I photographed the A. Family when this cute little girl was just a newborn. And now here we are, doing a family portrait already… she’s grown so much! There is nothing more exciting than getting to watch my clients’ children grow up into their own little selves. Oh, I guess there’s one thing almost as good… and that’s when my clients bring their pets to the portrait session. I love including animals in family photos (or any type of portrait photo, for that matter!).
I’d love to talk with you about planning a fun family portrait session — whether or not you have pets to include! Call the studio today at 734-424-0472 to start planning for your next family photo.
Growing up, my mother always sent out a Christmas letter — complete with family photo. We would contribute to this family tradition by telling my mom what we wanted to share in the letter. Not all of our input made the cut, but it was definitely a personalized yearly greeting that our family and friends enjoyed receiving.
When Steven and I got married, I knew this was something I wanted to turn into a tradition for us as well. So, every year since we’ve been married, I’ve created a holiday greeting card or letter. The year, I stuck with the format from my childhood: a letter on 8.5″x11″ paper, detailing all the new events of the year, and a separate photograph greeting. Do you remember those long envelope-sized photos? They had the greeting printed on the right quarter of the photograph. And then I discovered the thrill of designing a custom holiday greeting card. A greeting card can incorporate photos and text, which streamlined the assembly process.
So, that’s what we do to this day. And I offer custom greeting card design services to the families I photograph too. There’s something nice about having someone else do the grunt work for you — just saying “these are the photos I like, and here is what I want it to say.” A far cry from the days of my childhood, when we would all spend hours composing the text, proofreading, and re-wording to fit it onto a single page… then having to assemble all the components to fit in the envelope.
Now, you might be wondering why I’m writing about this so early, right? I like to let the various seasons be celebrated in their time, and I’m not one to jump the gun on decorating.
But, with family photos being included in the holiday greeting cards, you have to plan ahead. In fact, sometimes families will take their holiday picture in the summer, during a family vacation. This year, my goal is to capture the fall colors in our family picture. I’ve been watching the weather, the leaves, making sure I don’t miss that narrow window of opportunity, when the leaves are golden but still mostly on the trees.
Now, since I promised you some tips for getting a jump start on your family photo greeting cards, here they are:
1 . Plan your family photo in the summer or fall.
There is no reason to be stressed out and trying to get a last minute snapshot of the family for your greeting card. If you have kids, your stress may be reflected in their willingness to cooperate for the photos. And you probably don’t want a family portrait with unhappy faces, right?
2. Hire a pro; outsource your picture-taking.
Let’s face it, sometimes it is tough to get your own kids to smile for the camera. A non-parent can often elicit better smiles and expect better behavior. I know my mom gave up trying to teach me flute; I just wouldn’t listen to my teacher because she was also my mom (sorry mom!).
3. Ask everyone about their highlights of the year.
In our greeting card, everyone gets a little blurb, one or two lines about what’s going on in their life. As my kids get older, I’ll begin asking them what they want to share — and an “I don’t care” answer means mom gets free reign (kind of)!
4. Have a second set of eyes check your work.
I can’t tell you how many last minute typos we’ve caught over the years, just by having another person look through the text of a card. One year, a relative discovered their card had a typo too late — and ended up gluing a strip of paper with the correctly spelled word to every card. Not a fun task!
5. Order your cards early – before the holiday rush.
While there’s no set date you need to get your cards, I like to finish mine by the end of November, so I can get it ordered at the beginning of December. That way, I can focus on holiday parties, planning, and the like instead of rushing to get our greeting cards out. There has been a time or two where we got caught with too many holiday “to-do” items — and the greeting card went out as a “New Year” card instead of a Christmas one.
6. Keep in touch with contact information.
It can be hard to keep peoples’ contact information straight, with families frequently relocating or changing email addresses. I like to include our mailing address, email addresses, and phone numbers in the card — that way our friends and family can update their contact book with any changes. Plus, you can share your blog or facebook profil if there’s more you want to share than will fit in a letter or card.
