Five Tips for Fun Family Photos

Five Tips for Fun Family Photos

Every year, usually in the fall, families of all shapes and sizes seek one thing: the perfect family photo. The family portrait experience usually proves to be stressful no matter how large or small your family is or how old your kids are, human or fur notwithstanding. The family photo experience should be an opportunity to make memories as a family; the photos will likely hang on your walls and be on display at home for years to come. But how can you create a fun family photo experience? Is that even possible with two under two?!?! How can you make the family photo experience more fun and less stressful? Here are my top five tips for fun family photos.

tips for fun family photos

1. Lower your expectations

My number one tip for fun family photos is to lower your expectations, especially if you have small children (usually five and under). If you go into the session with high expectations that your session will be the epitome of every family photo session you’ve seen on Pinterest, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your family and your photographer.

I know everyone wants THE family portrait of everyone smiling into the camera perfectly posed, but sometimes with small kids, it just doesn’t happen that way or it takes longer to get to that “smile say cheese” moment. Trusting that you’ll come out of the session with good images (maybe not Pinterest perfection on a rough kid day – but still good).

Need ideas on what to wear to your family photo session?→

2. Maintain a positive attitude

Kids are so smart and really pick up on our attitudes. It can be so difficult to not be embarrassed if your child is acting out or misbehaving in a big way. Keeping your cool and maintaining a positive approach can keep the tears (hopefully) at bay.

Sometimes the best photos are taken when you let everyone just be themselves. This means not constantly nit-picking your partner (kids pick up on the negative energy) or fighting your kids. Patience and positivity can go a long way. Giving a negative reaction is exactly what your toddler might be looking for – don’t give it to them. Re-direct, play, and praise good behaviors (even if they’re small).

3. prep, prep, prep!

One of the key things you can do to optimize your chances of a successful session is to prep your kids. Often a photo session is a new experience; I am a stranger to them and it can feel threatening or scary. Prepping your child by going through exactly what will happen at the session (First you’ll put on a special outfit; we will drive to the woods where we’ll meet a lady with a camera like mommy’s phone; then we’ll get to take a short walk where we can look at all the colorful trees; then we get to play a game; then we’ll have a tickle fight; it’ll be really fast and fun!). It sounds silly but for toddlers, it can really work to over-prepare them for what’s about to happen.

Being upbeat the day of, playing fun music on the way to the session, and creating any positive association to the session is ideal! Bringing a special toy that gets attention or provides comfort is a good idea too.

4. bribes are okay

There is no judgement in rewarding your kid via bribe. Bribes are a thing because they work! I’m not here to judge your bribe and I encourage it if it will get your child to even somewhat cooperate with simple direction (hug mommy, walk with dad, etc.). If your child is more easy-going, save the bribe for a clutch moment if needed. Stick it in the purse in your car and pull out if needed. If you child is stubborn or shy, it can be good to promise the bribe during the prep phase (i.e. if you follow the directions, you’ll get an ice cream cone on the way home).

What should you bribe with? Usually something they don’t get every day. Something special works well, whether that’s an experience, toy, candy, food, etc. Just make sure you follow through if you promise it. Bribes work on older children as well (and honestly adults too – aren’t you motivated by some form of bribing yourself?).

5. Trust Your Photographer

Though it’s rare to end a session (even a chaotic one at that) without any good images, at the conclusion of the session, it may feel like you got NOTHING. While you were busy worrying about your children’s behavior and concerned about your outfit and if your partner is smirking instead of smiling, your photographer was snapping away — looking for those moments you probably missed in your worry. With little ones, I snap so many images because they are usually on the move! In a lifestyle session, it can feel like a lot, but I’ve never come home with absolutely NOTHING to show for it (even if the family tested my patience beyond measures).

One of the most important tips for fun family photos is to really leave it to the photographer to deliver images that reflect your family. Take your photographer’s suggestions seriously and listen to their advice! Though you know your family best, they know what they’re doing. When they step back and let you play with your kids, know that they’re capturing some moments that are truly fleeting. How often do we get to capture that interaction as parents? One day those will be the images you cherish, even if the “smile say cheese” photo is the one that ends up on the holiday cards and over your mantle.

