Here's the thing: I love the sentiment of everyone getting together and celebrating the joyous occasion of family get togethers. I know how important photos are because those are the memories you'll hold onto once the memories begin to fade. What I don't like is everyone stressed out about outfits, running around last minute because people just flew into town and pleading with their kids to smile at the camera.
Guess what? Your kid may or may not smile at the camera. With the stress and pressure of the day, the odds are definitely against your children smiling for me.
My philosophy is about play - not that unicorn image of everyone smiling at the camera
I would love to say "sure! I can get a few group photos and then move on!". But we all know it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes it takes 45 minutes to get 1 photo of everyone looking at the camera. It gets harder with the more children that are involved. Suddenly "just 1 photo" turns into your entire session being used up, inadvertently amping up stress levels for everyone involved.
And "1 photo" in my experience is never just "1 photo". People will be unhappy with their hair, or their smiles, or their poses when things get stressful. I'm focusing solely on the children so I can't focus on the 8 other people in the image. Suddenly "1 photo" turns into "I hate my hair in this! Let's try again". There will always be that uncle Jerry that is pointing at the camera asking the toddler to smile at the camera, or an auntie Jane is staring off to the side. And this is after aunt Katie is running late and joins 10 minutes after the session was scheduled to begin.
After this, grandma will want just them with the grandkids. Then it'll break down into smaller groupings if multiple families are involved. Then the siblings only photos... oh and Jerry just wants one updated photo of him and Jane! "While we're here, can we ..... "
You get the idea.
These boys were so good that we could easily get this photo. 95% of my extended family sessions I've done in the past haven't been this carefree and fun. And this is why I no longer offer them. I have realized I'm just not good at them and that's OK!
Suddenly the session is no longer adhering to my philosophy of relaxed play and I've lost control. I'll be unhappy because I'm not good at these types of photos, and everyone will be stressed out which will only ruin the chance for playful, fun documentary-style images afterward.
What I CAN agree to is spending the first 5 minutes of the session trying to get an image that's 'classic'. If it doesn't work out and the kids aren't feeling it, we move on. No pressure on anyone for 'perfection'. It will be completely child-led. If they don't want to smile at the camera, then you have to be OK with that. I won't be making funny faces to get them to smile because I have my mask on. No funny noises or dances either. Just completely child-led and how they're feeling at that moment. If they want to smile at the camera - incredible!! Everyone is happy.
Only you know how you'll truly feel. Be honest. Booking me with the expectation that I'll get THAT photo will only lead to disappointment for all of us. If your kids will smile if asked and if your baby is always happy then it'll likely work out. If you know your 4 toddlers will do pained "cheese faces" or look away because they are shy... the odds are it's not going to happen. Then you have to be OK that we move onto full documentary style images This is the imagery you chose me for anyway.
So be honest when booking me. Know that I don't specialize in posed family portraiture and I do not do extended family sessions unless you are OK with playful camera-unaware imagery that's just about interaction with your family members and not staring at the camera. If you're super-easy-going and go-with-the-flow and happy with just capturing your time together then I am your photographer!!! My goal is for you to book the right photographer for your needs and personality.
It's all about expectations
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