Preparing For A Real Life Shoot (Or Lifestyle Session)

Preparing For A Real Life Shoot (Or Lifestyle Session)

You’ve booked your clients and now you need to prepare for the shoot. Today we’re breaking down the how-to’s with author, Emily Mitchell.

Read on to make your sessions smooth as silk~

Prepare your clients.  
Although I already have tons of information on my site about what a session is like, I walk at least one of the adults in the family through it, on the phone or in person. Because I’m a stay-at-home-mom (and expecting our third child now!), I only take one client project per month, so it’s pretty easy for me to keep track of clients. But you also definitely want to have something specific written about what clients should expect during and after their session. You don’t need to make it public information on your website. Email this to serious potential clients or include it in a welcome packet for a more personal touch.

Ensure clients understand:  

Your payment arrangement.
How long it will take (and stick to your word – even if things are going well, you may be pushing back a naptime or a meal and making things harder for your clients later in the day. Work efficiently.) What to do when a child has a meltdown or a bad moment – how do you handle that?  Put the parents at ease and let them know life happens….and you are experienced with handling any type of kid situation that comes your way.  

Guidelines on what to wear.  
Choosing clothes for any photo session can be stressful if you don’t know where to begin. I honestly wouldn’t go as far as a Pinterest board, just because nothing makes people feel like they need to improve in some way faster than Pinterest, and it can be a turn off. I think a simple written description and images of your most well put together families is ideal. I tell parents to avoid disposable diapers with characters showing, logos/images on clothing, and no pinstripes (because they create moire).  Keep your list short. I give other simple guidelines to help them find outfits that will photograph well and clients appreciate the extra effort.



Guidelines on what to do.  
Even if you just want to observe and you’re more on the documentary side of the lifestyle photography spectrum, make sure clients know that. Sometimes my families, especially those who are new to the idea of a Real Life shoot, like to have an activity planned, so I suggest simple things for just in case there’s a lull in the action, like artwork, snack time, outdoor time, or with older kids, they can show me their hobbies (toward the end…otherwise you’ve just signed yourself up for a 2-hour Lego shoot). Holidays are perfect for this kind of thing, because they can decorate the tree, carve a pumpkin, rake leaves or bake cookies. Anything that’s dynamic and involves everyone is a good choice, but there’s no need for a show. Most children 5 and under will lead the way naturally. Simple, daily actions photograph beautifully and help us focus on relationship images.

Your workflow.
Do you jump straight in and shoot?  Are you quick & efficient? Do you like to take your time and play with the kids and chat with the adults? Are you more like a fly on the wall? Explain what they should expect, and if you alternate between chatty and quiet, let them know to expect that as well so they know when it’s okay to disengage from you. You want a connection, but also a distance so you can be an observer. Everyone finds their own flow in doing that. Once you can recognize how you work, describe it and stick to it. If clients are constantly engaging with you, it’s hard for them to know when it’s a good time to be absorbed in their own actions. Yet at the same time, if you show up and don’t interact, it can be hard for people to be vulnerable in front of you.

Important items.
This one is especially useful for shoots with new babies. Parents have a gajillion things to think about with a new baby. So ask them ahead of time to set aside any special items they want to include in their shoot – an heirloom rattle, a blanket knitted by someone they know, or a special stuffed animal. Some parents like to write and read letters to their child for a video.


What to do with their house.  
If you want it to be somewhat clutter-free, tell them. If you do not care about the condition of the house, tell them that, too, so you don’t show up to a house that’s so clean it looks sterile and visually boring. I tell my clients I need to be able to walk through a room, so clear a path of toys, and try to make at least one bed somewhere in the house, but that’s about it. A made bed is a perfect place for sweet snuggles that photograph well. I prefer not coming into a spotless house when I’m shooting. I like hearing running tap water of dishes being washed or seeing the day-to-day picking up. Because that’s Real Life.

1. Prep your gear ahead of time – Don’t wait until the day of or the night before. Check everything a day or two in advance and charge your batteries. I bring 2 fully charged ones because I shoot video, and that burns through a battery pretty quickly. Even if your card is empty, bring a second card just in case. Of course, you should also have a backup body and lenses.

2. If you’re shooting outdoors, bring band-aids and wipes. Scrapes can happen, and dirt can definitely happen. Your clients will love you for your preparedness!

3. Bring treats for the kids at the end. It doesn’t have to be food-related. Stickers are wonderful.  I like sunglasses that say “movie star” one side of them, and have my business name & logo on the other side, Everyday Films. Ask the parents before you tell the kids you have anything for them. And, bring a planning guide for the parents, so they can be ready for their order session!

The Mastermans - A Family Story from Emily Mitchell


What steps do you take to make sure your sessions go off without a hitch? Share your best tips with us below!


EMILY-MITCHELL-BIOEmily has spent the last few years introducing other people to her idea that shooting for families with video allows us to see for ourselves far beyond what we look like, but how we move and talk. With video, we see beyond what a still photo can capture - we see the magic of communication, relationships, connection...emotion. Family Films are about letting go of that image of perfection in your mind and learning to see beauty in the way things are.

To view more of Emily's work, visit her here.


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