Choosing a Date and Time For Your Portraits | Lifestyle Family Photography in Los Angeles
When you are looking for a family photographer, you want to look for someone who understands the stresses of parenthood with little children. I remember the times when my life revolved around my youngest's nap schedule.
For family photography the best time to take photos is during Golden Hour, especially in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. That is the time right before the sun sets or right after the sun rises, and near the beach it's gorgeous! The lighting is beautiful and that beauty translates both in the resulting images as well as in the fact that while you're taking your portraits, you get to enjoy a stunning sunset.
I don't know about you, but getting up at the crack of dawn for family portraits is NOT my idea of a relaxing experience. I can't imagine getting my kids fed, dressed, or even myself fed and dressed with enough time to make it happen. On the other hand, depending on the time of year, an hour before sunset can sometimes coincide with nap time, dinner time, or even bed time.
If you're trying to figure out the best date and time to do your family portraits, here are my suggestions based on age:
Newborns: Newborns are pretty easy to schedule. I usually conduct my newborn family portraits as 'Fresh 48 Sessions'. These sessions take place in the first 48 hours after birth, in the actual birth place, be it at the hospital, birth center or at home. The focus is on the family's connection with their new addition and not about where you are or what you wear. Another option is to have newborn sessions at home within the first 4 weeks of birth. I don't do posed newborn photography, but again focus on the family dynamic and the newborn now being a part of the family. Sessions should be scheduled while in your last trimester to ensure you get the date you need.
Children age 1-2: Discuss with your photographer what your child's nap schedule is and see if you can do a session when your baby is going to be the happiest. That can usually mean earlier in the day, and although I don't always recommend it, it's definitely possible. On the other hand, if you are okay being flexible with your baby's schedule, schedule their nap in a way so they can wake up around 30 minutes before the session. Ideally, doing a session in winter when you can start as early as 3:30 and still get that beautiful light is ideal because it's usually between naps.
Children age 3-5: Usually preschool age children are already big enough to move their schedule around when it comes to naps and bedtime. If that's the case, I'd definitely recommend you move your schedule around to accommodate the Golden Hour and plan your session about an hour or two before sunset. I'd say try and do the session in the fall or winter, but make sure you plan ahead for any cold weather and create outfits to include scarfs, hats and sweaters.
However, when your child is still very set in their sleep schedule, you have a few options: You could brave the morning and do a sunrise session around 7 am in mid-March or the end of October (when sunrise is the latest). Another choice is the do a session in the winter when sunset is very early. Lastly you can choose a nice shady area with your photographer and pick any time of day or year to schedule your family portrait session, as long as your children won't be too cranky.
Children ages 6 and up: At this point family portraits become more of a recognized ritual and should be something your children can look forward to (if you have the right photographer who makes it an adventure!). I recommend making a fun day out it. Maybe pick out pretty dresses with your daughters, plan to eat out with your kids to a special spot for dinner after the session. Get your hair and makeup done (which I recommend no matter your children's age). Pamper yourself and make a day out of it. Most families at this point opt for a Sunday evening session with me, a good 1-1.5 hours before sunset. If your kids are involved in after school or sports activities it can be hard to find a date that works, so try to plan ahead and look at your calendar to choose either an open Sunday or even a weekday afternoon.
The main thing when choosing a date and time for your family portraits is that you communicate any specific needs with your photographer and that you also try to be flexible if possible to allow for optimal light and a relaxed family going into it. There is no point in planning a portrait session at a time that will leave you all stressed and crazy going in it. Even if the portraits turn out beautiful, you'll always remember your sub-par feelings and associate that with your images.