I have absolutely nothing against pretty locations. But a beautiful setting doesn't make it any easier to photograph a family with three very active children. This is also the second year that we've selected the New Canaan Nature Center as the perfect spot for this family's session.. which also means finding totally new areas to set this year's photos apart from the last.
That part was actually pretty simple. Turns out that the spots that were so perfect last year became completely unsuitable this time around. The beautiful hay-field where we took photos of the boys last year has been ripped apart, probably in preparation for some project, and the pretty apple trees no longer had any leaves on them (but plenty of apples to trip over, covering the ground). This is why I always scout locations before the session. And not a week before, but right before.. because so many things can change in a span of a few days. I plan out the spots to photograph about 45 minutes beforehand (yes, that means I'm on location way early) so once the family I'm photographing arrives, we're not wasting precious time.
The New Canaan Nature Center is also one of those gorgeous locations that has escaped the curse of popularity with local photographers. I have no idea why. On any given day, you will see countless professional photographers at Waveny Park in New Canaan or Binney Park in Old Greenwich. But I can blissfully photograph at the New Canaan Nature Center and only encounter other wonderful families with their kids, or an elderly couple going for a stroll. It is AMAZING. And it allows a handful of children (in this case, three) to run around uninhibited.
I know Lachlan, Graham, and Evie really well. They have grown from little babies (our first playdate was about 5 years ago!) into amazing little kids who are starting to read and write (Graham & Lachlan) and are learning how to dance (Evie). Lachlan is the studious one. He is the first to get his homework done in the evening. And Graham knows absolutely everything there is to know about dinosaurs. He's so charismatic and easily makes friends everywhere he goes. Both boys are so curious and completely in love with nature. They turn over logs, find bugs, and play in dirt like nobody's business. Evie is the youngest. She is so sweet and is absolutely adored by both Mom and Dad (and I don't blame them!). She loves to talk to people (strangers, on the street! I have no idea how Mom gets anything done) and isn't shy about anything. Together, the kids create a whirlwind of activity.. and all Mom wanted from the session is that perfect photo of the family together - the kind where nobody is making a silly face.
I have several tricks up my sleeve when it comes to that particular request.. but there is one thing that works particularly well. It's very simple, actually. Don't try to get that perfect shot in that perfect location as an all-or-nothing. Use several "perfect" locations and several tries to get everyone together and looking at the camera (you can see below how many times we tried this).
Kids are unpredictable. Sometimes they're a lot more amenable at the start of the session, sometimes they're much more willing to sit still for two seconds at the end. But you have absolutely no way of knowing which it will be. So when I plan out my locations, I make sure to include a shot of everyone together in each one if at all possible. That way, I have more than one chance to get that perfect shot for Mom. It's not magic. It's just common sense and proper planning.. but I'm shocked to see so many others try and force kids to perform simply because this is THE SPOT for their family photo. If it doesn't work, move on.. it will work eventually.
I have a lot of favorites from this session.. which I am thrilled to be able to share below. And that "perfect" family photo that Mom wanted so badly.. it will soon be hanging as a 16x24" framed print in their dining room.