Our family pictures tell our story. The story of who we were, who we are, and help to illuminate our life's path – who we are becoming. A picture can bring back the memory of Raines' sweet, vanilla-scented baby breath, or what it felt like to squish Pax's fat legs between my fingers. Seeing the photographic evidence of my husband's progression from an all-night partier in college to the man rocking his baby to sleep to the man caring for his wife after my recent mastectomy…it brings me to tears. Pictures are powerful.
So it's no surprise, then, that there is a huge demand for family photographers. As parents, we watch, awed, as our children – and ourselves – grow in all kinds of surprising directions, the time often slipping though our fingers (even as it seems to stand still). This is BIG STUFF, we think. This is our life. And so we hire the photographers, hoping to capture our children's spirit, the depth of our love, our unique lives.
And when they get it, when they get that shot, that one that so perfectly captures our family….it's magic.
Not perfect, but perfectly captured.
But it's hard to do. The kids sometimes don't cooperate, husbands never seem to know how to smile naturally, and many family shots come off as forced…the exact opposite of magical. So let's redefine the family photo. Let's go for something that's uniquely you. Let's go for something real. Let's go beyond the 'everyone sit and SAY CHEEEEEESE'.
So. Over the next year, I'll be partnering with various photographers to highlight some amazing family photo inspiration. We'll cover natural posing ideas (hint: based on activities so no one stands around awkwardly), fun props, and how to pull together family outfits that are cohesive, without being matchy-matchy. And we'll cover ideas you can use now. Like, right now. Because who says you have to wait for autumn leaves to get a good family pic? Not. Freaking. Me.
First up? Our first-ever Family Photo Inspiration: Late Winter. Think snuggles, snow, and smooches.
The Photographers: Vafa-Coffman Photography
The Vafa-Coffmans (Paul and Amy) are husband-and-wife photographers based in Marquette, MI (my hometown). Our recent photo session kinda blew my mind. I wanted something relaxed, but special. And something uniquely us. As they mention on their website, "We are supporters and listeners. We are dreamers….it is our dream to bring out your confidence, capture your beauty, and create irreplaceable memories." And yup – they sure did.
The Scene: A morning at home, in pajamas.
Clothes: Try pajamas or loungewear! And maybe decide if you want bare feet or cute socks / slippers. (I ended up switching to slippers last minute because I forgot to get a pedicure – oops.) To keep the color scheme cohesive, try pjs of different patterns in similar shades, or bring one pop of contrasting color throughout (for us it was red – on my lips, the trim on Mike's shirt, and Pax's stuffed animal.)
Props: Favorite stuffed animals, a good book
Posing Ideas: Snuggle up together on the bed, whisper secrets in each other's ears (remember the telephone game?). Tickle the kids, fly them up as airplanes, or sit down and read a favorite book out loud. And make the most of the winter sun by looking out the window – you can get some amazing shots with the reflection on the glass.
The Scene: Brave The Cold And Play Outside
Posing Ideas: Instead of just meeting the photographer outside, have them first come in to take pictures as you get ready. The act of putting on boots, zipping up coats – these are things we've done a million times, this is the stuff of life…and these everyday moments can make for some really tender shots. Once outside? Play. Run up and down the street, give each other cheesy kisses, push the kids into a snowbank, build a snowman (on my list for next year).
Props: Your full winter gear – snowboots, mittens, etc.
Clothing: Kid's winter gear is typically bright – just go with it. If everyone (or almost everyone) is wearing something bright, it'll work – especially if there's also grounding black in everyone's outfit. Additionally, choose one of the colors in your kid's gear to pull into your own outfits via a scarf, mittens, hat or lipstick.
The Scene: Go Out For Cocoa
Posing Ideas: Try heading out to a favorite family haunt for hot chocolate. Have the photograpers treat it like a wedding and shoot the location (especially if this places holds a special spot in your heart). Then, walk in (have them shoot you walking down the street, walking into the place, etc.) and order up. There will be plenty of photo opportunities of your kids being themselves, and they'll probably sit still for a bit once the hot chocolate comes. You and hubs can even sneak off to a nearby table for a few shots. (Plan this one in advance, though. It's always a good idea to call first and let the establishment know you are coming in. Most coffee shops, etc. don't charge a fee, but you never know.) This scene works really well with grandparents, too.