Hire a photographer with patience and kindness. Listen to their advice on length of session (depends on your children), time of day (mornings honestly almost always are best for younger kids) or location (limited walking, open spaces, and NO playgrounds). And please don’t schedule your session in the middle of what should be nap time — even if you want the most perfect golden hour. It’s not worth it parents!

tips for fun family photos

Five Tips for fun family photos wrap up

Throughout your parenthood journey, if you take at least yearly family photos, there will be sessions that end in what feels like disaster. You may not get the “perfect” photo out of these. And that’s okay. That’s why we lower our expectations and meet our children where they are. Kids have their days just like we do, they just don’t have the emotional capacity and practice at coping. Keep trying and keep exposing them to photo sessions and eventually they’ll grow to have fun! I’ve watched shy children blossom over the years and each session, they get better and better in front of the camera.

Don’t let one crying toddler meltdown ruin your view of family photos. Fun family photos are possible, but they take practice!

To book your fun family photo session with Madalyn, click here!

What to Do with Your Wedding Photos | 3 Ways to Back Up Your Wedding Images

What to Do with Your Wedding Photos | 3 Ways to Back Up Your Wedding Images

You’ve spent many months (maybe years) planning your wedding. Every detail was perfect. You’ve invested thousands in your wedding photography experience. The day comes and goes, and you enjoyed every single moments. When you get your wedding photos back, what do you do with them? You look at them over and over again (maybe on a screen), change your profile photo every week, and post to Instagram for weeks. Any chance to show those lovely photos to the world, you’re on it. But after awhile, you go back to married life and move on. What should you do with your wedding photos? I want to share three simple ways to back up your images so you never lose them and can enjoy them for years to come. 

The digital age is fantastic and has made sharing and storing images easier than ever. But we’ve all heard the horror stories: dropped hard drives. Fried computers. The blue screen of death. A house fire. All nightmares if you’re not backing up your images. 

Backing up your images isn’t your wedding photographer’s job. Most photographers have clauses in their contract stating how long they backup images. And though many probably back them up much longer, do you really want to take a chance with all that’s left of the happiest day of your life? Probs not. 


Back Up Wedding Images

1. Download your images to an external hard drive.

One of the simplest things you can do to back up your images is to grab an external hard drive and download them all to it. 

The more places your images live, the better! That’s called redundancy, meaning you have multiple copies of your images. If you download them to a USB and your laptop and an external, that’s three places. It’s not super likely that all three will malfunction at the same time.

I recommend using two external hard drives to backup your wedding images. Keep one at your house and one at someone else’s. Or if you want to be extra, keep one in a fireproof safe at your house (that’s where I keep memory cards while I’m editing!). It’s scary, but there’s always a possibility of a fire, and though you’d hope you’d grab your hard drive, maybe you won’t. 

I think most external hard drives have similar ability to fail, as I’ve used almost every brand. But my recommendation is to get an SSD (solid state drive) which are much less likely to kick it. This one is super tiny and portable, or if you have more cash to spend, you can grab this fancy LaCie. 

Back Up Wedding Images

2. Use the cloud

Though it sounds super nebulous and weird, the cloud is another place you want to use to backup your wedding photos. Again, what if your house catches on fire or floods or there’s a tornado, etc. Events industry professionals are always looking for contingency plans and the cloud is a great one that’s affordable and worth the cost. Most cloud backup systems are automatic so that means you don’t have to think about it at all. Totally recommend setting up your entire laptop to backup (and those iPhone photos…you don’t want to lose those, right?). 

It’s not okay to think of Facebook or Instagram as a cloud platform. Those websites reduce quality of your images. Have you ever tried to print a Facebook image? Yeah, it’s not great. 

Here are some cloud backup recommendations:

1. iCloud (50GB for .99 a month)  — I use this for my iPhone photos

2. Amazon Drive (up to 5 GB with Prime)

3. Backblaze  ($6 a month or $60 for the year) — I use this for my business! 

There is NO excuse not to protect your images (and all sort of personal files too). Storage is cheap! Fixing a hard drive is not. 


