So a little while ago now I made a really quick video giving a few of my key tips for parents to get the most out of their child or family photoshoot, so I thought as I have 10 minutes I would type them up! So here we go. If you can't be bothered to read watch the video instead - the sound isn't great!
Outfit selection is often key to creating timeless images. My advice is always to avoid big logos, images and brand names on clothes. The shoot is about your the people in the picture and the viewer should be looking at your faces not being distracted by big logos etc. The same goes for colours and patterns I would always recommend that you go for solid colours avoiding patterns and ideally sticking to muted tones rather than strong bright ones, it's all about not distracting the viewer from what's important - the people in the picture!
It's fine to co-ordinate your outfits if everyone wants to for example wearing blue jeans and a white top (quite a popular look) it can be really good to co-ordinate but my advice would be co-ordinate don't match exactly that just looks odd. So in the blue jeans and white shirt example, go for different shades of blue and various cuts, and with the white tops someone could have a collar, someone with long sleeves, someone with short etc, just mix up the styles is the idea.
Yes, Socks! such an important part of the outfit that it gets a mention all on its own. Quite rarely will you keep your shoes on in a family shoot as you don't want dirty soles showing up when you are sat on the floor with kids etc. And novelty socks or patterned socks are hugely distracting. my recommendation is barefoot or all wearing simple black socks - it's amazing what a difference this can make to an image!
If there will be kids involved in your shoot (and maybe even if there isn't) everyone should have a second outfit - kids are unbelievably good at not only getting themselves in a mess but also everyone around them too!
Talk to your photographer
This sounds simple and obvious but not everyone feels they can. I can't speak for every photographer but for me, I want to create the best images possible and a big part of that is communicating with clients beforehand...I want to know who is coming, what their names and ages are, what the relationships are, and what you hope to get from the shoot, is it for Gran's birthday and you need prints back by a certain date, do you just want to achieve one outstanding portrait to feature on a specific wall or do you want a variety of shots to record a moment in time....you really can't give me too much information when it comes to making sure you get the most out of your time at the shoot.
Not sure about outfit choices email over the options and I'll tell you which I think is best it isn't a problem.
Finally, stop worrying about getting the kids to smile etc.
A really common scenario for parents at a photo-shoot is that they are hyper worried about whether the kids are smiling or if they look happy etc. This leads to two common problems with the images.
Scenario 1 parents in the photo are so worried about the kids' expression that they are never actually looking at the camera or thinking about their own expression so we end up with loads of images where the kids look great and the adults are pulling odd faces or contorting trying to see the kids or trying to tickle them in an attempt to get big smiles etc.
Scenario 2 only the kids are in the photo and the parents are off to one side desperately trying to make the kids make big smiles etc. In a great photo, the kids are looking straight down the lens - this will never happen if the parents have them looking off to the side.
Getting the kids to look at the camera to give a range of emotions and expressions is my job, not yours so just chill out and enjoy the shoot yourself! If you can create a relaxed vibe in yourself that always translates to a relaxed vibe in your kids, which translates to great images. If I need your help (occasionally I might) I'm not shy I'll ask for it and I will tell you exactly where to stand etc to get the best results .... trust me I know what I'm doing.
The only job the grown-ups need to concern themselves with is the one that lasts 24 hours a day every day keeping the kids safe! I'll have my eyes to the camera so I won't always see a kid climbing up a ladder in the corner so stopping that's your job.