The autumn season makes for a beautiful backdrop when it comes to outdoor family pictures. Fall is the most in-demand season for professional photographers because the weather is typically great and the sunset lighting is magnificent. The changing of the leaves adds background color, while the gentle harvest breeze distracts the bugs from biting. Family photos taken during fall also have a practical essence because proofs can be ordered in time for the gift giving season or to be mailed as holiday cards.

As pretty as autumn is, it cannot dismiss the stress associated with booking a photo shoot, especially when extended family members need to be involved. Young children make pictures great, but they are still prone to tantrums no matter the time of year. Autumn also means school days are in full swing, as well as hectic extra-curricular activities. Preparation and realistic expectations are key for those wanting memory making moments to be captured on film by professionals.

Communication

The best way to be prepared for a photo session is to talk about it beforehand with the photographer and all of the adults planning to be in the picture. Things will go smoother if everyone is on the same page regarding date, time, and the length of the shoot. Most photographers like to have a pre-session consultation, which lets the professional behind the lens know exactly what a customer wants. This type of meeting can be short and take place in person, over the phone, or via email, text messaging, or social media. The photographer will be better prepared if details and expectations are shared.

Here is a list of items and questions that should be discussed with a photographer in advance:

1 | The number of people attending the photo shoot must be known because location and backdrops can change dramatically if too many or too few people are in a shot.

2 | The ages of children involved is important data to share for scheduling purposes, and also for establishing the amount of time needed to complete the session. Photographers often try to avoid nap times or meal times when dealing with younger children. They may also stage it so different families come at different times in order to avoid a lot of standing around time for all involved.

3 | Is the photo shoot for an immediate family consisting of just the parents and children? Or is it a multigenerational photo with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents? A photographer needs these answers beforehand in order to create a rundown list that accommodates all requests. Multigenerational photo sessions may include several families, plus pictures of just the grandparents with the grandchildren. By knowing the family dynamic before picture day, a photographer can be sure to take all of the necessary group poses.

4 | Is there a preference between candid or formal shots? What is the overall look hoping to be achieved? A photographer wants to know a person’s style and a good photographer never wants to waste time (or precious lighting) taking unwanted pictures. Outdoor family photos are meant to resemble the style and dynamic of the individuals being photographed. The poses and staging need to reflect a personality that is recognizable to the photo subjects.

5 | What kind of final print images are wanted? If there is anything specific one wants from a photo shoot make it known early and often to avoid disappointment when proofs are made available. A photographer needs to know when a person wants a large, rectangular canvas for over the fireplace because he or she can then take multiple shots that fit this desired horizontal look.

Clothing and hair

What to wear can be the biggest stress when it comes to getting family pictures taken. Matching outfits is never mandatory, but coordinating colors is a plus. The family member that is hardest to shop for should be the starting point for all of the other outfits. Find something for him or her and then work to get everyone else dressed in similar styles and complimentary colors.

Women should be cautious about wearing dresses or skirts because they make sitting difficult. They can also inadvertently add a few pounds to a person’s look due to an unflattering angle or sudden gust of wind. Little girls look cute in dresses, but getting them to sit with their legs together can be an impossible feat. Sometimes these unladylike poses are adorable and sometimes they are irritating.

Everyone wants great hair on picture day, so try to keep it simple. Ladies should avoid ponytails because pictures taken from straight ahead can give the look of having short hair. Pigtails are very cute and photograph well on young girls. Guys with spiky or parted hair may want to use gel to keep the look in place. However, above all else be natural because a family does not want to be unrecognizable due to fancy hair.

Props

Outdoor pictures include grass, dirt, and sticky tree branches. Bring a blanket along or ask your photographer to have one on-hand so that clothes and body parts do not become stained or dirty during the photo shoot.

Props are typically welcomed by photographers, but it is a good idea to discuss what items need to be brought and their importance so the photographer can make them a priority. If a family picture is to include a sports theme, than it would be smart to bring balls and equipment from home. Photographers typically have a stash of props they can bring, as long as they know to do it. Seasonal items, vintage decor, and more can all make a family photo cozier.

Timing

The best time for an outdoor photo shoot is the late afternoon leading up to sunset. Many professional photographers describe this time as “the golden hour” or “the magic hour” because the sun puts off a beautiful glow that is great for a variety of skin tones. If a photo session cannot be booked during this magical hour, than a spot with a lot of shade should be used so that photo subjects do not have to squint or worry about being washed out by brightness.

Weather cannot be controlled, so when a person plans an outdoor photo shoot they need to be flexible and realistic. Rain, fog, clouds, and extreme temperatures can all put a damper on pictures taken outside in the elements.

Memories

Ultimately family pictures should be celebrated and during the photo shoot it is important to try to have fun and let go of the worries. There is definitely stress associated with planning for professional photos because everyone wants to look their best. However, the goal is to capture the beautiful moments in life that are happening right now. A child’s toothless grin, a grandmother’s distant look, and the laugh lines (that may actually be wrinkles) make for great photographs. Childhood is fleeting and everyone ages, but professional photos lead to hard copy proof that a family cared enough to make the time and get together.

Capturing a family’s bond against the backdrop of changing leaves and harvest sunsets will showcase a moment in time that cannot be lost.