and sits on you. If it’s too tight, too loose, or just bunches in a funny way, you’ll be able to know ahead of time whether it feels good, as opposed to just knowing that it looks good. How you feel in your clothes can show on your face in the photos.

3. Make sure you pick a time of day that has the best light. Your photographer should know this, and will consider that sunrise and sunset times vary greatly throughout the year. I personally love the second hour after sunrise and the second last hour before sunset. It can vary from location to location – some locations are darker, so you might want to aim for the 3rd hour, and some locations are brighter, so you might even be able to shoot in the last hour before sunset.

4. Prioritize your kids’ happy hour. The light may look GORGEOUS at 9:00pm in June in Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean you should delay your toddler’s 7pm bedtime just to capture that sunset glow. This almost goes without saying, but for those who are hoping to push bedtime a bit late, be careful to not push it too much. A happy kid makes for way better photos than a cranky kid in gorgeous evening light. A professional photographer knows how to take good photos in challenging light as well.

5. Bring a blanket or wear clothes you’re ok to sit down in. Some of my favourite moments are with families sitting down, snuggling together and sharing laughs and hugs. If you’re wearing an outfit that makes it hard for you to sit on the ground, consider changing into a comfortable pair of jeans or bringing your favourite picnic blanket (check with your photographer first to make sure the blanket doesn’t clash with your outfits).

6. Check your pockets. And your zippers. And your buttons. Trust me, it’s easy to overlook tiny details when you’re having fun at a photo shoot. That’s why it’s imperative that you do a thorough check before you start the shoot. Are your keys and phone in your pockets? Is your fly down? (Trust me, this happens a lot!) Is your shirt buttoned properly? Is that bra strap you don’t want showing still showing? Are those little shoulder ribbon loops sticking out of your top? Is your hair elastic still on your wrist? Get your spouse to check you over and tell you if something looks awry.

7. Be open to new ideas and direction. Your photographer will be ready with suggestions for setting up moments/poses for photos. You may think a suggestion is too staged or out of the ordinary, but try and go with it. You might be surprised by how an awkwardly put together moment can actually turn into a fun, authentic interaction with everyone. And when in doubt as to what to do, smile, hug your spouse or play with your kids! You’ll never go wrong with expressing joy!

8. These photos are about the beauty of relationships and family love. So let go of your physical insecurities. I know, we could spend years working on attempting to succeed at this, we’re human and we all have insecurities about our body image. So I’m not saying this lightly, but I am still hoping to encourage you in this. If you can, try and forget about that crooked tooth you hate, that funny smile you dislike when you laugh, or that eye that squints funny… etc… because, you know what? The most photogenic people aren’t the ones who look the most perfect. The most photogenic people are the ones who let go of trying to control their “flaws” and enjoy the moment with their loved ones. Trust that your photographer is capturing the authenticity of your relationships in the most beautiful way. Don’t try and hide your flaws from the camera, instead let loose and enjoy everything good that comes from loving others and being loved. Show up with confidence because no one’s bothered by any of your so-called “flaws”. These photos aren’t about looking perfect, they’re about capturing the love and togetherness that you share with your family. 

Gabrielle Touchette is a Winnipeg photographer and has been specializing in family photography for over 12 years. She is known for her playful and carefree approach in creating bright and colourful images. Photo sessions can be booked in and around Winnipeg, Manitoba. Please enquire for more information or to book a family photo session.