For Colorful Fall Family Portraits…Try an Urban Setting!

2016-10-17_0002At this time of year, most of the families calling me for fall family portraits are looking for peak fall foliage and the beautiful settings at the many parks in Fairfax County.

I am happy to shoot at any of these places, but sometimes it’s fun to switch it up and let the colorful outfits and fun expressions of the family brighten up an urban area. There are so many textures and cool backdrops to be found around towns and this fun family was willing to explore with me!

2016-10-17_0005 2016-10-17_0003

Urban areas are a great place to focus on lifestyle. Kids can find a way to have fun in any area. Jumping, running, hugging…I like to play and once they know it’s ok to be silly, the posing stiffness goes away and I can capture their true nature and the relationships in the family.

Just like these ultra-cool kids – I love the way the littlest girl is so tiny, but you can tell she looms large in the family dynamic with three older brothers —  no shrinking violets here!

10 Tips for What to Wear for Family Portraits

2016-09-19_0003

Fall is finally here and families are starting to book their  holiday sessions.

This is one of my favorite times to photograph.  It’s a chance for families to come together to celebrate each other and being a family.  I love seeing their joy and love as they  take this opportunity to hug and enjoy each other.

This is also the time that I start to get the questions about what to wear for family portraits. While I believe this is a personal preference and don’t really like to dictate the look of a session, I can offer the following suggestions from experience about what I’ve seen that looks nice and has worked well for families:

2016-09-19_0004Begin by thinking about what is the purpose of your portrait.

  • To update walls?
  • To announce an important life event?
  • Holiday cards?
  • To create gifts for extended family?

If the goal is to create art for your walls, think about how formal your home is, and match that style in your outfits. Naturally, people are most comfortable in comfortable clothes, but would that look right in a formal living room?

What colors do you love to decorate with? Earth-tones of brown, rust, gold, and cream? Bold pops of color on a neutral canvas?  Soft and pale tones (pastels)? Neutral tones of black, white, gray, and cream?

Which colors make you feel happy?

  • red, magenta, orange, yellow, yellow-green = energy, romance, and warmth
  • turquoise, green, blue, purple = cool, calm, tranquility, peace
  • black, gray, tan, brown, white = neutrals, foundation, classic

If your goal is for holiday cards, bright colors catch attention when they arrive in the mail, but avoid being simply the holiday red and green which may limit your opportunities to enjoy the images as year-round.

clukey-1-2

Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Avoid being too “matchy, matchy.”  It’s okay to look semi-coordinated but don’t all arrive to your session wearing identical blue polos unless that is how you want to remember each other. Your family portrait may depict a blue shirted monster with 5 heads if you all wear the same exact color.
  2. Keep your location in mind. If you are planning to photograph in peak foliage season season, deep reds, oranges and greens look great.  You may want to save your pastels and icy blues for summer or more urban locations. Blacks and whites, although they make a nice statement, do not necessarily complement autumn colors, but if you are at a location with a lot of brick or stone could look great!
  3. Denim or not? Decide if this casual or semi casual look is what you’re after. If not, decide what will be worn for pants/ skirts/ etc. Too much denim an be overwhelming.
  4. Select a favorite color family. It is okay to have blue be your theme, but combine lights (tints) and darks (shades) with your main color to create variety and contrast.
  5. Textures photographs well!  Choose a few items that will add texture: a scarf, vest, fun boots, jacket, a woven cardigan, etc. Layers are great. Rather than just a boy in a T-shirt, add a layer by wearing a button up shirt  over the top. Belts, jewelry, watches all add to the “texture” element.
  6. Shop in your closet. Before you go out and buy an all new wardrobe, gather from your closets some samples of the colors you are considering  and line them up on a bed or couch and see how they look together. When you blur your eyes do you see lights and darks? What pops out? Save money by using clothing you already own, with the addition perhaps a new piece or two. After you’ve done your line up, see what is lacking (ie. another dark shirt, a complementary color, etc.) If you want your portrait to be authentic- avoid buying clothes that you know your family would never wear “in real life.”
  7. It’s okay mix solids and simple patterns.  I know a lot of photographers might argue with me on this one, but I like to think that SIMPLE patterns add interest and texture to a picture.  Three of the men above have patterned, buttoned-down shirts, and it works just fine with the solid colors.  If you stick to a color scheme, everything just naturally blends together.
  8. Think of the rule “Three Colors and a Pop” (credit to Orange County photographer Meghan Owens for this phrase). Pick three colors, with one being a neutral, and add a “pop” of color. It usually works best when it’s a bright color on one of your littlest family member (think red scarf or purple boots).clukey-1
  9. Colorful Accessories. Similar to the above tip, colorful accessories photograph best for all family members.  You want the focus to be on the faces more than the outfits. Similarly, a bright jacket or cardigan that can be put on or off works well!
  10. Watch the shoes. Even if they are your kids’ favorite shoes, character and light-up sneakers date a portrait. Even some of the “louder” sneakers can be distracting in a family portraits.

