6 Tips for great family photos in Austin | Austin Family Photographer

Getting the best Austin family portraits has taught me that young children don’t really have the ability or capacity to take posing directions.  Instead, children are extremely literal and exaggerate when it comes to a posing request.  My best children and family portraits are unscripted, real, fun, and spontaneous moments during our session.  Instead of trying to over-pose children during family portrait sessions, I let them be more relaxed, adventurous, and genuine.

6 Tips to Make the Best Family Portraits in Austin, Texas

1.  Warm Up Time:  Upon arrival for a family portrait session the first thing I do is say hello to the children.  I always make sure that I acknowledge them by kneeling to their level to introduce myself, almost immediately, when I’m start getting to know them.  Making yourself smaller is less threatening and it is an even split between shy, apprehensive and outgoing. I ask questions about them without being too pushy and I am genuinely interested in what they are saying with their words and body language. My family portrait warm ups take between 5-10 mins. depending on what type of personality the child has.  I feel that this is a crucial step to gaining trust and making sure that the child or children feel comfortable around me, their new environment, and it really puts them at ease for their family portrait session. If the family has filled out my before session questionnaire I have notes on their favorite activities, what toys, and movies they like so that I can weave this into our conversation. I often guess the wrong age or make a silly mistake so they can correct me, kids like to be right.  One of my favorite family portrait warm up and giggle strategies is to guess their age incorrectly, even though I know exactly how old they are.  Children are very proud of how old they are whether it be three fingers or three and a half, they will always correct me.  During the family session I often ask questions, dance badly, make silly faces or noises….this is a great time to snap a handful of images.  Their expressions can be very real and comfortable.  I ask a lot of questions during their family portrait session, like, have they ever met a dinosaur?  Or I ask them to shout out silly words like turkey toes or ask if they like pickle ice cream. And almost ALL my family sessions end with the kids getting to do a very goofy photo just for them that I include for free, you should see some of the faces & dance moves I get with this!

Austin Portrait Photographer Kelly Wendt

2.  Prepare to Play: I ask parents, especially when we are going to meet at the park for their family portrait session to reinforce the idea that their children are going to meet me for a fun photography session. Reminding that playing on the swings and the slide is a reward for listening well and doing a good job during their photo session.  If kiddos play first, they will get very attached to the  idea of play time and it can be difficult to tear them away {sometimes in tears} from the playground.   During my family portrait sessions children naturally want to play and run around a lot, which I encourage but it is hard to photograph a child and create a meaningful portrait for their parents when they are running here and there the whole time.  To quell this a bit, I ask them to be my helper or give a simple task.   If I am photographing a crawler or toddler, just forget about trying to have them sit still at all!  Crawlers and toddlers want to exercise their new found independence and explore the world and I explore it with them.  Most children ages 3-7 can stay in a seated spot easily for 3 minutes.  More than enough time to get plenty of great family portrait images.

Austin Photographer Kelly Wendt

3.  No Cheese Plz:  Fake smiles usually do not make the best smiles.  I’d rather have a non smiling serious family portrait of a child than a fake, painful smiling one.  I work hard to make sure that children I’m photographing are relaxed and having fun at my sessions.  Relaxed kids will smile and laugh.  I encourage moms and dads to not say Cheeeeze or do your nice smile!  When you ask a child to smile it is forced and what they end up doing is contorting their face, showing lots of gum line and exposing all their teeth in a painful looking growl.  They are actually using a completely different set of facial muscles when they smile for real.  In my book, natural expression and a child’s laughter trumps a fake made up smile every time.  We actually laugh with our bodies; the face lights up with energy, heads tilt back a bit, cheek muscles contract even your tummy gets involved in a good laugh. I encourage any and every parent to pull out the great dance moves or silly faces just behind me to get a nice chuckle from the little ones. I am not afraid to do a little jig or make fart noises (kids think farts are funny) for a good smile.

Austin Child Portrait Photographer

4.  Give Praise Often:  You’re a great listener! |  Oh my gosh!  Your so good at this….have you done this before? | Oh!  You look so pretty! |  Your eye are so blue, where did you get them from? | What a pretty dress. | Your nails are so pretty! | Wow that’s a cool hat! |  When I give praise, I make sure my face is expressive, let my eyes get wide open, smile, allow my voice to go an octave or two higher than I normally talk and be a very animated.  This is comforting and reassuring for children.  Remember I want to keep your young ones totally relaxed, feel secure, and have fun!!

Austin Portrait Photographer Kelly Wendt

5.  Clothing:  Styling and great clothing choices are essential elements for family portrait sessions.  When choosing clothing, incorporate color and texture but leave out loud prints, stripes and big logos.  Make sure the clothing fits nicely because too big or too baggy just doesn’t look good.  The two factors that I use to chose a clothing for a family portrait session for the color palette are eye color and skin tone.  If you have questions feel free to  email me with images of clothing that you are thinking of picking out or purchasing for your family portraits.  I always offer suggestions about what I think will work best for the look and feel you are wanting.  I’m a big fan of layering and bright colors for kids. I find that I can be an enormous help to the families that I am  photographing by helping them chose clothing that is appropriate for them and the environment that I am photographing them in.  I always suggest between two, maybe three outfits for a family portrait session.  This allows for variety and variety equals a greater selection of images for your portrait families.  P.S. A white tee-shirt and a pair of nicely worn blue jeans with one accessory pop are a timeless look that will never go out of style!

Austin Family Photographer Austin Child Photographer

6.  Accessorize:  For the ladies, some bling might be just the thing …. Shinny thick bangles and bracelets, a pearl necklace, a hip choker, some feathers in your hair or a great pair of boots or high heels.  For men a hip leather jacket, or a mod shirt with a great fit, a great long sleeve, button down {no starch please} rolled up at the cuffs, tails out.   A knit cap, a cool fedora, a funky wool hat, a knit textured scarf or a brightly colored silk scarf is a great finishing touch for any one. The key here is some but not too many.  Think of your clothing choices, patterns, colors, and go from there. If you need help you can always email me at kelly@kellywendt.com

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