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Shutterfly Family Photo Days: Q and A with two camera-happy moms

The holidays are approaching fast! As we take breaks from our hectic schedules to spend time together, Shutterfly is encouraging families to organize Family Photo Days during November so you can take a great family portrait.

I asked two local moms who have been on both sides of the camera for their thoughts on family photos. Cherron is the photographer behind Raining Light Photography here in northwest Arkansas, and Angelique has modeled for a number of northwest Arkansas photographers over the years.

When I think of family portraits, these two women immediately come to mind because I can’t think of any local moms who love capturing life more than these two.

I asked these moms some questions. Here’s what Cherron had to say about family photos:

What is the significance in taking a good family portrait? What makes it rewarding to the family? There are a million excellent reasons for taking a good family portrait. They can be so much fun, it is a chance to be silly with those you love the most, and it’s a great way to spend an evening, but I think the two main reasons for taking a family portrait are pretty simple.

One, they are the best way to document how your family grows each year. You can see not only how the family size is growing, but you get to capture those little things about the individual members that are so fleeting in a growing family, like the way a daughter will style her hair on her own for the first time or the way a dad just can’t stop being goofy.

I think, however, that the main reason to take a family portrait is to have a physical reminder of your family for the future. Babies grow up and eventually fly from the nest and spouses won’t always look the way they do now, but you can always look back fondly on family portraits and remember every different stage of your lives together. Even better, one day you can pull out the years of portraits to share with your grandchildren or even great-grandchildren.

When taking family portraits, what do you try to capture? Personally, for me, I try to capture the connections. It isn’t really about the posing but about the way a mom will snuggle tight to her baby or how a child will giggle in delight when his dad lifts him towards the sky. Of course, I do always like to take lots of classic images of everyone looking at the camera as well, but my favorite part about family sessions are those more personal moments.

From your experience as a photographer, what types of settings and scenery have made for the best family portrait? I actually think this depends on the family! I love doing sessions inside a family’s house just as much as outdoors. The easiest thing for most families, however, may be outdoors, especially if they are trying to do it by themselves with a tripod and timer. I would suggest picking a location that means something to the family. Do they love to go boating in the summer? Maybe something by the lake. Do they often go hiking? Then their favorite walking trails may be perfect for them. Do they like something more urban and modern? Maybe they need to head to their local downtown area.

Are there any environments or backdrops that should be avoided? Pay attention to what may be behind your subject. That grove of trees may be gorgeous, but if they face a highway, you may get cars in your photo’s background. Or if you go to a more public area, you may get a random walker or two. The key is to find a lovely location with a minimum amount of ‘busy-ness’ in the background.

Are there any holiday- or family-portrait cliches? If so, can you give some examples? I’ve seen my fair share of Santa hats this time of year. 😀

Some families like to coordinate their wardrobes for portraits – wearing the same sweaters, the same colors, even the same trousers. What’s your opinion on these? I actually do not like this at all. I think unless you are on a beach in kaki and white, which still remains a classic look, you should avoid being so matchy-match. I believe a family, while being a single unit, is still made up of individual members. Those members can get lost if everyone is wearing exactly the same. The best thing to do is to have coordinating colors that compliment each other. Shirts with logos or characters printed on them should also be avoided since they are a distraction from the subject.

Speaking of clothing, what colors work best? Are there any colors you should avoid wearing on Family Photo Day? I think as long as the colors look great on the family as well as coordinate with the background, there will be no problem.

When taking an outdoor photo, is it best for the camera to face the sun, or should the photo’s subject face the sun? Does it matter? This one can be tricky. I love to have backlit subjects with the sun behind them, but it is not an easy thing to shoot to get the desired look. If you have the subject facing the sun, however, you can end up with nice light but with everyone having squinty eyes. I believe that the easiest thing, especially if a family is taking their photos themselves, iis to look for open shade so there is nice lighting on the faces but there isn’t a harsh light source.

How should you position the camera? Is it possible to shoot from too low or too high? You don’t want to be so low that you are looking up people’s noses or making their lower bodies look bigger than the upper parts. Shooting from slightly higher than your subject is always nice and flattering, but you don’t want to be so high that everyone appears to be craning their necks up at the camera.

Angelique, Eric and the newest family addition.

And now, here’s Angelique. Cherron recently took photos of Angelique, her husband and their youngest son.

What is the significance in taking a good family portrait? What makes it rewarding to the family? The reason that I love good portraits (not only family portraits, but portraits of my children, our wedding, etc.) is that they’re a permanent record of the way our family was at a particular moment in time.
When I was a child, I loved going to my grandmother’s house and seeing her hall full of our family portraits– she had a collection that went back several generations. I loved seeing the evolution of our family, as well as the changes in fashion and in photographic styles. As an adult, that’s translated into a great appreciation for good photography, and a desire to document the constant changes of my family. It’s my hope that after I’m gone, my children will cherish the personal memories as well as the artistic talent that went into our family albums and wall hangings. I guess the reward for me is the notion that these aren’t only for me– they’re for my children and grandchildren.

Are there any particular famiy-portrait cliches you stay away from? Anything in particular your family has done to be unique?I love unique portraits that give a sense of who you are– for example, a toddler playing with their favorite toy, a family dogpiled on the couch, or a father playing a song to his infant on his guitar. Capturing everyday life is a great way to preserve a slice of your life in a creative way, and if it’s about who you really are, it’s never cliche.

A good photographer can help you figure out how to capture your idea in a personal way that still keeps your family at the focus.My engagement photos were taken in several different locales, my favorite of which was downtown Rogers. I loved the way our photographer captured not only my husband and me, but the textures and overall historic feeling of the area. I felt like that translated well into how I feel about my relationship with my husband– it’s like we’ve always been together.Likewise, when including our children in our portraits, I often like to create an overall mood or feeling. My favorite photos of my two older sons are of them hiking through a field with walking sticks, and of them blowing dandelion seeds, which they call “fluffies”. My current favorite portrait of the baby is of my husband and I holding him overhead while he laughs.

Angelique’s favorite baby photo.

What do you do to get everyone together for a portrait? Is there anything you do to make organizing a portrait easy on everyone? Planning ahead is really the only way. Choose a date with your photographer and stick to it! Remember, your finished portrait is like a time capsule. When we let time slip away (especially when our children are small), those moments and subtle nuances that make our families what they are change and we often lose what was there.

How often do you and your family take a portrait together?  We take a family portrait and individual portraits of the children yearly. Because we like to do outdoor portraits, we often do the family session in a different season from the children’s portraits. For infants, I recommend doing them quarterly– they change so quickly!

Thanks so much, Cherron and Angelique, for sharing your experiences and tips. Shutterfly offers a number of ways to share your family portraits, including with holiday cards and photo books . If you choose a professional photographer, make sure your photographer allows you to use their photos for cards and photo gifts. The right photographer will work with you to make your family portraits something to be proud of.

This is a sponsored post for Shutterfly Family Photos. I am compensated in products for my time. All opinions are mine unless attributed otherwise.

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