Think Timeless. Again, you want the focus on your faces, your emotions and your family. Not the outfits. Too styled a look can deter from the emotion that is displayed in the togetherness of your family.

So, that’s it!  Hopefully, the above tips will help you do a little advance planning for your family sessions to create beautiful family portraits. For even more ideas and tips, check out my Pinterest Board Family Portrait Outfit Ideas.

 

Another Special Senior…And Client From Long Ago

When I first started out with portrait photography I didn’t need to look far for some of my first models. Luckily I had two adorable little girls living just around the corner and a family who appreciated having a photographer in the neighborhood.

8556332476_a5deeb7ca0_o

This is still one of my favorite photos and I’ve promised them that we would recreate it sometime soon (a bit difficult since the older girl is now a Junior in college. Yikes).

The other day I had the honor of photographing the younger daughter, Lija’s senior session, oh so many years later.

2015-09-24_0001

The years between that first picture and the second haven’t been the easiest for Lija.  I asked her mom for her input since I didn’t want to get any details wrong:

On December 15, 2011 Lija was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and she stated chemotherapy in January of 2012. We were lucky to find it early – but it still took its toll. Lija lost her hair after the first chemo treatments – and ended up in the hospital after the end of each batch of treatments. Through it all Lija never cried; well twice, once when she was diagnosed and once when she had mouth sores. 


 Thoreau Middle School organized a Make a Cut Event for her and she was one of the speakers. She was also awarded the Anthony MCCay Spirit Award – in recognition of her energy, enthusiasm and positive spirit. 


Lija never let cancer own her. One day after her cancer treatments; we were driving to school, and she said that in a way she was glad she got cancer. I asked her why. She said that a girl had come up to her at school and said that Lija was her inspiration because if she could still come to school and be positive even with cancer, then this young lady could deal with the problems that she faced. 


 Lija continues to attend the Make The Cut events and plans to pursue a degree as physician assistant specializing in pediatric oncology.

I remember that time and how I hurt for Lija and her family as they went through the diagnosis and treatment, and I remember trying to comprehend the enduring fear that follows, even when the healthy diagnosis is given.

But I also believe that some of the beauty and strength that comes out in Lija’s pictures are the result of going through that experience and coming out strong. I wish this girl all her dreams and plans come true, and I get the feeling they will, because she will make it happen!

Yes, I feel old when I photograph past clients’ senior session, but I also feel special in the participation I’ve had in capturing memories for my lovely neighbors.

LL-114-2

 

Is There a Bad Age for Portraits?

I often get questions or comments from parents who would love to have their child’s portrait session but are afraid because “they are at that age…” the age of stranger-anxiety or clingyness, or just not being such a “good listener.”

I say forget all that.

This session started out with a warning from the mom “she’s a little clingy”  and these are the first few shots in my camera:

2015-04-26_0001

Because I’m a mother of three teenage children, I feel like I’ve experienced every age and stage (except the college years and I’ll soon be doing that!)  and I don’t give up that easily!

Yes, it was pretty early to be up and out, and yes it was extremely windy and colder than expected.  But give it a little time, don’t push it – and let the children just be…children. With new places to explore – pretty flowers, fun stairs and trees to climb on and around, and a real caboose (!) soon took away stranger anxiety and portrait time became fun time with that lady who just is following us around with a camera…

Here are some of the shots from later in the session:

2015-04-26_0004

 

2015-04-26_0003

 

2015-04-26_0002