Thanks to Wisconsin photographerÂ Sonya Kammes, who I found through Instagram and hired to take family photos this summer, for turning me into a believer. In hiring a pro, that is.
I always thought, Â “Meh, we take zillions of photos,” and our cameras have gotten so good these days, that we probably wouldn’t get something much better from a formal shoot, and so I never arranged one. It seemed like the odds were slim that we would catch a better moment in the hour a photographer was around our family than one that occurred naturally in our daily lives.
Well, I was wrong.
The lighting, the location, the poses, and the composition of the photos all worked together to produce a beautiful set of pictures that we’ll enjoy forever. This session was a gift to my mother-in-law. I arranged it in the middle of a three-day extended family vacation. Brilliant – we were all there!
Here are the things I loved about doing a professional family photo session.
I am in the photos.Â I’ll never be this young again! Okay, that’s my vanity talking. But really, having paid someone to capture you means you can be in every shot, not just the one you ask yourÂ partner to take so you can be in it.
Professional quality. The person you hire will keep shooting until they get it right. When I ask a friend or stranger at a tourist attraction to photograph my family, I don’t feel liberated to boss them around. Paying someone means they pay attention to detail. If yourÂ bra strap is showing, they will tell you.
The photos are about one thing only: family.Â When we pose in our vacation pics in front of a sea lion on the beach, the photo is about the sea lion and the beach. A dedicated photo session focuses only on you. Our photographer Sonya had a few tricks to get playful interactions out of our family. Everyone was not looking into the camera and saying cheese. Also, she selected a setting that made us stand out. In our case, we are in an open field. (Hey, you guys are out standing in your field!)
I have also seen beautiful work from Icarian Photography in which the family home is the setting. I like this concept because it’s capturing a moment in time, but probably only a pro can properly light and shoot inside the house and still make the subjects shine.
The wardrobe direction.Â Months in advance, Sonya sent me a 42-page PDF with guidance on how to outfit my family, which I distilled for them into two commands. Here’s what I sent to my extended family:
+ More dressy than normal vacation days!Â Shoes not well-worn, no athleticÂ wear. Layers and accessories are welcome. I’m telling this because you might not normally pack them for this vacation.Â
+ Pale, neutral color palette:Â grey, khaki, cream, muted navy, brown. This approach makes our faces stand out most. To make it easy for us to accomplish matching without being in uniform, I am going to just suggest these pastel colors as seen below. If we stick with it, we will look great.
I included the image below to help them visualize what pastelÂ means without sending everyone on a goose chase to buy themselves pink polo shirts, and I warned them not to twin with their siblings or partners and not to wear red or black (in case they were still unclear about pale neutrals).
I am so happy we took an hour out of our family vacation to take these photos. We have candids at the lake, but (surprise!) they’re mostly of the kids and probably not heirloom worthy.
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