Props: Mugs of hot chocolate, the coffee shop itself
Clothing: We peeled off the bright snowgear, and went with casual, cozy pieces – jeans, sweaters, plaid and stripes.
A huge thank you to Donkers in Marquette and to Paul and Amy Vafa-Coffman. We couldn't be more thrilled with the results. You can read more about our shoot on the Vafa-Coffman blog.
Want to participate? Family Photo Inspiration will be a recurring series on the blog, so if you've recently had a family photo session that knocked your socks off, or you are a family photographer with an eye for something fresh or unique, I'd love to hear from you. Email me: aintnomomjeans (at) gmail (dot) com
I love this! Our family started doing photo sessions when I was pregnant w/ our daugther. Now we’ve done a newborn & 1 year session for her & are looking forward to a newborn session of our 2nd in a few weeks. And I’m sure we’ll keep doing this for years. One extra thing to remember, dont forget about the family pet (if you have one). The best, and I mean THE BEST, photos are the ones w/ our dog in it. I can’t wait to see what you have in mind for planning outfits that coordinate but look normal. This has been my biggest struggle. I’ve spent the last month taking screen shots of items for each person & then collaging them together like paper dolls. The most difficult thing was deciding before the essential kids clothing item is sold out in the size you need. The second was finding what I’ll be comfortable in 10 days post-partum!
Love this series! I want to take family pictures but absolutely DO NOT want anything that feels too posed. Any recommendations for a family photographer in Chicago? Thanks!
SO cute! What great shots! SO much better then Sears!
I love these shots! So much better then Sears!
love love LOVE that you are doing this series! thank you so much – keep ’em coming!
We wore outerwear (jeans+jacket) for our family pic this year and it. was. fabulous. No worrying about not matching or over-matching. No uncomfortable clothing meltdowns. No stress over looking flawless. Whew, felt good. And naturally this is the pic that everyone has raved over.
These are beautiful. Can’t wait to see more of the series!
Alyssa, I used Fender and Donisch in Naperville, IL for my wedding photos, and they are AMAZING. They have this photo journalistic style that I love, and they are always willing to shoot photos in unique locations. I cannot recommend them enough!
Hey Alyssa! We travel to Chicago every few months to visit family and shoot in the area. If you’re interested in booking a family sesh give us an email! Vafacoffman@gmail.com
Tried commenting on here but we may have accidentally deleted it!? Oops. We love you guys!!! And love the way you collaged the photos for this post! So amazing. Xoxo -Amy
It’d be interesting to hear from your readers with pre-teens and teenagers. Or the teenagers themselves – older kids are so creative! A good friend of mine has wonderful pictures and videos of her boys as young kids, but she was recently telling me she wishes there were a way to capture the beauty of 9 and 11, when family pics aren’t exactly “cute” anymore, but still so precious.
Awww….such great cute pictures!! But the first one of the family in the snowfall had me laughing because, even though you weren’t, it looked like you were standing on your son’s back. Forgive me. Couldn’t stop the giggles.
I couldn’t love this post more! I’m a photographer in Austin, and I LOVE going out with a family to just play and get those real emotions and connections! My client turned friend is one of your loyal readers, and she sent this to me last night. So glad she did! Great post!
I LOVE honest family photos and these are just that, aren’t they? We hadn’t had any taken since our youngest was born and on a whim I bought a session through LivingSocial. Despite having booked our one-hour session for what turned out to be THE hottest day of the year the photos are AMAZING.
We mixed a little dressy (as in button downs rather than Ts for the boys) with a little not (Chucks) and the photos managed to look “special” but still like us.
The biggest thing the photographer did, I think, was to catch the “in betweens.” One of my absolute favorite photos (taken from behind)is of my twins holding hands as they walked from one location to the next. Every time I look at that photo it breaks my heart…in the best possible way.
Can’t wait to see more of this series!