Session Prep 101

 
 
 

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Click here to view and/or download your own copy of the Ma Belle Welcome Guide which included session prep tips for types of sessions.

LOCATION

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 tidying up a bit and basically putting stuff in the room where it belongs. Give windows and mirrors a quick wipe 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 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.

PREP THE FAMILY

Children 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 children, 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 the importance of a photo session 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 out your outfits as a family. They are big part of your family and most likely the reason you want these photos so involve them in the entire experience. I recommend offering 1 or 2 options to ease the process along. 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.

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 before 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.

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. Children will have a tendency to challenge their
parents, but will want to impress strangers (ahem, that’s me), so let me ask them where to look and how to pose. If I’m stumped, I will ask for you to step in, but generally children like me.This tip is also very important during extended family sessions. Please let me take the lead.

HAVE ACTIVITIES CAMERA-READY

Prior to your session, you will complete a questionnaire and we will plan your session. 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 might enjoy baking cookies together, so a good way to prepare 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.

For an outdoor session, bring along the familiar items you would generally bring with you when you 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. I also have props available, so if you're looking for anything specific, just let me know.

COMFORT IS KEY

Keep it casual by wearing comfortable clothes that reflect your personality and style. This applies to children as well. Please don’t force anyone to wear clothing that makes them cringe or itch. 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.

It is very important to coordinate outfits without being too "matchy" and to avoid bold patterns, wording or logos. For seasonal colour and clothing inspiration, follow me on Pinterest and check out my Style Guide.
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.  If you want your children to have clean cuts, do it at least a week before your session so they don't look "too" clean.

SMILE

This is your family; embrace it – all of it! Don’t get stressed out because your children are just being
themselves; it will show in your photos. Concentrate your energy on enjoying this time with your family. Look at your children, play with them, run around with them, enjoy them. Your children 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.

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.

 

SESSION PREP TIPS FOR EXTENDED FAMILY SESSIONS

WHAT TO WEAR Coordinating a large group is challenging. My recommendation is to select a colour palette with 3-5 colours and get everyone to select their clothing according to that palette. This way, everyone can still choose clothing that represents their unique personality and style, and still complement each other. Please avoid having everyone wear the same colour of top and/or bottoms. Need help? Send me a quick email. I’m happy to help.

LOCATION: I recommend avoiding tourist hot spots and/or busy public areas for extended family sessions. I need to provide direction therefore I need to be heard. It’s difficult to be heard in a busy public place. The location also needs to accommodate options for poses and backdrops for a large group. I can certainly offer suggestions during our pre-session consultation if you don’t have a specific location in mind.

GROUP INFO: I have a standard procedure set up for extended family sessions to optimize our time together and get all the proper groupings captured. It is imperative that family names and groupings be provided to me in advance of the session, as well as any “family secrets” that need to be shared to avoid any awkward or embarassing situations.

REFRESHMENTS: Bringing a cooler stocked with water and snacks is very helpful. Extended family sessions are longer than a typical session and there are pauses between groupings. Staying refreshed keeps people happy. Please do not bring anything that could stain or make large messes unless you only plan on serving them after the session.

TRANSPORTATION: Depending on the location, parking might be challenging so I recommend coordinating transportion in advance. It’s also easier to keep track of everyone with less vehicles involved.

ORDERING. Separate galleries will be provided to each family so that they can review and place their own orders.  Separate in-person ordering sessions will be scheduled for those within the Ottawa area. Families from out of town can place their orders through their onine gallery or by emailing us. We will require a contact name and email address for each family participating.


SESSION PREP TIPS FOR MATERNITY SESSIONS

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


SESSION PREP TIPS FOR NEWBORN SESSIONS

Temperature. Crank the heat (or turn off the air conditioning). The adults may feel  a bit hot and
uncomfortable, but the baby will be toasty and happy (and as you’re learning, their needs come first).

 Props. Collect any items you want used in the session beforehand such as blankets or stuffed animals.  We’ll go through these together to determine what and how we can use the items in your session.
 
Room Prep. I typically shoot a good portion of the session in the nursery,  in the master bedroom, or the couch; anywhere comfy and snuggly. No need to clean, but just try and make sure the clutter has found its way to a closet in these particular rooms.

Sibling Prep. For young siblings who still need a lot of attention and who are potentially having a difficult time transitioning to the new normal at home, please have activities ready for them or even a friend or family member present to help keep him/her occupied. We will tackle some family and sibling shots first while
everyone is cooperative.

Clothing. Keep in mind that I'm documenting a day in your life, so keep it real by wearing what you’re most comfortable in and by being yourself.  I encourage neutral colours, steering away from t-shirts with logos or bold patterns.  Casual clothing is perfect and bare feet look most natural in a home setting.  Moms, consider a light flowy shirty, maxi dress or a pretty cotton gown that will be both comfortable and soft while you are
cuddling with your new baby.

About 30 minutes before the scheduled session or before the baby naps, loosen the baby’s diaper to allow time for the diaper’s imprint marks to disappear. Also remove any tight clothing that could leave marks on the skin. You can swaddle baby in a warm blanket until I arrive; they tend to like that and it’s a sweet photo op.
 
NOTE: The house will be warmer than usual so dress appropriately for the temperature. 

For baby I recommend naked, in just a diaper or in just a neutral coloured onesie. I realize there are tons of really cute baby clothes but it’s rare to find any that fit properly or that won’t be distracting in photos.

Relax. If the baby gets fussy or alert, don’t worry. A baby can sense your anxiety and we want to keep the environment as mellow as possible. I am not in a rush and I will not bail because the baby isn’t sleeping or
cooperating.  C’est la vie! Take some deep breaths and enjoy this time with your new baby.