Beautiful family session in Sacramento by Rachel Sima PhotographyRead More
I don’t know if I’ve ever met a dad who was particularly excited about sitting for his family portrait. I genuinely believe dads value the photographs, or will with time. No one, in my family, is more likely to walk you through each and every one of the old family photographs than my father in-law. But actually making the portraits is more often an excruciating study in martial compromise.
The mothers arrive, having dressed the entire group in a carefully orchestrated coordinating outfits, hauling a bag full of handmade photo props, floral accessories, and a change of shoes in one hand and a small child in the other. Behind her, the dad is making slow forward progress while checking his watch.
The first time a father demanded, “are we done yet?” (mid-session) I was taken aback. Now, I’m more surprised when I get through an entire session without having to coach dad on revising a strained facial expression.
To this end, I want to make a potentially controversial suggestion. Every family portrait doesn’t have to be the entire family, every time. Instead, consider having a full Family Portrait made in the fall (for holidays cards and/or posterity,) but make the spring session a Mommy & Me. In most families, dads and kids are photographed disproportionally to mom anyway. Everyone acknowledges this phenomena but few bother to compensate for it.
Some extra good news: in January all Family Portraits (including Mommy & Me) are discounted! Click through to schedule a snuggly home session (like the one featured here.)
My favorite subjects to photograph are women and children. There are exceptions to this rule (for example, my husband who has posed for literally thousands of photographs and I’ll never have enough.) Generally, though, I gravitate towards women and children because of their exquisite softness. When I spend time with someone, I slowly begin to build a portrait of her in my mind. In social situations it often builds over the course of hours and days until, unless the subject strikes me as particularly camera averse, I typically, finally, come out and ask if I can take her photograph. Or else, equally commonly, I don’t, and wish I had.
The process of pre-imagining the portrait is vital, and it is the central reason I prefer full client sessions over mini sessions. I don’t need more than twenty minutes to physically press the shutter release, but spending time with my subject, interpersonally, watching their features and movements, I’m able to plan the portrait based on the specificity of my subject and the resulting photograph is always more vivid and expressive.
Birthdays punctuate the monochromatic succession of our days, subdividing the amorphous landscape of our lives into conceptually manageable pieces. To this end, celebrating a birthday serves an important objective. It anchors the memory of that year.
We want to remember our lives, to be able to look back at our past and understand it’s narrative arc. Setting one day aside to acknowledge the year with a special experience serves that intention.
Historically, I’ve liked to travel for my birthday because the change in location is distinction enough to isolate the day in my mind (i.e. 26? We were in Rhode Island that year! We cooked those lobsters and then we were so horrified by how they rattled in the pot we couldn’t eat them, remember?)
Now I have a toddler, and a husband, and a schedule, and traveling isn’t always an option anymore. So, last year, I planned a little photoshoot for my birthday. The photographs weren’t for holiday cards or social media or work. The photoshoot was the celebratory birthday experience.
For your next birthday, or birthday gift, consider fine art boudoir, perhaps in lieu of another evening of dinner and drinks.
The boudoir sessions I offer are tailored to each client’s desires. They can be an extravaganza of professional florals, hair and make-up with champagne and luxury lingerie or a quiet hour in your home garden, barefoot in a cotton tee shirt. The choice is yours, and the options are limitless and personal.
A boudoir shoot won’t interrupt your schedule, require you to book a flight, or leave you painfully hungover. A boudoir shoot will create both a celebratory experience and also a beautiful series of photographs to cherish forever. In every way it will give to you more than it takes.
Are you ready to celebrate? If so, let’s book your session.
How did you develop your essential style? For most of us, three fundamental processes guided our evolution.
One: aspiration. We looked at books, watched movies, studied our mother and our best friend’s mother, we looked to our friends, to movie stars, and we examined individuals on the street.
Two: experimentation. We gave things a shot. This started early. Today, if you put a hat on your head, you’ll look over and see your toddler is putting a washcloth on her head. Her face says, “so this is the kinda thing you like, huh?” She’s seeing if it’s the kind of thing she likes too.
Three: we internalized limits. Your father wouldn’t let you wear a cape to first grade, a friend sneered at your well-worn back-pack, a bride in a movie admonishes her ostentatious bridesmaid. By the time you were in middle school the routine of asking what each of your friends would wear prior to any event had become codified tradition.
As you grow up, demands that you dress for the context of the experience become ever more direct. A luncheon with colleagues specifies, “business casual attire” in the invitation. As a thought experiment: why? What good comes from the constant (often self-imposed) group-think around dressing for an event? That’s a question for you, I’m not following that thread of thought because I have another agenda today: your style, on the day of your portrait session.
If you extract one idea from this post, let it be this: style your session from a blank slate. Wipe your mind clean of the image of your neighbor’s coordinated flannel ensemble from last year’s Christmas card. Can you dress your family in matching white shirts and jeans for the day? Yes. Should you? No.
Instead, grab a copy of a fashion magazine. I’ve begun the work here for you. Flip through the editorial images. Stop and take a closer look at the images that appeal to you. What details are you responding to? How can you use these?
Consider the sheer imaginative possibilities if you stepped back and viewed your upcoming portrait session as a creative opportunity to playfully style yourself, and family, in the most enterprising, romantic, inspired, original way you can. Get generative. Pretend you’re dressing for a float in a parade. It isn’t a competition, the point is to awe, attract attention, and delight. Blending in is the opposite of the point.
To this end, three suggestions:
First, no jeans. Not because jean’s are bad but because they are a contemporary shorthand for, “I don’t want to think about it.” Of course, if the most originative you is visualizing a heavily Americana inspired shoot, complete with cowboy boots and leather accessories agleam with patina: then, yes, break out the jeans.
Secondly, during a photoshoot, a long skirt is practical. This seems counterintuitive because a chiffon gown, or floor length maxi would be challenging if you were, say, taking the bus to the grocery store. But in this situation, a long skirt provides a clean backdrop for photographing your little ones. Also, it allows you to sit on the ground, stand, bend and lift without need to exert valuable mental energy on the modesty of your pose. Finally, in your photographs, I can utilize movement of the fabric to a beautiful end.
Bonus points: flowers. There’s a reason they’re de riguer at weddings. They’re beautiful, whimsical accessories that can fit into any thematic vision. I don’t care if you’re styling the whole group in post-apocalyptic inspired ensemble, there’s a way to incorporate flowers. Keep them in mind.