7. Use an online service.
Sometimes it’s tough to get a jump start on things like this — it’s just easier to deal with the immediate needs, particularly if you have a lot on your plate. Maybe your plans for a family portrait (professionally done) fall through, or you need to pull together a quick last-minute card on the fly. Either way, you can use a service like Tiny Prints #afflink.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful for you, and perhaps inspiring, even? I’d love to hear about any family traditions you have for the holidays… particularly if you grew up helping with some sort of annual greeting card or letter.
One of the things I frequently hear when helping my clients plan their portrait sessions is the desire for individuality, for the pictures to reflect who they are and what they enjoy. I love finding ways to incorporate hobbies and the like into portraits! Here are 10 ways you can make your portraits reflect who you are and what you love.
1. Pick a place that is meaningful to you.
I love creating portraits on location, especially when the setting has memories attached. Like an engagement portrait session at the Arb where a couple met, or a senior portrait session on the football field for an athlete. Location is a big part of pictures. So when it evokes memories, that’s a great thing!
2. Bring your pet along.
Pets are a big part of peoples’ lives. So, including them in portraits is a natural way to add more personal meaning to photographs. I’m not one to shy away from being around exotic pets, so I’d be thrilled to photograph atypical pets as part of a portrait session. Usually, though, I end up working with the more mundane (but still lovable) four legged furry friends. Dogs are the most common pet my clients bring, but I’ve also done portraits with larger animals like horses (outdoors, of course).
3. Include your instrument.
As the daughter of a professional musician, I enjoy when my clients want to document their love of music. Smaller instruments can be easily brought to the studio, but I’ve also gone on location to photograph less compact instruments like an alphorn, or chimes.
4. Show off your sense of style.
I’ve worked with a number of high school seniors who were interested in fashion and clothing design. Naturally, their portraits included several outfits to showcase their sense of style. Sometimes people have a signature hat they always wear, or a wristwatch that is particularly meaningful. items like these can be easily incorporated into portraits either on location or in the studio.
5. Wear sports paraphernalia.
If you’re a die hard sports fan, there is no better way to show your true colors than in your portraits. I’ve done University of Michigan themed family portraits — that was fun! High school seniors might want to include their letter jacket, a jersey, or other another sports item (helmet, stick, glove, etc).
6. Choose a specific time of year.
If you love a certain time of year, it makes a lot of sense to plan your portrait session during that season! I’ve done family portraits in the snow, high school senior portraits in autumn, you name it. We can plan ahead to make sure we keep on top of the weather (sometimes it’s tough, for example, to get the fall colors in your portraits).
7. Coordinate your accessories.
I have had clients personalize their portraits in more subtle ways too. Coordinating accessories isn’t something that really sticks out as a way to personalize your session, but it can really make a difference. I had one high school senior who made her own jewelry — she wore it for her session. A family who loved wristwatches decided they would wear their favorite watches. It’s all in the details. And if the details mean something to you, so much the better!
8. Incorporate a hobby.
While I’ve photographed family hobbies (such as golfing, see 7 Ways to Personalize Your Family Portraits), more frequently this is something high school seniors really want. Whether they’re an aspiring artist, a fan of photography, or just an outdoorsman — seniors love to make their portraits communicate interests and hobbies.
9. Plan a candid session.
More photojournalistic in nature, candid sessions focus on capturing personalities and interactions. The photos forgo careful poses in favor of flow. For these types of sessions, we’ll often walk around downtown, or through a park, pausing at select areas to create some candid portraits.
10. Be silly.
Along the lines of candid captures — I love “forcing” silliness. It lightens the mood for everyone, even if we’re doing a more posed and formal portrait. The more relaxed you are during your portrait session, the more you will love the results!
So, there you have it. 10 things to consider when planning your next portrait session!
It’s so fun to watch families grow.. whether you get to see little kids getting bigger — or get to meet new little ones right after they’ve arrived into the world. I have enjoyed documenting this family for a number of years, and watching (now-big-sister) A grow from a newborn into a toddler. And that’s who is the star of the show in these photos… A’s little brother, S!
