I’ve posted before about photography sessions in general with young children here, but this one will be specifically about photography outdoors.
Since the twins have been born, it seems we’ve actually begun taking more professional photographs. We used to take one annual family portrait around Thanksgiving for our Christmas cards, but it’s gotten to be too difficult for me alone to capture all the kids in the same frame, much less looking in the same direction. And having only the most rudimentary knowledge of photography, I don’t know enough about how to get the right look I want (or get the shot in time to catch the right moment, or to avoid the blur of kids running around, etc etc). Now we do another photo shoot sometime in the spring/summer too.
So it was about time for our semi-annual photography session, and I decided to finally try an outdoor session in natural light. Many friends much prefer this type of photography, and I love the natural light too, but I’ve always been too terrified of my three kids running loose out in an open space. The great thing about studio photos has always been the controlled environment: the contained area, the comfortable room temperature, the choice of backdrops and props.
However, an acquaintance does freelance photography, was charging an affordable price, and had some time available during my spring break. I went for it. It did not end up being the experience I had dreaded; in fact, it was quite nice. Below are some contributing factors:
Logistics are important.
We chose a location very familiar to the kids. We are members at a local arboretum because the kids love it so much; we go almost once a week. It’s only about 15 minutes away. We like to go let the kids stretch their legs, be with nature, and see some peacocks. Turns out all the giant trees and gardens also makes for a great backdrop for photographs!
We made sure to chose a good time for them too, steering clear of their nap. Mornings usually work well for us, so after breakfast and getting ready, we got there at 9am. It was an hour session, so we were done and home well before naps at 11. The hour was nice too, because it gave the kids time to warm up to the photographer and get comfortable with the situation. (This is usually missing in studio shoots that I’ve taken. Those are more in the 30 minute range.)
Preparation is also crucial.
I planned their coordinating outfits weeks in advance. Matching three children is not an easy task, and I always work hard not to spend too much money or pick pieces that could only be worn once. I made the skirts and hair clips this time too, so that required getting the proper materials and time learning on my sewing machine. I also had the kids try everything on and make adjustments to ensure all the outfits work together and everything fit.
I was prepared with snacks and juice for the kids. We usually do snacks around 10:30, but I thought I’d bring stuff just in case they needed a break from the camera. They did, and it worked. We bounced back from our 5 minutes of crackers and captured some more great images afterward.
Luckily, some things just worked out for us.
We had some great cooperative weather. It was a slightly cloudy, brisk morning. Most of our photos were taken in some really beautiful, soft ambient light. The kids were not hot and sweaty running around. Towards the end of the session, the sun was just breaking through.
I gave the kids freedom to go where they wanted. I didn’t want to force them to be unnatural, but I was also worried that without my husband we’d have trouble keeping the kids together. It wasn’t a problem though, because we were able to focus their attention on things along the way. There were some sculptures that they played with, some fountains they all looked at together, and benches that were able to hold their attention for a bit. It took a little coaxing at times, but they did not scatter in three different directions as I feared.
I learned to step back and let the photographer do his thing. He had a very laid back quality about him, never forced any poses on the kids, let them go where they wanted, and was very patient. I did not intervene except to fluff the skirts when they got ruffled and reposition a cap when it got out of place. As a result, no one was stressed (I am usually extremely stressed during photography sessions), and everyone was pretty relaxed and happy.
lunchldyd is mom to 2.5yo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She loves taking and looking through photographs of her kids.