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Investing in a photo shoot, whether it’s a Hilliers shoot, minishoot or a full family shoot, is a big investment, in terms of time, money and energy. In order for us to get 100% from the shoot and make it as sucessful as possible, I have written down some top tips of what I believe are crucial factors in getting the most of your family shoot!

They are not in any particular order!

Book a Suitable Shoot

My photoshoots vary greatly in terms of amount of time and money that they are worth so you absolutely need to consider them both before booking.

A minishoot is only 30 minutes in length and prices start at £85 for the shoot plus 3 images. They are set a location and on a date determined by me, and you can select a slot that works for you on those dates.

Minishoots are brilliant if you are a small family and you know that all participants will warm up quickly and easily.

Full family shoots on the other hand can be taken at a location and on a date of your choosing (subject to availability of course) and can last up to 3 hours. The shoot price is £99 and then packages start at £249 for 10 images.

Full family shoots are far more appropriate if you are an extended family, have children who need time to warm up to the camera or you just want the luxury of time! You also have a lot more flexibility with the shoot in general so it can feel more bespoke.

If you want to go ahead with a minishoot but know that your child(ren) may need more time to warm up, it is advisable to either book two consecutive (which gives you extra time) or talk them through everything in advance and give them as much preparation as possible. Some children can be incredibly shy, and although I like to think of myself as warm and approachable and friendly, there’s only so much magic I can work if they spend the whole time hiding behind and refusing to even look at me!

Fill in the Questionnaire

 When you book a shoot with me, you will receive two emails. One will be your welcome email with a client experience guide attached. This gives you as much information as possible so you know what to expect from the shoot.

Contained in the second email, alongside your invoice is a questionnaire asking relevent questions about your children and participants of the shoot. If you have particularly shy or neurodivergent children, this is so helpful for me to receive in advance so that I can plan the shoot (and my behaviour) accordingly! If I know that the kids are obsessed with certain activities or cartoon charaters for example, then I know to brush up on that before I meet with you! I try and do everything and anything to make everyone feel at ease and comfortable in their surroundings so that we can get 100% from them!

Book a Location that suits your Family

If you choose a full family shoot then you have the luxury of choosing a location that works for you! I have written a locations blog which I also direct new clients to initially, for ideas and inspiration. This is by no means an exhaustive list nor do you have to choose a location off it whatsoever – it’s just something to help if ideas are needed!

What I would suggest, however, is to think very carefully about a location that gets the most from all members of your family. Somewhere near a river is no good if you have a toddler who will spend the whole time trying to get in it and cause you uncessary amount of stress! Likewise, somewhere like Hilliers is no good if you want to bring your dog along! If you have children who like climbing or exploring, planning on having a shoot against lots of pretty flowers perhaps won’t bring out the best in them and they will get bored more easily!

It needs to be a location that makes all members happy and brings out the best in everyone! I have learned many times – if the location is right then everyone will be happy and those smiles will be natural and reach the eyes! You want the shoot to not only generate beautiful pictures but be something that creates happy and lasting memories and not something to be endured and managed!

Bring lots of Snacks and Props

I always ask my clients if I can bring along any sweets and chocolates for the humans (and cocktail sausages for the dog) as who doesn’t love a little treat! I like to run my shoots on a level of bribery and rewards!

Seriously though, if you are out on a full shoot, 3 hours can be a long time for some children (and even some adults) to go without snacks or drinks so do make sure you bring along supplies to keep them happy. The beauty of a 3 hour shoot is that you have more time so it’s easy to stop for a snack and not have it impact the shoot or leave us short of time!

If children are hungry, tired or thirsy, we will never get the best out of them so it is best to plan for a full day of growth spurts and hunger pangs and be ready for anything!

Prepare to be Flexible with your Expectations

Many clients come to me and want to emanate a shot or series of shots that they have seen on my website or pinterest. I will of course do this to the best of my abilities, but we need to make sure our expectations are on the same level.

Let’s face it, you know your kids better than anybody and you need to work out if it is realistic to have lots of posed photos of them. There is no way that my children would pose as nicely as some of my clients, so when I am shooting my kids I always take their personalities and habits into consideration. Evie is far happier hanging upside down from a tree at the moment and Charlie is far happier trying to beat his dad in a race. I also know that they appear to be allergic to one another at the moment. With that level of information, I know that if I expected them to have a lovely cuddly photo of them where, god forbid they actually had to touch one another, I would end up with sullen faces and sarcastic smiles. If, however, I got a nice photo of them in a tree or in a  running race, I would get far happier faces! Plus I like to think that it captures them as they are now and gives an insight as to who they are. In time they may give me the cuddly photos, but that’s not who they are now so why try and force that? If you need to spend half a glorious hour running around like butterflies and you get the most beautuful photos of happy families, then I personally feel that this is far better than awkward posed photos where everyone feels uncomfortable and awkward.

Take it at the Children’s Pace

 A lot of my shoots are high-energy and fast-paced, especially my minishoots. I am quite a loud and bubbly person and so bring a lot of energy to my shoots. That energy can definitely be brought down though if needed, especially if you have booked a full family shoot. If we need to spend the first half an hour discussing different types of dinosaurs or your favourite aninmals just to ensure the children come on board with me and warm up to me then that is absolutely fine! Again – that is where the beauty of the questionnaire comes in as if I know this in advance then I won’t scare them off straight away!

Book a Slot that works for the Whole Family

Whether you’re booking a mini or a full family shoot, then timing is key! I, as a photographer, will always advise to go as early or late as possible (in the summer) to avoid that bright sun as I want the conditions to be perfect. You need to make sure though that it fits in around your family, and if that means we need to shoot in the middle of the day but just find a large shady patch then that’s what we will do! There is absolutely no point booking any shoot at a time when the toddler should be napping and just keeping your fingers crossed. This will not work in anybody’s favour.  Likewise, please don’t book a family shoot for the day after the kids have returned from a residential – no amount of banter, chocolate buttons or bubbles will help them smile through that level of tiredness!

Consider the Aesthetic

I normally have two types of people who book a shoot with me:

1) there are those who realise they haven’t got any recent pictures of the family and really want to do it soon before the kids get any bigger:

2) and there are those who want new wall art or products for their recently-rennovated house!

Last year I was the second! We had recently had our lounge decorated in grey and blue with splashes of ochre dotted around. I knew exactly which wall art I wanted up so we went down to the beach and I made sure that the clothes that were were worn would enhance rather than distract from the colour theme!

Before you book a shoot, it is definitely worth considering where you would put the pictures in your house. If that room already has a colour theme then it is worth figuring out how to include this in your shoots. If you book an autumn shoot, you are guranteed oranges and yellows for example. If you want blue in your images you need to either book a location with blue in or make sure your party has a blue theme running throughout their clothing!

As with all these tips, these are just my personal opinions and what I have observed over the years I have been running the business. All I would say though is – always make sure you are all comfortable and wearing something that is you! If you want to know more about what is advisable to wear and what is not advisable to wear, please feel free to look at my blog post here.

I really hope these tips were helpful. If you have any comments then I would love to hear from you, esepcially if we have already had a shoot together and there are any other tips that you learned / would advise anybody going forwards!