You probably have a TON of images of your children on your smartphone, right?
Now that we each have a camera in our pocket we can capture each moment as it happens - face covered in ice cream? Photo. Cute new jacket? Click. Hanging upside down from a tree? Heart in your mouth photo! So why, with all of the images you already have and are going to have, do you need a photography session with a professional?
Firstly (and most obviously!) professional photographers taking photographs for a living. They have honed their skills over many years and know all of the tricks and techniques to get the very best shots of you and your family.
Secondly, they’ll be able to get everyone in the image as nobody from your family has to be behind the camera. How many of the images on your phone have you in them? There may be a hundred images of your kids and partner for every one of you but it’s so important to have you in the photographs that document your family life!
Lastly, the photographs taken by a photographer will be the ones you want to hang on your wall and send to relatives so they can do the same. Children and babies grow so quickly that it's important to capture the moment in time. It’s so easy to forget each stage of childhood as your kids grow up.
Five years from now you can be sitting next to your cool, grown-up teenagers but be able to look at pictures of them when they were still missing their front teeth or covered in mud!
There are a couple of obvious prompts for getting some family photographs, such as a pregnancy or the arrival of a new baby, but family life is always evolving, the kids are always growing and each year is as important as the last.
Whether you have toddlers, children of primary school age or teenagers, you’ll want to remember every stage!
Of course, you may want to celebrate a special family occasion such as a ‘big’ birthday or a graduation. Perhaps your family is spread widely across the globe - wouldn’t it be nice to record the rare occasions you’re all together in one place?
If there’s a specific date that you are looking to book, start the process as far in advance as you can. Photographers can be busy months in advance and you don’t want to miss out. They do, however understand that babies don’t always arrive on schedule, so if you need to change the date of a newborn shoot, they should offer you some flexibility.
Who are you going to include in your family photography session? While you might only initially think of parents and children, it may also be a great opportunity to get your wider family all together. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can all be involved and might also reduce the session costs, by sharing them between a larger group. You may have a beloved family pet - ask your photographer if they can join in the fun too!!
If there’s a baby in the group then it’s wise to structure the shoot around their needs. A photographer won’t mind if the session needs to pause for a nappy change or a feed - with three children of my own I totally understand! - and keeping them comfortable and relaxed is in everyone’s interests.
As well as some great group shots of everyone together, some of the best images you’ll get from your family photographer will be those that show the relationships between your family members. Siblings, whilst often quarrelling at home, might find a quiet moment during the session to show you how special their bond is. It’s also a great opportunity to get photos of the parents as a loving couple, something that might not have been done since your long-ago wedding day! If there are any particular pairings or specific group shots that you’d like to be included (especially if you’re a large family group), let your photographer know in advance to make sure it’s captured on the day.
Once you’ve gathered everyone together, why not make a day of it? You could plan a picnic or a meal for after the session; the kids can play while the adults relax.
As soon as you start to search for a family photographer you’ll realise that there’s an abundance of choice! For example, searching for ‘Family Photographer Edinburgh’ on Google will bring back hundreds of results, so how do you choose? Here are some tips:
Have you seen beautiful family portraits on the walls of your friend’s homes? Ask which photographer they used and how they found the experience. Maybe they can even make an introduction on your behalf.
You should be able to assess a photographer’s style by looking at their online portfolio and to decide whether their style appeals to you. Are their images something you’d like to hang on your wall? Try to find impartial online reviews for photographers - the testimonials on their sites are great but are unlikely to provide an unbiased view!
Baby, toddler and family fairs, as well as being a fun day out, are great places to find photographers. They often have stalls where you can view their portfolio and meet them face to face. This is a great opportunity to find someone you feel comfortable with. As a bonus, many photographers offer special prices if you book on the day. Try to do some research before visiting to avoid making a rushed decision - you can often find out in advance on social media who will be exhibiting.
Narrow down your search to photographers who have experience in family photography in particular. While talent behind the camera can be found in many professional photographers, someone who specialises in taking images of children and families will be able to translate your family dynamic into wonderful lasting images better than someone who usually shoots products or sporting events! A good family photographer should spend time building a rapport with you and finding out what approach will work best for you and your family.
Once you’ve identified a potential photographer, reach out to them and if possible arrange a phone conversation or meeting before you book. As well as discussing the logistics of a session with them, assess how they make you feel. What is their experience in taking the kind of images you’re looking for? Do you think they’ll be able to get the best from your family? Will they make you feel comfortable in front of the camera? Do they offer all that you’re looking for? If someone in your family group is especially nervous in front of the camera, can your photographer accommodate that and put them at their ease?
