Yesterday, Keith, Liam and I had our annual family photo session with my friend Katie of Katie Jane Photography. Keith is not a big fan of being photographed, so we've settled into having family photos once a year, with an additional "mommy and me" session each year too which works out well - he's happy to be off the hook for that session, and I get a little extra time in front of the camera with Liam, something I very rarely get.
Aside from the obvious personal value I place on having my own family photographed, it's also important to me for my business that I place myself in my client's shoes every so often, and it's always so interesting!
It's tiring being in front of the camera
One of the things I learned this time was, wow, it is TIRING being 7 months pregnant and responsible for corralling my reluctant husband and toddler so that we get out of the house and to the location on time and in a relatively happy and intact state… which then needs to be maintained throughout the session! Not to detract from the energy it takes to be the photographer, but I actually think it was more tiring being the mom, which I don't remember from previous sessions so I think it might be the "pregnant with a toddler" thing but still - I have a newfound respect for my clients!
Be very specific about your priorities
Something I've learned from being behind the camera is to talk very specifically with clients beforehand about what they are looking for and what their priorities are. This has been particularly important for my 30 minute High Line sessions where we don't have all the time in the world to capture the same kind of variety of images you can get from a longer session. As the photographer, I need to be very focused and efficient with the time I have so I can still capture what is most important to a family.
Based on my experience, I now have a "get to know you" survey for my clients, AND I talk with them in detail during our planning consultation about what they're looking for, ranking, for example, the importance of photos of the whole family with sibling photos, individual children's portraits, photos of each spouse with the child or children etc.
I also ask specifically about photos where everyone is smiling naturally and looking at the camera. For some families, this is very important, whereas others prefer more candid shots. Knowing this ahead of time lets me plan on how much energy I should spend in the session on this versus letting the family just hang out and interact more naturally.
For myself, as much as candids are my favorite to take and to have taken, I've found that I do want two or three with us all looking as well, so I was much more specific about this than I've ever been before.
Don't skip individual portraits of the children
Finally, many of my photosanity workshop participants turned portrait clients are starting to take really great individual portraits of their kids, but are still struggling with sibling photos, and of course rarely get the chance to be in photos with their family themselves, so their priorities are naturally on the latter.
However, I loved one of the few individual portraits Katie took of Liam at our summer session, even though of course I have a ton of photos of just him that I've taken myself. While there's something really special about a photo you take yourself of your child, it's also really interesting to see another photographer's perspective, plus if you're putting together a wall gallery or album from a session, you are most likely going to want to include individual portraits from the same session. Swapping in your own, no matter how many you have, is unlikely to work.
So, I now always make sure to take some individual portraits of each child in my sessions, even if that wasn't a priority for the family, and for the first time, I asked Katie to do the same. I absolutely love this photo she took of him amongst the leaves.
It pays to communicate clearly
Katie and I have exchanged enough sessions that we don't need to talk too much beforehand about what we're looking for, but I did take the time to put all this and more into an e-mail to her before our session, and I'm really glad I did because I felt like we were on exactly the same page as to what the goals of the session were, especially as I knew Keith and/or Liam's patience would give us limited time. As a result, I felt really good about how the session went and it from these three photos Katie has shared with us as a sneak peek, I can tell it paid off.
Turns out being a photographer has made me a better a client as well as vice versa!
Thank you so much Katie - we can't wait to see the rest!
nyc baby, child and family photographer & architect alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn. she specializes in baby photography as interior design & interior design for babies. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!