How to Make Your Next Family Session The Best Yet | Metro Detroit Family Photographer

If you're anything like me, you sometimes feel incredibly awkward meeting someone new. Mix meeting someone new and then have them shove a big ol' camera in your face and you're basically done for, right? Me too. I get it. Oh, do I get it. Having your photo taken can be THE WORST - I like to point this out to my dads, grooms, and sometimes kiddos - look, I KNOW it's the worst. And I'll tell you. During the fall, I decided that I wanted new family photos for my own family. So I made my husband drive the riding mower and mow a trail into a field, set up my camera, strapped it to my sweet mom, and trekked my family, the dog and my mom into big field. It was a whole thing. I'm pretty sure they all thought I was crazy. My parents live in a beautiful neighborhood in Davisburg, Michigan. It's quiet, well-spaced and has wooded trails (you'll see those in some of my sessions, especially my couch sessions) and then there is this giant field that's just perfect for photos. 


So we get to this field, right? My mom has never held a camera like mine in her life, my husband isn't a fan of photo sessions, my kids are well, my kids. The dog was literally the best behaved being out in that field. We're in this field, now what? This was the very best opportunity for me to give myself a dose of my own medicine, a dose of what I dish to my clients during every family session - the prompts. Now you're like, what the heck are you talking about? You didn't just smile and move on? You're family isn't just naturally adorable and photogenic? The answer to both of those is a giant NO. We have maybe two photos where we are all smiling and looking at the camera. The rest were carefully crafted, yet natural moments. This is the part where I'm going to use my own family session to help you gain confidence in your own family session. My very favorite photos from any of my sessions are generally ones where no one is even looking at the camera - they are interacting with one another. Interacting in ways that they may normally interact, but we're making it fashion. Just kidding, but we are taking those every day interactions and tweaking them the slightest bit to give you those photos that are filled with emotion and love. 

I really like to keep my sessions short and sweet. For me, this is the easiest way to capture these really real images. One set-up, or pose, multiple prompts within it. So here you can see that my family is grouped close together - my husband and I are hip to hip, almost belly to belly. I'm holding one child, the other child is comforting the dog. In these set ups, it's really easy to do some quick movements - a kiss on the cheek, mom and dad smooch, everyone look at dad, everyone look at sister, watch mom and dad kiss (ew!), and oh! what's that in the distance?


Right here, in this same spot, over the course of maybe three minutes - we have six images that show real interactions and real affection. 

In this series of photos, we changed up our set-up to sitting on the ground. Typically, I wouldn't prefer to have the family separated by the dog as you can see in a few of these, however, my dog like, would not get up, so here we are. Everyone snuggle together, one kid in mom's lap, snuggle the pup, talk amongst yourselves, reprimand your kid - you know, normal things. 

My kids started to get restless, as kids do. So we stood up again and played around a bit. Tried to get a few shots of the kids with mom. My son pulled on my skirt so I grabbed it as if I was holding it out and looked down at him - creating one of my favorite photos with me and my kids. Dad can flip the kids around and play - however you normally entertain your kids, do that. It's genuine, it's, again, real. No one ever has a perfect session, I promise you this. It never feels like a magazine cover is going to happen. But I also promise that you will end up with images that you simply love. 

Another set up - keep in mind, this is only our third "real" set up in about 10-12 minutes. Each parent holding a kid. Mom and dad look at your respective kiddos, give kisses, everyone look at the camera and smile, everyone look at dad. Easy peasy. 

This last set was at the very end of the session, at about the 15 minute mark. Mom holds hands with one child, the other child holds her leg and *gasp* everyone smiles at the camera! Kids run around mom and dad in circles - they love this! And that concludes the session. You see - you can get timeless, real, photos of your family in 15 minutes or less. 

If you have props or accessories - use them! Moms - touch your hat, it looks cute! Play with a scarf, bring bubbles. Just have fun and be yourselves. That's all you need. 

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Heather Stern Photography, LLC

Fenton, MI           |       heather@heathersternphotography.com     |         Metro Detroit

Wedding and family photographer in Metro Detroit, Southeast Michigan, and beyond.