Family Photography: Baby's First Cake

My client Michelle asked me to take portraits for her baby’s first birthday.  I have a product especially designed for this type of occasion, where I place a birthday cake in front of the child and we watch the fun unfold.  I love being able to photograph a kid tearing through their first birthday cake, especially when I can do it through the lens of a camera, capturing every step of the way.  From these photos, we create a memory book as a keepsake for that family to enjoy for the years to come.

I always like a challenge, so in this particular photo session, I decided to ask Michelle if she and her family had any pets.  Upon discovering that they had a cat and a parrot, I asked if I could photograph their pets in front of a green screen so that I could Photoshop them into their baby’s first cake portraits.

When they  brought in their pets, I had their child pose with one of them, so we could capture an authentic interaction between the baby and their pets.  Of course, having a cat and a bird in the same place might not end up so well, we went with just their parrot, and the photos turned out beautifully.  Who could resist capturing the dynamics available between pets and their human companions?

Using green screen technology, I was able to composite images of their pet cat and parrot next to their child, cake and all.  Creating a portrait with both their child and their pets brought out a side of their family that was playful and whimsical.  Most importantly of all, my clients loved it.

But of course, we couldn’t forget about the big kids in the family: Mom and Dad!  I had them both pose with their child, together and individually.  I loved how their daughter’s magenta dress stood out against the muted tones that her parents picked out.  Wearing neutral tones works best in family photography.  Of course, children tend to look great in whatever they’re wearing, especially if they’re the center of attention.

We took a few more photos of the birthday girl, even adding in their pet parrot for good measure.  This time, we didn’t use a green screen, since we wouldn’t have to have both pets in the same place.

I keep a smattering of stuffed animals, toys, tricycles, tiny chairs, and other accoutrements for children and even parents to play with.  I have a child-sized bench in my lobby, and their daughter immediately took a liking to it.  We brought it into the studio, and it was an immediate win for everybody involved.  It even acted as a perch for their pet parrot!

Taking family portraits is always a rewarding experience.  Taking photos of children, babies, parents, families, and even their pets together brings me a sense of joy, and brings the families themselves closer together.  As a photographer, my job is more than just taking pictures.  I create memories for people to cherish for years and generations to come.

What Should I Wear?

The most important thing to remember when you’re getting ready for your family portrait session is that we want you to feel confident, comfortable and absolutely in love with what you are wearing! You don’t want to look at your photo ten years down the road and say: “What was I thinking?" Wear clothing that’s timeless. Feel free to bring a few changes of clothing to your family portrait session for yourself and your children so we can experiment with different looks. Stick to clothing that will look good on you no matter when you’re looking at it.  Instead of wearing whatever’s in style at the time for a portrait, wear something that flatters your personality and individuality.  Kids tend to look great no matter what they’re wearing, but if you’re taking a family portrait, wear something simple so you don’t take attention away from your child.

Make sure that your clothing fits well.  Instead of choosing clothing that stands out, wear clothing that functions as a backdrop to your natural beauty.  Stay away from stripes, patterns, bright or highly contrasting colors in your portrait session.  These will distract from you as the subject.  Keep your colors simple.  There is no need to dress your family in all the same color, unless if that's what you're going for.  However, do wear colors that compliment each other.  For example, reds with browns tend to clash, while red and green screams out “Christmas.”  For your family photo session, think “Banana Republic.”  Darker, rich, bold, or muted tones work best.  Dark colors tend to be slimming, while lighter colors can have the opposite effect.

Avoid short sleeves and tank tops, especially in executive headshots and individual portraits.  Long sleeves will draw attention away from your arms and helps bring the focus back to your face.  Scoops or v-necks flatter shorter necks and full faces.  Turtlenecks or high-necked garments flatter longer necks and slender faces.  Make sure that if you’re taking a family photo that adults have coordinated styles.  If you’re wearing formal clothing, and another family member is wearing a t-shirt and shorts, your family portraits will look odd.

Also, wear location appropriate clothing.  If we’re taking family photos in the studio, formal or nicer clothing works great.  If we’re going to a park or the beach, casual clothing looks better, with the exception of wedding and engagement photography.  For beach photography, always bring towels and a dry change of clothes.  More likely than not you will end up with wet clothing, especially if you have children with you.

Ultimately, you have the final say in what you wear or how you prepare for your family photo session.  Everything I’ve written here is my professional opinion, but if you know exactly what you want to wear, and it doesn’t match what I’ve said, then by all means, do what feels right to you.