We get it. The thought of organizing your family for a portrait session can be overwhelming. Let’s face it, families can be complicated and coordinating large groups of people with their own quirks and personal dynamics, across multiple generations, can get complicated too. Throw in a couple of unruly toddlers, a crying baby, and some stressed out parents and it can be even more intimidating for our clients.

Not for us. We’ve made it our job to get families comfortable in front of the camera, and we promise it’s possible for us to get great shots of your kids too. After a family portrait session we often hear from our clients how surprised they are by how relaxing and enjoyable the shoot was. We love to hear this and we agree!

So how do we do it? We have a lot of fun and a lot of patience, and we ask our clients to try to do the same.

It starts by preparing your family in advance for the shoot. This means ensuring your family is well rested and well fed. We ask that you don’t schedule the shoot around your kids’ bedtime or nap time. If you request an afternoon shoot before going out to dinner, make sure the whole family eats a healthy snack in advance. Everyone is more relaxed and agreeable on a happy stomach. You know your family the best, so find a time of day that makes the most sense for your active brood.

Give the kids a heads up. Let your children know a few days in advance that you’re planning a photo session and tell them how much fun it will be. Be sure to allot enough time the day-of to get everyone comfortably and appropriately dressed, well fed and organized. Running late will add stress and you’ll show up worried about lost time. If possible Mom should treat herself to professional hair and makeup so she doesn’t have to preoccupy herself with her own appearance and can feel most confident when she arrives. Make sure Dad is on board and excited too. While Moms are typically the ones booking the sessions it’s important that everyone who shows up knows what to expect and is willing to embrace the process.

Pick a meaningful location. Many of our family portrait clients are visiting Martha’s Vineyard and want to take advantage of the diverse landscape it offers. We recommend selecting a location for your shoot that best matches the interests, personality, and attention spans of your family. Think about whether the kids are better suited for a casual walk along the beach or a longer hike near the Aquinnah cliffs. Some clients will opt for a more organized activity that we tag along for, like a clam bake or boat ride where the family is already comfortably engaged.

Have fun! Fun is the operative word. We want families to laugh, cuddle, giggle, be silly and play! We’re not afraid of a good time and if the kids aren’t feeling it we’ve got a whole bag of tricks up our sleeve. We always come equipped with fun activities and props to get the kids’ attention (if the kids have a favorite toy or item that always calms them we recommend bringing it along too). We’ll attach stuffed animals to our camera, play with hand puppets, make goofy faces or don costume glasses and accessories to get laughs and smiles. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and you shouldn’t either. We’ll ask Mom and Dad to get in on the fun too, kids love to see their parents let loose. And if all else fails, we have organic jelly beans parents can use as a last resort.

Don’t worry about the final product. It’s our job to get the perfect photo, it’s your job to enjoy yourself and your family. We know these photos will last for generations and you want them to be great, and they will be. We’ll  remove the “cheese” from the family photo and create real, timeless images that will allow you to relive the experience again and again. Remember, not everyone has to be looking straight at the camera to get the best photo. Many of our favorites are often the candid, unposed images that tell the most powerfully authentic story.

Make it a family tradition. Some of our family portrait clients have been coming back to us annually for over ten years. Many of them started as wedding clients whose families have evolved. We have come to really know those couples and watch the kids grow, and year after year everyone becomes more comfortable and excited by the shoot. By making it a tradition the kids know what to expect and you end up with an annual collection of great photos to share, not to mention good inspiration for holiday cards and gifts.

Looking to visit with your family this summer? Sign up to receive our Six Family Traditions which offers inspiration for the best family portrait locations on-Island and wardrobe tips for the whole family. Contact us to make your appointment.

Lastly, we just had to share one of our favorite reviews from Philip M. who sums up his family portrait experience:

We have used Randi as our official family portrait artist since the summer of 2012… Randi has effectively captured the personality and dynamics of our family within the context of our beloved Martha’s Vineyard rich scenic backdrop. Our friends and family have marveled at the quality of her work. She has become an important part of our summer tradition… Our recommendation for her services is without reservation.