A little further on I’ll share all the photos from their session, but first, let me explain how newborn portrait sessions are unique. Newborn portrait sessions are a bit different than most portrait sessions… in three ways:
1. Newborn portraits take longer.
Babies are unpredictable. They have no schedule, persay …or if they have one, it changes in the blink of an eye. I block out three hours’ time for each newborn session. While we don’t use all that time for photographing, it does allow baby time to nurse or feed, be diapered, and tended too. If baby is cooperative, we finish with plenty of time to spare; but if baby has different plans, the generous time allotment keeps everyone calm and non-stressed.
2. Scheduling during naptime is ok.
Often, with newborn photos, baby will sleep through most of the session (and the portraits). It’s actually not a big deal, because sleeping baby pictures capture the reality of a baby’s days. Babies sleep a lot. As newborns get bigger and lose that “new baby” look, there will be plenty of opportunity for wide awake (even smiling) pictures. So for newborns, it’s ok to capture that fleeting time where baby sleeps incessantly.
3. It’s best (easier?) to stay indoors.
Newborn sessions are the only type of portraits that I recommend my clients stay indoors — either at the studio, or at baby’s home. Why? Well, when we’re documenting a newborn baby’s first weeks, things are going to be intimate, close up, and focused on the family. There isn’t really a need to incorporate the vast outdoors (in which baby will visually “get lost”). On top of that, it’s just easier when you eliminate variables like the weather and temperature. The studio is nice and warm for newborn portraits, there are comfortable chairs for nursing baby, and a changing table with supplies is at the ready. You don’t have those luxuries when you venture outdoors.
Now, as promised, onto the photographs from Baby S’s newborn session. I love including the whole family in newborn portraits …it is great to see the older siblings dote on their “baby.”
It’s hard to pick a favorite image from this session… babies are so adorable, and I love every aspect of newborn sessions. But I think my favorite picture is the one of big sister A giving baby S a kiss. Sibling love is so adorable!
But then there’s this one. And I love the lines created by the fabric draping down to the floor. Newborn portraits as art. Peaceful. Timeless.
Babies grow so quickly. It’s hard to believe that my second son has almost exited the newborn stage… Newborns are so tiny, so transient. Get those snuggles in!
Nichols Arboretum, or the Arb, as it is affectionately known by Ann Arborites, is a wonderful park to visit. It’s one of my favorite places to do family portraits (or any kind of portrait photos, for that matter). And if you’re so lucky as to visit when the peonies are in bloom? Well, then you’re in for a treat.
This family portrait session was planned not only in the Arb, but in the peony garden. And if you know anything about plants, some are limited in how long the blooms are vibrant and fresh. So we planned this family portrait session carefully, based on advice from the peony garden’s website. The peak bloom time is usually late May to early June — but depends on the weather.
Fortunately, the peak bloom time coincided with this family portrait session, and we even had a wonderfully sunny day. During the summer months, I try to plan portraits like this during the earlier morning hours so it hasn’t had a chance to get muggy or sticky out. And the weather on this particular day was great. I love how everything turned out, and that the entire family coordinated to wear University of Michigan attire. Since, as you know, Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan.
All of these images were also compiled into a custom-designed coffeetable photo album. I think albums are a great way to tell a story, to include more images than you could feasibly display on your wall. And, it’s a great place to include those silly outtakes that I always think have such personality.
While I love photographing all kinds of families, the sessions that really stand out are the ones like these family pictures. Not only were the family pictures taken at a meaningful location, but we were able to incorporate some unique elements to personalize their family portraits. And that’s what makes this so much fun. No matter how many times I photograph at a given location, the people, their personalities, and their interests are always so unique.
A little further on, I’ll share some tips on how to personalize your family pictures, but first, let me share these family portraits! The family portraits were taken at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, MI. We originally planned to use the lovely greenery at Barton Hills as a setting for the family pictures — the grounds of the country club are truly lovely when in bloom; even throughout the summer months you know it will always be gorgeously green at a top notch golf course like Barton Hills.