Back Up Wedding Images

3. Invest in an Album or Prints

If you’re my client, you’ve heard me say this a million times, but investing in an album is another great way to backup your images. It’s the most expensive thing on this list, but I truly believe that your photos were meant to live in print rather than on a screen. Technology is a beautiful thing, but sometimes getting back to basics is ideal. A wedding album doesn’t require the internet and it doesn’t corrupt or crash. It lives so long as you take care of it (and it’s not in a fire lol).

There is something special about flipping through a hard copy of your wedding memories. There’s no subscription required and an album is an heirloom you can pass down. Who knows if external hard drives will be a thing? I can already tell you that USB drives aren’t a thing anymore (looking at those new MacBooks). 

If you were recently married and your package didn’t come with an album, I bet your photographer offers them! I sure do, and you’re always welcome to purchase one, even a year later.

Sometimes we promise ourselves that we’ll get around to creating our own album, but allowing a professional to just take the reins (and get better quality items than consumers can!) is sometimes the best way to go. An album is an expensive investment, but you want to make sure it’s a quality item that will last. This ain’t Shutterfly, y’all. 

Here’s more information about my heirloom albums.

And, of course, if an album isn’t your thing, at least print your images and display them. I love looking at the images I’ve printed and displayed of our wedding throughout our home. It reminds me of what a great day that was and how much I love my husband. 

It’s even nicer if you can purchase professional prints from your photographer. I guarantee they’re better than what you can get yourself – and they’ll always be proper colors. Printers do vary, believe it or not, and your photographer isn’t responsible for knowing them all honestly! That would be CRAZY TOWN. So trust your professional and if you’re ordering prints, try to get them from the professional! Plus, it’s always nice to support a small business when you can, right?


Final Thoughts on ways to back up your wedding images

There you have it: three ways to back up your wedding images! There’s never too much of a good thing, and this adage applies to backups. In summary:

1. Remember that redundancy is your friend.
2. Don’t wait to backup your images! Back them up as soon as you can!
3. Your photographer isn’t responsible for archiving your images forever. That is YOUR responsibility.
4. Invest in hard copies of your images if you can. They never go out of style.


what to do with your wedding photos

How to Take Better iPhone Photos

How to Take Better iPhone Photos

While we’re all stuck at home due to COVID-19 and photographers not legally allowed to work in many states (including my own home state of Michigan), I wanted to share how to take better iPhone photos so that y’all can keep capturing your moments, even with the COVID-19 crisis we’re in.

For many families, you’re spending a lot of time together. What better time than to document your littles doing every day things in your home! 

If you’re expecting a newborn in your home soon, first congratulations! Second, a lot of these same rules apply! I know it can be devastating to not have a professional in your home during this time, but I promise you can still take great photos!

Though you won’t ever find me saying that your iPhone can replace a professional photographer, for times like these, you can produce pretty good photos of your family on your phone with some professional tricks. If you happen to have a DSLR laying around, these tips can help you too! They’re basic photography principles that I use when I go into clients’ homes for lifestyle sessions and these are tips that I use for how to take better iPhone photos.

Take these tips into consideration for how to take better iPhone photos during COVID-19.

1. Try to shoot during day time.

For anyone with little photography training, shooting during the day time will make it so much easier on you! The best time to take photos in your home is mid-day, when the light is the brightest. If there is a room in your home that has more light than others, it will probably work better, but you can still take photos in darker rooms. Paying attention to which rooms are brightest and at what time of day can help you know where to position yourself. You can’t always dictate where your kids are playing, so if you gotta go full documentary, do it!

how to take better iphone photos
Blinds all open, front door open. My living room has 3 light sources in this photo so that’s why I’m shooting into a window here.

2. Open the blinds and shut off the lights.

For many, it seems counterintuitive, but yes, turn off lights and open the blinds. Using the natural light in your home will be easiest with an iPhone. Avoiding that terrible flash is best for most scenarios at home. 

