When it Rains on Family Picture Day!

Wouldn’t you rather be running through those fountains than getting your picture taken?

Situation: an extended family portrait with grandparents from out of town that had to take place on that day. Four little kids in their formal finery posing as the rain dripped around them.

Despite the weather, we managed to get some cute family pics under cover of awnings and porches.  But those fountains kept calling to them…

Then, to make the torture worse for these kids – their parents got to take their pictures in the fountain…

They could resist no more. And boy do I LOVE a family that just decides to let go and have fun being wet! A photographer’s dream!

I don’t know who had more fun at this shoot – the family playing in the fountains, or the photographer who got to photograph the joy!

A Unique and Fun Family Portrait Session

I love it when my client has a specific vision and idea for their session; part of my passion in photography is helping that vision come to life.

This extended family portrait was part of a very special weekend that was booked as a “Dad and Daughters” weekend at the absolutely majestic Air BnB, http://retreatatcoolspring.com/ out in Virginia’s wine country. The adult daughters were allowing their brothers to come over for dinner and family portrait session on the Saturday night of the weekend and they were expecting great things! Everything, from the dresses and the men’s jackets and khakis, to the croquet and champagne, were carefully styled for a family portrait session and I was so excited to help with the creation.

The direction given to me – which I LOVED – was “cocktail party, not stiffly posed…as if I was a fly on the wall of a wonderful party.”  And that’s just what it turned out to be (by the end of the night, I was asking if I could be adopted into this fun family).  All were great sports in the stifling heat of August in Virginia and I had a chance to explore a new beautiful setting, and try out my best “Vanity Fair” style of staging a group. They even pretended to do their “Dynasty” style pose, but then quickly relaxed into with their true fun and very unstuffy style.

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!

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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


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.


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.


Special Times Captured in Family Portraits

Just a few weeks ago, another “mother runner” member of the Oakton/Vienna Moms Run This Town chapter requested a family session. She was concerned it happen in the next week or so because their beloved old family cat had cancer and was not expected to have much time left.

2016-06-28_0001I squeezed in a weekday, midmorning session at their house where her beautiful little girls loved on the cat and we captured some cute shots of the family at play. The children were precious and the session was longer than usual because of all the hugs the girls gave me in between shots.

By the time Celia had a chance to select the images, the cat had passed away – a couple weeks later, this family made a sudden move for a job across the country to Arizona.

2016-06-28_0002I am saddened for the family’s loss of a precious pet, sorry that this family moved away, just when I was getting to know Celia and watching her build up from being a novice runner to a marathoner.

But I’m happy that this family has some images to remind them of their time in Vienna and the girls will remember how much they loved this first pet. I also am hoping that the images will help capture this fleeting special time in their daughters’ childhood.

Don’t wait to schedule your session. You never know what tomorrow may bring.