On this particular day, I’d been watching the weather like a hawk (I tend to reschedule if there’s bad weather). Fortunately, the rain let up, and we had a wonderfully sunny afternoon and evening — just a little damp.
As we walked to one of the spots for taking pictures, I had a sudden inspiration. A golf cart was sitting, empty, almost asking to be photographed. Since I knew this family was fond of golf, I suggested we add another series of family pictures with the golf cart, and the idea was received enthusiastically. The series of family pictures with the golf cart turned out to be my favorite, and the family ended up liking one of the portraits so much it will be on display as a wall portrait in their home!
Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.
How to Personalize Your Family Pictures
Now, I promised tips on how to personalize your family pictures, so let me get started with some suggestions for the next time you plan a family portrait session. You could probably adapt these for spur of the moment family snapshots too.
1. Include your family in the planning process
Sometimes I work with families who are totally nonchalant about their portraits, aside from wanting “something nice” as an end result. But, usually, families have an idea in mind for their family pictures. I like to hear from everyone — including the kids, because the more involved the whole family is with the family pictures, the better the portrait experience will be for everyone.
Kids like to have a voice. So, even if their opinion is less influential than, say, mom or dad’s… I like to hear everyone’s thoughts. Often we can work in some elements that will make everyone happy.
2. Your family pictures should reflect your style and show your personalities
Plain and simple — generic family pictures aren’t as memorable ones. You want your family pictures to be a window into your family’s dynamics and show you as you really are.
For families who are more laid-back and casual, I’ll usually recommend relaxed clothing and a more impromptu portrait style. It’s better, though, to plan a formal and elegant session for a family who is more conventional and “proper.”
3. Choose a location that is meaningful
Even if you don’t have a specific park, country club, or spot that your family finds meaningful, there are still ways to personalize your family pictures through your choice of location. If your family likes to do a lot of things outdoors, I’ll typically suggest a park with lots of natural scenery.
4. Incorporate your family’s interests and hobbies
This tip works whether you’re outdoors on location or inside at the studio. Find something your family enjoys, and include it! As with the family pictures above, a shared love of golf can really enhance the creativity of a family picture. Other ideas on how to personalize your family pictures can focus on the pets you have, the sports team you love, the city where you live, or the horses you ride.
5. There is no right or wrong
When planning your family portraits, remember — there is no right or wrong. What works best for your family will not work well for another. You can be inspired by what you find online, or what you pin on Pinterest, but ultimately, you need to think about how to personalize your family pictures in a way that makes sense for your family.
6. Flexibility is important
It’s important to be flexible on the day of a family portrait session. I often find the parents are very stressed out about getting good pictures, or making sure their kids behave, so I will do my best to put everyone at ease. The more relaxed everyone is, the better the family pictures will be.
And, speaking of going with the flow, remember that sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. But, that’s ok. Honestly, some of my favorite photographs and portraits have been the result of the need to make a spur of the moment adjustment or change.
7. Have a little fun and be silly!
I am a big proponent of being silly and having fun during any portrait session. Whether the funny faces end up as outtakes, or you ultimately choose to include the silliness in an album or wall portrait, pictures that let you (and your kids) have fun will really bring out your personalities.
Have Ideas on How to Personalize Your Family Pictures?
This list of tips on how to personalize your family pictures is by no means all-inclusive. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works — or doesn’t — for your family. Or, if you have any memories of past family picture experiences to share, I’d love to read them!
I really love documenting family memories. And while it is fantastic to plan outdoor sessions with a relaxed feel, there’s something to be said for the more “formal” generational family portraits. Keep in mind, I don’t mean stiff and overly posed. I’m talking about extended family portraits which span generations.
For this generational family portrait session, I helped plan a lovely series of images in studio. Coordinating 16 people for a portrait can be complicated, but fortunately for my clients, it comes easily to me! This family was really a pleasure to work with and create portraits for. Everyone was so cheerful and laid back, I didn’t have much to do in terms of helping them relax for the portraits! It’s always great when personalities shine through — especially in photographs, don’t you think?