You can also ask them about the process for getting the images after the session takes place. When could you expect them to be ready for you? If you have a deadline (for example sending the images to relatives as Christmas gifts) it makes sense to state your expectations early on. Would there be a post-session meeting with the photographer to choose the images you’d like to purchase and to discuss print options? There should be a comprehensive contract that clearly sets out the terms and conditions as well as the details of any cancellation or rescheduling policy.
So how much can you expect to pay for a family photography session?
Unlike taking photographs on your phone - professional photography is a very expensive business. The cost of professional cameras and lenses, software, hard drives, insurance, and the photographer's time makes hiring a professional photographer a luxury for many.
For example, for a family photography session, you can expect that I'll utilise in excess of £10,000 worth of kit. This kit needs to be maintained and replaced regularly so that you can count on my ability to produce amazing photographs. Then there's the to circa £4000 per year in software, £500 in insurance... The list goes on.
You can expect to pay anywhere between £350 and £2000 for a family photography experience, depending on the photographer, the service you go for, the location and more. More if you wish to buy wall art and products.
There will usually be a booking cost for the session with any prints or downloaded images charged separately. Many photographers also offer packages for a collection of images. You should also expect to pay a deposit at the time of booking to secure your session.
All bookings should come with some sort of terms of agreement or contract - and what's included in the price should be reflected in this document.
Remember that these images will be hanging on your walls for years to come, you’ll be looking at them A LOT! Although it may seem to be a big investment, having a photography session is a lovely way of marking this time in your family’s life, and one you’ll appreciate in the years to come when you see the beautiful images reminding you of the little things we all too quickly forget. Photographs aren't like phones that will need replacing in a few years - they're heirlooms to be treasured forever.
Just as there is a large choice of photographers, there are several different styles you can choose from for your photography session. Not all family photographers will offer all of these styles but I’ve suggested a couple of Edinburgh based professionals for each category to start you off!
This is a session that takes place at a photographer’s studio and is traditionally associated with a more posed style than ‘on location’ sessions. But don’t worry - these images don’t have to be boring! Your photographer will be able to capture a relaxed portrait of your family interacting naturally - one that you’ll be proud to hang on your wall. The studio will have everything that the photographer needs including props and backdrops to get just the right vibe for your family. Studio photography has the advantage of a controlled environment too - the lighting can be adjusted and the weather won’t ruin your session. There will be fewer distractions for your kids and you needn’t worry about nosey onlookers either! Studio Life, Diana Baker and Blue Sky Photography all offer studio photography services in Edinburgh.
With this option, the world is your oyster! You and your photographer can choose a location - either in or outdoor - where your family can explore, play and interact comfortably. With the right photographer, a session like this should feel more like a fun family day out with the added bonus of a wonderful set of images to record the whole thing. You can choose to explore in the woods or walk on the beach. How about a playdate in the park? Don’t worry if you can’t decide; your photographer will have some excellent local knowledge of suitable photography spots. On location can also mean in your own home, an option that gives you the maximum of comfort and convenience, especially if you have a newborn or a very young baby.
Having your photography session on location can also be a great opportunity to capture your family doing what you do best. If you are a sporty bunch, bringing a ball to the session to have a kick-about or to play catch might be fun, whereas if your weekends usually find you visiting castles you may want to choose a more historical location to take photographs with some interesting ruins as a backdrop. If you’ve chosen to have your shoot at your home, perhaps a board game or baking session would provide some fun photographs?
An ‘on location’ session has many advantages (an ever-changing backdrop for one) but if the wind in your hair threatens to become more of a hurricane, you and your photographer may want to reschedule. Sadly you can’t accurately predict the weather - particularly in Scotland! - and most photographers will include a clause about rescheduling in their terms and conditions, so make sure to check that out (including any possible additional costs) when booking. If rescheduling isn’t an option you could try moving the location of your session instead. Truly wild weather apart, a bit of drizzle needn’t ruin your plans - have fun with it! Wellies and umbrellas make great props and who wouldn’t want some action shots of puddle-jumping on their walls?!
This is a great time of year for a photography session, with fresh and vibrant colours, new shoots of growth and increasing light. Lauriston Castle and The Meadows are both great spots for capturing the energy of spring.
There are so many beautiful beaches within a short drive of Edinburgh - a great choice for summer sessions. If staying within the city is better for you, Holyrood Park has many wonderful spots for summertime photographs.
