I have a variety of clients. Some families I see every year and some I meet only once (more on that below). I also have clients who get family photographs every 3 or so years. There's no right or wrong way to do it.. and the decision is a highly personal one for each family. So how do you know which one is right for you?
1. Every year
Families who come in year after year usually start with the birth of their first baby. That newborn photoshoot is truly special, and usually involves Mom and Dad for a couple of very important reasons (as in, having parents exist in photographs too!). This is often followed by a 1-year old Milestone Session, a session for a new baby sibling, and a photoshoot every consecutive year for the holiday card.
One of the biggest benefits of this approach is that you can either stick with the same photographer (which makes booking and the session process a lot quicker/easier), or you can work with different photographers and get different styles of family images. Once again, there's no right or wrong way to do it.. but if you're looking for continuity, then obviously you'd want to pick someone whose style you absolutely love.
The other thing to look for is a photographer who is committed to staying in business and providing a consistent service over a long period of time. It's very common in this industry for photographers to move to another state or go out of business altogether (either by choice or not).
The other thing that often happens is that prices go up every year. It could be regular price adjustment for inflation, but most of the time, it's the photographer growing and accounting for their true cost of doing business. Costs increase and so prices go up. This can often be shocking to families who hire an emerging photographer for their lower price point but can't continue with that same person once they become more established. The best approach in that situation is to look for a photographer who already running a full-time business and is seriously devoted to their profession (yes, profession, not a hobby! these are YOUR family photographs).
2. Once in a while
You can target every 3 or so years for family photos (or with the birth of any additional babies). This gives families a good way to keep up with all the changes, with the ability to spend a little more each time. Because you're only doing it every few years, you can save up for a bigger purchase and often get more for your money.
The important thing with this method is to remember to do it once the kids get a little older. When they're babies and toddlers, it's easy to see how much they've changed (and how important updated photographs are). But once the kids reach middle school, parents tend to forget. The truth is, however, that they're changing just as rapidly, but it's so much harder to see it without pictures to quite literally show you. So put that photoshoot date on your calendar (yes, 3 years ahead, if you need to) or even better, ask your photographer to remind you when it's time!
3. Once in a lifetime
If professional photography seems a bit too expensive, but you still want to hire a really good professional photographer to take your family pictures.. then a once in a lifetime experience is still within your reach! You can approach it like saving up for a vacation or allocating a certain amount every year to go towards your session. Payment plans and credit card payment options will also make it easier for you to get those amazing photographs of your family. And I've had several clients who came to me to do just that.
In my mind, a once in a lifetime professional photoshoot is WAY better than no photoshoot at all! Your growing children will absolutely appreciate the effort, time, and money you've put into making it happen for them. Having photographs that last more than 20 years is going to be so important as we become more and more reliant on technology in the future. And quality will become the defining factor between having something to pass down to your children (and your children's children), or not.
Like many families, Pepper and Frances' Mom knew about my work for a while before they came in for a photoshoot. And for them, it was a very special event.