At the end of this post, I’ll share some tips for documenting generational family portraits and important milestones (like new additions to the family). First, let me share these lovely family portraits with you. Here’s the complete generational family portrait, with all the extended family groupings included. I love images like this that span multiple generations. Besides, they’re great for documenting a growing family as well (see the adorable new baby!!).
Whenever I plan an extended family portrait, I ALWAYS recommend doing smaller family group portraits as well. Why? Well, because I have everyone in one place. That’s usually tricky to do, right? Everyone is in different places at the same time because of schedules. It’s best to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself. Plus, this way I can offer my clients a lovely portrait to pair with the main generational family portrait when it comes time to creating wall displays. These smaller family portraits are going to look great on the wall next to the generational family portrait!
Another portrait that I highly encourage is one of the grandparents, like this portrait below. In organizing my own personal family photographs, I’ve noticed that as a couple grows older together, they become more focused on having professional portraits to document their children and grandchildren rather than themselves. I totally get this.
But, all the same, kids and grandkids appreciate having the portraits to document how they remember their grandparents. So don’t forget to include this portrait in your next generational family portrait session. Another cute one along these lines, if you have reluctant grandparents is to do a portrait with grandparents and grandkids all together. What grandparent doesn’t want to have a portrait of them with their grandchildren, right?
And here are some more portraits of the smaller family groupings. I don’t think I’ve mentioned clothing yet — but notice everyone is NOT wearing the same color. Sometimes my clients want matching outfits, and I’m happy to do so. But, choosing outfits in complimentary tones works really well visually while still preserving a sense of individuality. I love the shades of gray, white, and black in this image …and denim jeans usually go well with everything too.
Tips for Natural Looking Generational Family Portraits
As promised, here are some suggestions for when you plan your generational family portrait. I typically go over this sort of thing in more detail during the planning stage of a portrait session, so don’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to have all these things decided ahead of time. It’s my job to help guide my clients in the right direction.
Who are you going to include? Sometimes families will decide to do sibling portraits, grandkid portraits, and on rare occasion some families ask me to do a second shot of the portrait without significant others (“just in case”). If that’s important to you, please let me know. Generally, though, I always suggest including significant others and spouses in the images because I feel they help document that time in a family’s life. And no one likes being asked to step out of a photo 😉 because they’re “not family.”
Where will your family portrait be? I’ve planned portraits in the studio, at clients’ homes, or even at a location outdoors that has special meaning for that family. My favorite generational family portrait on location? It was done at the family’s farm house that had been passed down through generations.
What will you wear? Make sure to plan your attire so that it will work for your family. You don’t want people feeling uncomfortable or stiff because of the clothes they’re in. I’d much rather plan a more relaxed generational family portrait with casual clothing if it means that everyone will be relaxed and interact cheerfully for the the camera!
What about pets? Sometimes there are family pets that need to be included too. I’m happy to accommodate these requests, but it does help me to know ahead of time whether that pet is a lap dog …or a horse. So, don’t feel like you have to exclude your animals from the portraits — they’re a part of the family too, after all!
Resources for Documenting Family History + Genealogy
Here are some resources if you’re interested in documenting or researching for family’s history. It can be fun for kids to learn from their elders by “interviewing” them about what it was like growing up — whether it is 20 or 50 years ago, the differences are still amazing. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. (Also, check out my Family History + Genealogy Pinterest board).
What are your favorite family memories? Are there photographs you treasure because they capture a moment in your family’s history as you remember it from childhood? Do you have generational family portraits that are special to you? Or maybe you don’t have many photographs from your family history… does this make you feel a more urgent need to document your own family’s milestones and memories?
As always, I welcome your comments, thoughts, ideas… and if you are looking to plan a professional family portrait, I would be more than happy to talk with you about how we can best document your family through photographs.
Baby Ridge has already grown so much since his newborn session in the studio… it’s amazing how quickly these little adorable babies change! I love helping to document these first weeks of life, especially since babies leave the newborn stage so quickly.