With its ever-changing colour palette, autumn is a magical time for your family session. As you might imagine, anywhere with woodland is a great choice at this time of year. Lauriston Castle, Corstorphine Hill, Davidson Mains Park, Cammo Estate, River Almond Walkway, Spylaw Park…all great for beautifully coloured natural backdrops.
Winter in Scotland can be a challenging time for a photography session, but for those brave enough to step outside, the results are very much worth the effort! Crisp, bright and frosty mornings make for excellent photographs. Princes Street Gardens are great for a city centre photoshoot at this time of year - the wonderful Christmas lights provide a colourful backdrop too.
It’s also worth considering what time of day your session will take place, as it can have a big impact on the overall style of your images. Discuss this with your photographer and find out what they can suggest - they will know the best times for each location and season. Ask about the golden hour - a magical time of day that can really make your family shine!
Some photographers can offer either studio or location photography and you may even want to have a combination of these styles for your family session. You could start a session In your home, then head out to a favourite park, for example.
Making the choice between studio and on location depends on many factors - consider these before making your choice.
You know your family best! Chat to your photographer to find the combination of locations that’s right for you.
So now that you’ve chosen your photographer and booked a date in their diary, how do you prepare for the session?
One of the first questions that’s likely to pop into your mind is what to wear. Whatever outfits you choose for you and your family will be immortalised in print to be hung on your wall for decades to come - so no pressure, right?! It’s actually very simple, and there are a few easy steps to choosing clothes that look great and won’t age:
For more tips on what to wear to your family photography session, check out my blog post How to ensure your family looks their best on camera.
When it comes to preparing your kids for the photography session, less is more. Beyond washing their faces, combing their hair and straightening their clothes there’s nothing else you need to do. Above all, PLEASE don’t ask them to practise their ‘best’ smiles or poses. We all know that our true smiles are rarely the same as our smiles when someone asks you to ‘say cheese’ and you (and your photographer) want to avoid any strained or unnatural smiles during your session. Trust that your photographer will capture the very best of you all as you interact naturally with each other - that’s when the magic happens!
Don’t give a thought as to whether the kids are behaving well or not. It’s likely to be the first photography session they’ve attended and they may be excited, nervous or both. The photographer will have plenty of tricks up their sleeve to involve even the most reluctant child. In the name of damage limitation, if you know that your children get grumpy when tired or hungry (like most of us!), make sure they’ve had their naps and a snack before you arrive.
As for the adults, you should take time to make yourself feel like you’re at your best in advance of the session. If that means hairstyling or makeup then go for it. Be warned though that this is not the time for a bold new look; you’re aiming to look like the best version of YOU - not anyone else!
Not everyone feels comfortable in front of the camera, I get it. I too was once a photo avoider! Your photographer should help you feel at ease but please do let them know in advance if there’s someone in your group who is particularly nervous in front of the camera and they’ll do their best to accommodate this.
If you’re having your family photos taken at home, please don’t spend too much time fretting about tidying and cleaning in advance of the shoot. The photographer isn’t coming to take interior magazine-worthy shots of your home, they’re there for you. This advice applies especially if you’re having a newborn shoot, no cleaning is required! The only thing you need to make sure of is that the house is warm enough for any nappy-only photographs of your baby.
Allow plenty of time to get everyone ready and to travel to your shoot so that nobody feels flustered when they arrive. As well as any props you’ve discussed with the photographer, you may want to pack a bag of useful items - wipes, tissues, water, snacks and essential makeup items, just to ensure all eventualities are covered!
Most importantly - put your trust in your photographer and enjoy yourselves! This is precious time spent with your wonderful family and you’re honouring these moments by having photographs taken.
Once your photographer has edited your images and chosen the very best of them, you will be able to choose the images and prints you’d like to purchase either from an online gallery or during a meeting with your photographer.
What are your options? You can simply opt to purchase digital files and arrange the printing yourselves, but by doing this you may be missing out. Your photographer will be able to arrange prints that are of a much superior print quality than that you could find on the high street, making the most of the images into which you’ve put so much effort. As well as standard size prints, you can often order canvases and framed prints that are truly works of art and would make a real statement up on the walls of your home.
As well as buying prints for yourself, you may choose to order some to send out to proud grandparents or even have them printed up as this year’s Christmas cards. A digital image of your family will also make the best screensaver ever! Once you have your images you should make the most of them - unlike the thousands of photos sitting unseen on your phone, these are images that are meant to be seen and celebrated.
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