"Do you shoot kids?"
The above is a common question that I get from mothers when they find out I am a photographer. "Yes" is the answer, but the question always makes me laugh.
However, I do have a style when photographing families that includes a few loose rules.
I don't do babies. Well, I do, but I treat them like an individual person or a direct extension of Mom or Dad, with lots of holding, snuggling, and kissing. I don't use baskets or blankets, I don't hang them in some form of origami scarf thingy hung from a rafter. I do not use props. Now, I am in no way disrespecting those photographers that do use them, and I am (in fact) giving them the utmost respect that I can. I recognize their talents, their training, and their expenses used to buy said props (and their love of babies). Trust me, there are some wonderful photographers who do just that, and if you need some suggestions, simply ask.
We photograph families on location, and close to where the kids can go expend some energy doing what they do best: being a kid. A general on-location session runs from 1 1/2 to 2 hours with approximately 20 percent of the photos "posed." I do some strict posing, guiding, and directions; as well as some loose "just go stand over there" stuff. What I have learned over the years is this: Moms, you have most likely put this together, gotten everyone's schedules in order, decided on the clothes, location, (yada yada yada), all the while (inevitably) dealing with a Dad and kids who you must drag along to this session. I scout the locations, I keep us moving, I keep the kids moving, and I pull Dad in for some shots (and out so he can check scores or email). We talk the whole time, because when they see an engaged Mom with a stranger, even though he might have a camera, he can't be all bad. The remaining 80 percent is sitting back and capturing the the kids being kids, between poses, with each other, on a playground, or in a park.
Mom, when in that 20 percent range of posed shooting, you will be the center of it all. I will pose you so that you look beautiful, so that you feel confident and in control; and then put the rest of the family members into the picture accordingly. There will be no reason for a family picture that you are ashamed to show friends, framed on your desk, hanging on your wall, or feel in someway compelled to explain your expression, body, hair, etc. There is no time other than now to get the family pictures done. Not after you grow your hair out, lose that 10 pounds, get a tan, or whatever. The kids won't be this age but for a year, and as a parent I know how fast the time goes by.