Now that the design is finished, I wanted to share this family portrait album with you! Typically I will also design a full color cover for portrait albums, which looks really gorgeous on display. This slideshow only highlights the album pages, so here is a peek at the cover design. Keep in mind, the left side of this image is the back cover, and the front cover is on the right side.
It is always wonderful when I can be a part of welcoming a new family member. Sometimes my clients bring in tiny newborns, and sometimes life is so crazy that I get to meet the babies when they are a couple months old. Either way, I love creating these family portraits because the portraits are a celebration of change and growth — family growth! Here are some portraits from a recent family session. We created a whole range of portraits, including both family groupings and individual newborn-esque portraits. I love sessions like this!
Well, I am sad to say these images were caught in the blog-void since this past fall. Fortunately, the images were of my own family, so I don’t feel as bad. This way, though, I can wish you a happy new year and send some good vibes your way for 2013!
I enjoy planning our family portrait each year, and try to find a way to make each one unique. Fortunately, with a growing toddler, it is pretty easy to do that. …since kids grow so much from year to year. That aside, we planned an outdoor portrait at a park in Jackson. While I was hoping for more vibrant fall colors, we came across this lovely water feature and decided it would make a great setting for our portrait. Yes, this is the one that went on our Christmas card. And yes, that is a watering can in the portrait with us. Sometimes a happy kiddo is more important than a superfluous prop in the portrait. It’s all about picking your battles… and in this case I think we all came out on top.
Ian, Kate, and Greta came to the studio to do some simple and sweet family portraits. Here are a few of the favorites from the session, plus an outtake that I couldn’t resist including. Greta was a blast in the studio, even though she was pretty much constantly on the move. Fortunately, I’m used to that, and have some nice tricks up my sleeve for creating nice portraits of toddlers on the fly. I think we ended up with some nice family portraits — here’s one of the family favorites. Greta had such great expressions, and a wide variety of them too. I love working with toddlers!
It’s hard to believe how quickly the little ones become big kids! Angel invited me back to her home for another family portrait session — this time with to include their new family members (another gorgeous little gal and some adorable doggies too). Since we did their last family portrait (when big sis was a baby) during the summer, Angel thought it would be a nice contrast to do this one during a nice winter snow.
It will be really fun to see where the wall portrait of the whole family ends up in their home; and I know they will enjoy the album with all these portraits that I designed for them.
I love working with kids. Whether they are willing to sit still and smile for the camera or I have to catch take smile on the fly, it is always fun to see different personalities emerge throughout the portrait session. It is especially fun to work with siblings! I love these portraits, particularly the one of big brother signing “I love you” to the camera. But the highlight of this portrait session was definitely the portraits I created of the kids together (side note, those learning towers are awesome!).
The black and white pairing of images is so adorable, and they will look great as a grouping on my client’s wall. Can’t wait to see how fast these kids grow!
Over the holidays, and we managed to plan an impromptu family portrait. I was thrilled, as I always emphasize the importance of images like this to my clients, but haven’t been able to coordinate one for my own family since before our little one joined the family. I am so glad we were able to capture this portrait of myself, my son, my mother, and my grandfather.
Timing constraints didn’t allow us to include more family members, but I am confident we can plan something for the next family get together. This portrait is already hanging on the wall in our kitchen, where I have been able to enjoy it on a daily basis.
I love doing extended family portraits — and when the family is in town for holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, I usually get a few requests for sessions like these. I know it can feel kind of hectic to plan a family portrait midst family gatherings, but trust me, you will treasure the results. Here are a few family portraits from a holiday portrait session.
Family portraits on location are always a lot of fun. Simply choosing the right spot will make all the difference in the world. While often we do plan family portraits at a client’s home, it is also nice to do portraits at the local park. So for this particular family portrait — that’s exactly where we went. And the results look great, don’t you think?
The river and boardwalk provided a great variety of portraits, all within walking distance. I am all for making things as simple as possible for my clients!