5 Steps to the Best Family Pictures EVER!

Wonderful family pictures are an investment in time and money.  If you are going to do it, do it right!  Here are a few tips I have gathered through ten plus years of photographing families.  I hope they help!

Step #1:     Decide Where You Want to Display Your Images

  • Take note of the room’s color scheme and style.  Your images will look best if they match.  If you have soft pastel colors and an elegant decor then bright colored clothing and a gritty urban setting isn’t the best choice and vice versa.
  • How much space do you have to fill?  Are you looking for a single wall portrait or a grouping of several images together?  Does your main image need to be horizontal or vertical?  These are all questions to think of before you take your images whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a professional.
  • What style of finished product are you looking for, a traditional framed print or a more modern gallery wrap etc.?  With gallery wraps there needs to be more empty space around the family to allow for the image to wrap around the edges.  Wording or blank space can be used but it’s nice to know going into a shoot what you have in mind.

Step #2:     Decide Where and When to Take Your Images

  • Once you have decided where you want to display your images you can choose a location where the color and style will match your room.  If you have pastel decor perhaps you would like a meadow with wildflowers.  If you are traditional perhaps a studio setting with a basic background would do best.  Do you like more modern looks?  Then an urban location may be perfect for you.  Keep in mind you can also go black and white or sepia (like black and white but with a old-fashioned brownish cast) with your images.
  • Choose a location that means something to you.  Do you love the beach or the mountains?  Do you have horses or vintage cars or all love soccer.  Bring your personalities into your pictures, you will like them more!
  • Do you have young children.  Choose a time when they won’t be tired.
  • As a general rule late afternoon/evening has the prettiest light.  Depending on the location I try to schedule shoots to start about one half hour before the sun sets.  A half hour before sun rise works too but most people don’t want to get up that early.

Step #3:   What Should You Wear?

  • Having a color scheme works better than a single color.  It is much easier to say “fall colors” than “everyone wear brown”.  You would be surprised how many different shades of brown there are and sometimes they just don’t mesh together.  Some ideas that I like are fall colors, spring colors, bright primary colors, black and white, denim and white, white and khaki,  Americana, nautical (khaki, white, and blues), or black and white with an extra accent color.  If you have a large extended family and can’t get together to check outfits try gathering paint chips from a local Home Improvement Store so that everyone has a clear idea of what you are visualizing.
  • You want the viewer’s focus to be on the faces so as a general rule think longer sleeves and pants.  Knees are especially unattractive.
  • Watch the shoes.  Now it depends on the look you are going for but I’ve had it happen before that there is a wonderful semi-formal family portrait  and because your eye tends to be drawn to the brightest spot all you can see is the kid’s big white sneakers.  Meh!
  • Little girls are so cute in skirts but bear in mind that if you are wanting really playful images of them in a fun location that you will struggle with keeping everything covered that needs to be covered.
  • Stay away from trendy or matchy-matchy.  We all remember the matching plaid shirts of the 90’s.  Family portraits are an investment so it’s nice if they can stand the test of time and that you won’t cringe when you look at them in ten years.
  • Solid colors are safest!  Stay away from loud patterns.  Once again we want the viewers to focus on the faces.  Also, stripes+plaids+florals+polka dots= a big ‘ol mess.  Final thought for you ladies…patterns make you look larger.  That being said you need to match the look you are going for so if you want to break the rules, by all means do so, but know why.  I love little girls in crazy mismatched bright colors, the colors hold the outfit together and the look is super fun and playful.  Also I personally wanted a gritty urban look for my last family pictures so we did black and white and I purposely put two of my kids in black and white stripes.
  • Lighter looks bigger, darker looks smaller.  So if you want either your top or bottom to appear slimmer, wear a darker color there.
  • Wear something that you are comfortable in and that makes you feel attractive.  It will show in the image…it’s like magic.

Step #4:  Have a Plan for the Big Day.

  • Write down a list of all the breakdowns that you want i.e. boys together, girls together, grandparents with grandkids,  siblings together.  IF YOU DON”T YOU WILL FORGET SOMETHING AND THEN YOU WILL BE SAD!
  • Decide what the most important image is and take it first!  If the whole family together is the most important start with that and then take whatever images involve the smallest children next so that they can be done.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get ready so that you are not rushed and stressed.
  • Keep things as positive as possible.  If you have a miserable experience then that is what you will remember every time you look at your images.  Definitely NOT what you want.
  • Bribery is awesome but be careful what you are bribing with.  Gooey chocolate is just asking for trouble.  To be honest I always start weeks ahead telling my kids (and husband) how important taking our pictures is to me and how if we can all have good attitudes and cooperate we will be done faster and then go to somewhere like McDonald’s after.  We also practice our smiling off and on in the weeks leading up to our shoot.
  • Bring a bag of necessities.  Hairspray, combs, band aids, mosquito repellent (from experience), water, snacks, anything in the world you can think of that may be needed.
  • Know when to say when.

