What to Expect - A Session Prep Guide, Michelle Ma Belle Photography
I'm a planner. I can relax much more if I know what to expect and feel prepare in advance. Hopefully this information helps my clients to do the same so the they can fully enjoy their experience and their images.
Session Prep 101
If your session is taking place in your home, it's important to prep your space. It does not have to be perfect. It’s your home and it’s supposed to look lived in, and if you have little ones, it's VERY well lived in. You don’t have to hire a professional cleaning company before your session or redecorate the living room; I’m there to focus on you and the interactions with your family. Focus on decluttering your home, which means just tidying up a bit and basically putting stuff in the room where it belongs (no coats on couch or towels on bed sort of thing). Giving windows or mirrors a quick wipe does go a long way because streaks or dust on these surfaces can be very obvious in photographs.
If you're planning an outdoor session, consider places that are familiar to your family or a place where you go together to unwind or play. It's good for me to know in advance so that I can check out any restrictions and/or conflicting schedules (like a festival of sorts) before we get there. I can certainly offer some professional recommendations according to your family's needs and dynamics, as well as my own experience at certain locations.
2) Prep the family
Kids can be tricky and the challenges vary depending on the age. Babies of course are typically unpredictable so the best thing to do is be flexible and go with the flow. For kids, it’s important to prepare them for the session by giving them advance notice and providing reminders as the session date approaches. Don’t underestimate their capability of understanding an important photo shoot and their need to prepare mentally. Sit your kids down and include them in the session prep. Tell the truth and be positive. If Dad isn’t thrilled about having his picture taken, I can guarantee Timmy will share the feeling. Pick your outfits the day before TOGETHER. They are big part of your family and most likely the reason you want these photos so involve them in the entire experience. If they want to bring their stuffy or their cape along to the session, let them. These are details that reflect their personality and mark this time in their life; you want those captured.
3) No bribery please
I used to be all for bribery until I experienced a few challenging sessions where parents used this technique and it totally backfired. It made sense at the time but think about it…if someone tells you that in an hour you will get a chocolate bar, what are you going to focus on?? That creamy chocolatey goodness. The smiles will be fake, the whining typically increases and the photos suffer. Unless your kids are old enough to grasp the concept of time, promising your kids toys or candy during a photo session will make them want that treat NOW, making them impatient and cranky. Instead, treat them to something fantastic afterwards, without notice – they will love you long time xoxo
4) Have activities camera ready
Prior to your session, I will ask you to complete a questionnaire. It’s important for me to know what your family enjoys doing together and which interactions are must captures. For an in-home session, it’s important to have those activities prepared to allow for the shoot to run smoothly and not cause any unnecessary stress trying think of “something” to do. If the family loves to play with puzzles, have a puzzle started and ready to complete together. You could enjoy baking cookies together, so a good way to prepare for that would be to have a batch made, and have another batch ready to roll and bake. If the baby needs to go for a nap, plan that towards the end of the session; it’s a very intimate and tender daily ritual worth capturing. The goal is to capture what you do during your days - and let me be a part of it.
For an outdoor session, bring along the familiar items you would generally bring with you when visit that location. If you like to lay on a blanket and read at the park, bring your quilt and your favourite book. If you like to blow bubbles (and really, who doesn't?), bring that magical liquid along and blow your little heart out. Of course, I also have many props available for use as well so if you're looking for anything specific, just let me know.
5) Comfort is key
Keep it real by wearing what you’re most comfortable in and by being yourself. If your little one lives in a superhero cape – fun! Let them be themselves. Let hubby have a little scruff and leave the tie behind. No socks and sandals please; no one wants to remember that ;)
Moms, primp yourself just a bit; enough to photograph well but still be YOU. It’s not the time to try a new hairstyle or redefine your look. The same thing applies to your kids. If you want the kids to have clean cuts, do it at least a week before your session so they don't look "too" clean.
Coordinate outfits without being too "matchy" and avoid bold patterns, wording or logos. For more info on how to dress for your session, check out my Seasonal What to Wear Guides and visit me on Pinterest for inspiration.
6) Let me do the talkin'
I’ve worked with many families and I’ve learned A LOT along the way. I’m also a mother myself (of 3 very spirited boys) so I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Kids will have a tendency to challenge their parents as much as possible, but will want to IMPRESS strangers (ahem, that’s me), so let me ask them where to look and how to act. If I’m stumped, I will ask for you to step in, but generally kids like me (just not my own haha).
This is your family; embrace it – ALL of it! Don’t get stressed out because your kids are just being themselves; it will show in your photos. Concentrate your energy on smiling and laughing for the camera. Look at your kids, play with them, run around with them, ENJOY them. Your kids will enjoy themselves so much more during your session if you goof around with them and tickle them rather than telling them to behave or to sit down.
Oh and don’t worry about me; I’m used to running around, being silly and burning a lot of calories during a session ;)
Ultimately, I want REAL smiles. I want you to enjoy this experience as much as I enjoy capturing it. It’s ok to be a bit nervous. I have to admit that I don’t get in front of the camera much myself! But I can guarantee you that you will not regret having these memories to cherish and your children will eventually thank you for it.
A few tips specific to maternity:
Layers & Textures: Layers add texture and contrast, and look especially lovely with a bump. During the warmer months, a light, flowy dress is a good option and can be paired with a shawl or fun jewellery. If dresses aren’t your thing, an airy and light coloured top is a great alternative. During the colder months, scarves, mitts and hats make great accent pieces. Dark, rich colours offer a great contrast with the white snow. Add texture by mixing materials like cotton, lace, wool, etc... Avoid clothing that is shiny, overly baggy, full of busy patterns, or neon - not that fluorescent pink is really in right now anyway.
Figure flattering: Trust me, even though you may not feel like you do now, you WILL want to look back on your lovely, life bearing body; and so will your children. Embrace it, flaunt it and show it off! Wear clothing that flows over your beautiful bump and hugs your curves.
Hair & Makeup: Treat yourself and feel pretty! Please remember that whatever you decide to you do, make sure that you still look like YOU. Keep the words “soft & natural” in the back of your mind, and in the mind of your hair dresser/makeup artist. Makeup applied evenly and modestly photographs really well. When choosing your hairstyle, consider the location, the potential weather and your clothing. Your hairstyle should be consistent with the overall look you want to achieve. Bring along any makeup, lip gloss, hair pins, etc… that you may need for touch-ups during the session.
Props: This is entirely up to you. If you have any items of special meaning, such as a baby outfit, shoes, blanket, picture or toy, bring them along and I can incorporate them into a shot.
Siblings: A family maternity session is definitely an option and certainly encouraged. Please list all subjects participating in your session in your agreement form.
Hydrate: Take care of yourself – and that baby! Believe it or not, a photo session can be tiring and the most common thing that people overlook is staying hydrated (myself included). Bring along a bottle of water and/or snacks so you can keep your energy flowing.