Pittsburgh Family Photographer | Mary Beth Miller Photography
Hint: this is a very short guide. You can find it below…
First, I want to tell you a little story. I promise I will try to keep it short…
Although I have been photographing my kids in a candid (documentary) and natural way since they were babies, this is not how I always photographed my clients. I once believed that families should dress like they were going to church, in clean and pressed clothes that coordinated but did not match. (yeah, because that is so easy to do….) This is amusing since this is something I actually dread doing, for myself and for my family. But, that did not really click in the first few years I was a photographer. I, like most photographers, was caught up in those Pinterest boards filled with perfect families looking like they just jumped off the page of a catalog.
It was not until around seven years ago that I began to change how I photographed families. I can even tell you exactly why I made the changes that I did.
I do not like to admit this, but it took me three kids and seven years to finally schedule a family photo session with a professional photographer. I reached out to a very talented local photographer and we scheduled a session for my family here on the farm.
For the weeks leading up to the session, I OBSESSED over clothing choices. My family is super casual and we live and work on a farm. My kids are usually shirtless and barefoot for most of the year. I love jeans and leggings and ponytails. My husband still has clothes from middle school that he loves to wear and it’s a big deal if he ever wears a button dress shirt….yet I still felt the need to go buy everyone new shirts and shorts for this session. I bought myself a few (fancier than I normally wear) skirts and dresses because I could not decide and wondered if I could learn to do my hair and put on makeup before the big day. (I obviously am not the kind of woman that ever spent time perfecting these things and I am not the kind of woman that knows how to coordinate outfits for four males and myself.)
I literally stressed about clothing and hair up until the very minute that the photographer pulled into my driveway. In between throwing clothes around my room and on my bed attempting to create the perfect look, I was yelling at and bribing my kids into behaving for the photo session.
EVERYONE WAS STRESSED OUT BECAUSE I WAS FREAKING OUT
So I start throwing pastel polos and new shorts on the boys and hand my husband his clothes and beg him to put on the outfit I had for him. He comes out of the bedroom and informed me his shorts were two sizes too small…I was not prepared for this…he had nothing else to wear that would work…I almost lost it. I begged him to make them work…
I stressed to my husband that this meant the world to me so he sucked it up…or in his case, he sucked it in, so he could actually zip and button his shorts that were too small because I was so stressed in the store I grabbed the wrong size…
So we make it through the session with a little…ok a lot of me grumbling at kids and the husband under my breath to beg them to “stop making that face!” A couple of weeks later we receive the photos and I love all of them and I choose one to print and frame and hang on the wall and then after I hung it my husband decided to be honest with me…
“IT’S SO COMPLETELY PHONY.”
What!? What did he say!?
“Yes, Phony. That is not us at all.”
“Who are those people?” he asked me.
And you know what, it was hard to deny that he was correct. That was not really us in that photo. We were wearing clothes that we would never wear the other 364 days of the year. I hated to admit it, but I did, he was right, phony indeed.
Now, please do not get me wrong, this is totally ok for some families if this is what they like and what they want or even how they dress most of the time. And although our photographer did an amazing job, it was not her fault, it was just not us.
So now when I look at that lovely family portrait, I remember the stress leading up to the session. I remember my husband being super uncomfortable in his tight khakis and in a polo shirt he would never wear. I remember the looks on my kids faces when I went all crazy Mom on them begging them to just wear the shirt and to “just smile for the damn photo!” Yes, hard to admit, but I was being “that” Mom.
WHAT TO WEAR GUIDE:
WHATEVER EVERYONE IS COMFORTABLE IN
Seriously, that’s it. If your husband loves jeans and a t-shirt than let him wear that. If your daughter lives in the same yellow dress 6 days a week, then let her wear that. If your three years old insists on wearing his old rain boots and torn superman cape with his athletic shorts, then you let him wear that. Mom, if you are a messy bun and yoga pants kind of person, embrace it and wear it for our session. If everyone wants to just stay in their PJ’s or comfy house clothes, let’s do it.
I want your family photo session to be unique to your family. I do not want you to ever feel stress while preparing for our session. In fact, I do not want my clients to do anything to prepare for our session! The last thing a Mom needs is to add stress to her life or a few shopping trips for new clothes (with the children that are melting down in the mall) or to make appointments to get everyone a new haircut before our session.
EMBRACE YOUR REAL SELVES.
EMBRACE REAL LIFE.
It’s really that simple.
And this is exactly what I encourage my clients to do.
When you look at your photos from our session in 10 or 20 years, I want you to remember that favorite yellow dress your daughter wore for two years. I want you to remember how your son never wanted to take off his superhero cape. I want you to remember the fun and relaxing time you had just hanging out at home. I want you to remember how life really was, even the craziness of it all.
And more importantly, I want your children to remember how life was. How their house looked and how much their Mom and Dad loved on them. I want them to remember your messy ponytail and a favorite shirt that you rocked for a decade while you were in the midst of Motherhood.
A few years later we had another family photo session with a different family photographer that was traveling through Pittsburgh. This time, we wore our old jeans and t-shirts…or no shirts for one of my boys and we hung out around the farm and we were comfortable and we were relaxed and most importantly, we were ourselves. And it shows in the images.
I know that dressing everyone in their “Sunday best” and having your family portraits done at sunset in a lovely park is what a lot of people want and like to do each year, I just want you to consider trying something different. Maybe this year, consider a different kind of photo session for your family. Take a look at my Family Photo Gallery then get in touch if you want to take the stress out of your family photo session.
~All images by Mary Beth Miller Photography ~
Mary Beth Miller Photography specializes in lifestyle and documentary family, newborn and Fresh 48 photography in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and many of the surrounding areas. Mary Beth has over nine years experience photographing families, newborns and babies in the South Hills, South Park, Bethel Park, Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Greentree, Point Breeze and Highland Park. Her style is very relaxed and natural and your family session will feel like a stress-free Sunday afternoon with your family!