Step #5:  Get Your images Up on the Wall!!

  • The photographs of your beloved family will bring you so much joy, don’t drop the ball and leave them on a disc in a box that may or may not be in a drawer somewhere, get them printed and on display!
  • You can use ready made frames or have your images professionally framed for you.
  • When hanging my images I cut out pieces of paper the same size as my finished images and gently tape them to the wall.  I adjust the papers until I get everything just right then hammer a nail through the paper in the right spot, peel off the paper and hang my photographs.  I do this EVERY time.  It works great!
  • Finally sit back with a beverage and a snack and enjoy all of your hard work, you deserve it!

15% off Temple Pictures to Celebrate the Denver Temple

Last weekend my husband and I went on a mini trip to Denver to see a Rockies game, visit the Denver Colorado temple and for him to just have a much needed break from his MBA classes and very busy work schedule.  I also needed a weekend away to be able to face the end of school.  May is far worse than December as far as being crazy busy at our house.  This week is so nuts I almost want to cry and I have determined to just take one day at a time because I would really like to get through this week with grace, poise and aplomb.

Anyway back to the trip.  Todd wants to visit every major league baseball stadium in the country and I’m game for that because I love adventures.  We both would like to visit all of the temples in the country and preferably the world but that may be too lofty of a goal.  We had  a lovely time and it was nice to enjoy the drive and be able to talk and reconnect.  Our schedule worked out that we needed to visit the temple on Saturday morning.  I’ve always determined that I would just take my photographs of the temples when I could and try not to worry about it not being the “ideal” time because I can’t control that and have to let it go.  That being said, Saturday morning in the very worse time to try to take temple pictures.  That is my tip to my fellow shooters.  Whenever I’ve had to do it it has been very difficult or even not worked out at all.  There are just too many people about.

Below is the link to more pictures of the Denver Temple on my Fine Art Boutique and I am also running a special on all of my temple pictures through the end of May.  Enter the code LDSTemples at checkout to receive 15% off of any of my temple pictures and thank you so much for taking the time to visit.

much love

~mandie 🙂


Tips for a Show-Stoppin’ Headshot

I recently ran a Headshot special for all my theatrically-minded friends and I got a lot of questions on hair, make-up, and apparel so here is  a post on headshot info/tips with the hope of being helpful to those who have questions in the future as I intend to make this special a yearly event.

What to Wear?

When we look at a picture our eyes tend to be drawn to the lightest spot or the area with the greatest light/dark contrast (usually the same thing).  What we want in a headshot is for the viewers eyes to be drawn first to the subject’s eyes.  Ideally the whites of the eyes against the pupils/lashes/eyebrows will create the greatest contrast and make our eyes want to look directly there first with our secondary area of attention being the persons mouth.  I tell people to wear dark solid colors (never, never, NEVER loud patterns).  This insures that your face will be lighter and more attention grabbing than what you are wearing.

Black is my favorite color for people to wear as it looks especially nice when converted to black and white but any dark color will do.  In California people often give a color headshot but in Utah black and white is more common.  I also like to think in terms of how a headshot will look in a program and they are almost always printed in black and white (even on Broadway).  If you are taking your own or having a friend do it for you please remember to try to make your background be as plain as possible.  Having objects growing out of your head is distracting and frankly looks unprofessional.  I study programs every time I go to an event and I really feel that the best headshots have either plain white/light grey backgrounds or are cropped so that you don’t see any background behind the person at all.  If you are looking for press kit pictures then I do like to have more environment showing but be careful that it is not distracting.

I do like a little subtle detailing at the neck.  Just a little somethin’ somethin’  but not too much to be distracting.  For gentlemen I think either a collar or a sliver of white shirt under a darker overshirt or sweater looks best.  Never a T-shirt by itself.  Guys should look classy and masculine.

Ladies, for make-up think a little darker than normal day wear.  You want eyeliner and mascara to make your eyes pop and lipstick to draw attention to your smile.  Blush to define your cheekbones is also nice.  If you have only a light lip gloss your lips will look the same shade of grey as your skin when you convert the image to black and white so a darker lip color works best.  However you still want to look like yourself so don’t go too overboard with your make-up.  Remember we are just trying to pull the attention first to the eyes and secondly to the mouth.

Last of all be careful of how you convert your images from color to black and white.

This is me and I’m not the best example because I have dark hair and naturally pale skin but I was afraid I would hurt someone’s feelings if I used them.  Even here you can see from the middle picture that if you just take out the saturation you get a whole lot of boring grey and it’s much much worse for those who have say, sandy blond/ light brown hair and tan skin. The picture on the right has been altered through levels and curves in Photoshop. At the very least you can bump up your contrast which even the most basic in store or online printing services will let you do.  Of course ideally you will have a professional help you.  When walking into an audition it really is so important to put your best foot (or face) forward!