How to prepare for a photoshoot – documentary style!

“Preparing to take candid photos” sounds like a giant contradiction but truthfully, we’re all conditioned to engage a camera a certain way. Which means we can all use some pointers for relaxing, leaning in, letting go and enjoying this time with our family.

1. What to wear

A chihuahua in holiday pajamas sits in a dad's lap, wearing matching pajamas

Leave the matching outfits and dress clothes in the closet and dress the way you would if a photographer wasn’t coming over or tagging along (unless you were planning on matching pajamas). Let the kids choose their outfits, especially if their choice is likely to drive you up a wall, like Crocs with socks or her favorite tiara.

The very thing you wish they were “over” right now is the the very thing you will talk about most someday – you’ll never get this version back so go let yourself lean in. Find ways to look at all that color and texture with the appreciation you might bring to a modernist painting.

Want to know more about what to wear for family pictures? Have you downloaded “The Unstyle Guide” yet? Click here.

2. Slow down and let it happen

If you’re accustomed to the rigors of a mini shoot or having to pack a lot into a tight timeframe, you’re likely to try and move the action along. Slow down, let sequences unfold, and make a little space for magic! You don’t have to entertain the camera or the photographer, just breathe and try to be in the moment that is happening.

3. Don’t worry about whether its photo-worthy

a girl dances with her imaginary friend, which is a cowboy hat and towel tied to a pool noodle.

If you’ve been taught that its the backdrop, clothing and other details that makes a photo “good”, its understandable to worry about things being unsightly, messy or simply not photo-worthy. Trust your photographer to see beauty where most people don’t – that’s exactly why you hired us! We can’t wait to show you that it was never the external things that made your pictures good, it has always been you.

4. If you’re getting focused on the camera, shift your focus to someone else

a mom snuggles her baby in the background while a cat threatens to swat the camera in the foreground

Can’t stop looking at the camera? Join the club, we’ve been programmed to look and smile when we know we’re being photographed. Try this instead: whenever you find yourself camera aware, turn your attention towards someone in the group. Ruffle his hair, whisper in her ear, watch your spouse as they parent tenderly and be amazed.

5. Let the kids….


Don’t you think its odd that, in more traditional family photos with our kids, we put a stop to childish behavior and childish things? In other words, its far more common to dress children in clothing they would never choose for themselves, make them leave their toys in the car and encourage them to “behave”. Documentary style photography invites childhood back into the frame so let them wear the hat with the dino ridges, let them play with their toys, jump on the bed, get a little dirty on the playground – its all on the table again! You’ll never have this version of them back so let children be children. And if you can, let your inner child out to play too.

6. Welcome all the emotions

tips for family photos 27

“Happy” is usually the only emotion invited to a family photo shoot. And happy is great, we want it to keep stopping by for sure! But if other emotions show up, make room for them and address them as you would if there wasn’t a shoot in progress. If someone is clingy, hold them. If they are sad, comfort them. If they are angry, help them regulate and solve their problem. It gives us the opportunity to document you as you parent and I’ll bet you have no idea how beautiful that is.

7. Let yourself be surprised

a dad tries to blow out his son's marshmallow on fire at a fire pit and the boy looks surprised

If you were going the ordinary route you could pretty much guess what your photos were going to look like before you got them back, right? Let yourself be surprised by the story your photographer tells. And most of all, believe it when you see it – your everyday life together really is amazing just the way it is.

And the most important tip?

Does this look like the kind of shoot for you and your family? Reach out here to take the first step: let’s figure out how this can look for you!

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