Photographers don’t like to mix light sources. Turning off lamps and overhead lights (especially if they are yellow colored) helps with keep colors true to life, which is always what you want! 

For ideas, check out this newborn lifestyle session which was shot in a darker home.

How to Take Better iphone Photos
The window is behind me here, which makes Nora’s face have a nice soft light on it!
How to Take Better iphone Photos
Though I really like this image of my sister and Nora, see how the yellow light behind her is kind of turning her skin red? This is why we try to shoot indoors during daytime and why professionals use flash.

3. Try to position yourself with your back to the window or with the window to your side.

For the best photos, try not to backlight your subjects. This means, try not to shoot into the window (this blows out your subject and isn’t pretty for editing). You want the light to illuminate your subject, so positioning yourself with the window behind you or at your side makes sure the light hits them but doesn’t wash out the scene. 

This is a good example of shooting into the window and what it does to your photos. See how Josh’s hair is a little blown out and you can’t really see the detail on it? That’s why you don’t shoot into the window with an iPhone.

4. If you have portrait mode, use it!

A major thing to remember with how to take better iPhone photos, is that there’s nothing wrong with letting Apple give you a little help. If you have a portrait mode on your phone, go ahead and put it in portrait mode if you are shooting portraits (do not use it for landscape scenes or large group photos). Portrait mode blurs the background of your photo, much like a smaller aperture would do on a professional DSLR, and makes the subject pop out. Basically, the subject is isolated from the background. 

Portrait mode photos usually look the closest to professional portraits because of this magic hoo-doo software Apple has created. I would not recommend blowing them up for huge images but it gets the job done!

How to Take Better iphone Photos
This was shot using portrait mode at sunset. You can see how the focus is on Nora’s body and the background is blurred. This makes us focus more on her rather than any other part of the photo.

5. Do not try to zoom. Zoom with your feet.

For the love of all things, do not try to zoom on your iPhone. It is my biggest pet peeve of phone photos. Use your feet to zoom. It will look so much better if you don’t try to test the phone’s ability to zoom. It just doesn’t look good and turns out pixelated. No thank you!

See how bad this zoom is? Josh took this photo. PIXELATED ICK!

6. Don’t be afraid to flip your phone and take some landscape shots.

Though it’s easy to take portrait oriented shots on an iPhone (and it feels most natural to do so), try flipping your phone to take some landscape oriented shots. It’ll feel a little weird, but those photos usually work better for documentary photos. You can create more of a scene instead of just trying a straight-up portrait.

7. Get on their level.

Ever had someone shoot a photo right up at you? Like full on chin and nose? It’s not flattering. Before you start getting creative, try to get on the same level as your subject. This may mean crouching down or even laying on the floor. If you must, take photos from above, not below, your subject!

If you want to get really fancy, learn about the rule of thirds in this article!

How to Take Better iphone Photos
Here I got down and the phone was just above Nora’s head. I also used portrait mood to really get the details on her face. The window is behind me here.

8. Think about scene and not just subject.

I think in the home and with documentary photos, it’s not just always about the subject. It’s also about the scene of the home. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and just observe everything. Not everything has to be a portrait with perfect rule of thirds and centered subjects. Some photos can be interesting and good because of the story they tell. And right now I know you have some stories to tell. 

How to Take Better iphone Photos
Taking a step back here to get the whole scene instead of just Nora. This is one of my favorite photos of her on patrol.

9. Try not to direct or pose.

Some may disagree, but I think what is best about shooting in your home is the documentary aspect to it. Try to blend into the background and just capture your kids when they aren’t paying attention. You don’t need to tell them what you’re doing (they’ve probably seen your phone in your hand, right). Watch them and take images when you think the time is right.

How to Take Better iphone Photos
If you have a pet, bribe them with treats.

10. Overall, have fun!

I could teach you a million photography tricks and how to take better iPhone photos, but in 10 years, it won’t really matter if all your photos are perfect. When I look back at the photos my parents took of us when we were kids, they aren’t perfect. But I love them because it brings me back to those moments. That’s what’s important. Don’t stop photographing, have fun with it and maybe you’ll just be a little more practiced when all of this is over!

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