By Michelle Reese

Photo by Rhianna Clark Photography, 2020 Philly Happening Finalist for Children’s Photographer

Nature’s beautiful colors, the moderate temperatures that allow a variety of outfit options, and the holiday season right around the corner – it all combines to make fall the perfect time for family photos. The autumn season is always popular for updating your picture frames (or Social Media accounts) and getting that holiday card shot. But while a skilled photographer will help create the image of family bliss, we all know those portrait sessions can get a little stressful if you’re not prepared.

We talked to local photographers to put together a list of tips to keep everyone smiling on picture day!

The Photographer

If there’s a photographer that you’ve worked with for years (and loved the results), then your family is likely to feel more at east during the session. But if you’re looking for someone new, Social Media is a great place to start. Has your friend shared professional family photos that you love? Reach out and ask for the photographer’s info. Referrals are probably the number one way photographers build their business. And, of course, our Happening List is another incredible resource! The photographers quoted in this article are all part of the Happenings Media 2020 Happening List – which means they were voted as being among THE best in the area!

Photo by Kay Dee Photography, Montco Happening List Winner for Photographer

The Location

When asked about the best places for all photos, a common response among local photographers was that ANYWHERE can look beautiful in the fall! After all, your family should be the main focus. Keeping the setting simple is never a mistake. This could even mean your own back yard or front porch if that’s where your family is most comfortable. But there are also plenty of local spots that offer picturesque tree-lined paths, the charm of historic buildings and breathtaking sunsets.

“For family fall photos I have a few favorite local spots including Curtis Hall Arboretum, Gwynedd Reserve Nature Lands, and Valley Forge National Park.” – Keri with Kay Dee Photography, Montco Happening List Winner for Photographer

Photo by Photos by Julie Michelle, 2020 Montco Happening List Winner for Children’s Photographer

Valley Forge National Park is also a favorite of Julie from Photos by Julie Michelle, our 2020 Montco Happening List Winner for Children’s Photographer.

“One of my favorite places to photograph is Valley Forge Park. It just offers a variety of looks and feels. Whether it is open fields, in the woods, the Washington Memorial Chapel and the beautiful archways next to it, the National Memorial Arch with the cobble stone, you can’t point your camera in a bad direction there. It really offers a great diversity of beauty. I also like to photograph at Fischer’s Park in Harleysville- it’s a smaller park with beautiful water features. Most recently, my hands down favorite place to photograph at is Rhodes Garden in North Wales. They are a family owned garden center on 202 and were simply amazing to collaborate with. I am hoping to do so again this year with them, but with Covid-19, I am not sure what will be allowed.”

Photo by Rhianna Clark Photography, 2020 Philly Happening Finalist for Children’s Photographer

And Rhianna Clark Photography, our 2020 Philly Happening Finalist for Children’s Photographer shared, “Find a nice field with even lighting (all shade would be your best bet!) with beautiful color behind you. Always check if it's private property, or if a public space, if a permit is needed. Tyler, Core Creek and Neshaminy parks all require permits.” –

If you’re looking for more location suggestions, take a look at our 2020 Happening List under “Places.” Categories such as Historic Spot, Park/Playground, Nature Spot and Scenic View can offer some inspiration.

Photo by Kay Dee Photography, Montco Happening List Winner for Photographer

The Timing

 Golden hour is the short window of time right after sunrise and again right before sunset. The daylight is warmer, softer and generally more flattering than when the sun is higher in the sky. Also referred to as “magic hour,” it’s typically the time most coveted by photographers.

According to Rhianna Clark, “I always do sessions 90 minutes prior to sunset.” And Julie Michelle agreed saying, “Golden hour happens about an hour before the sun goes down and especially in the fall, it’s when you get those rich sunset colors in the sky that can encompass the entire image.”

Keri with Kay Dee Photography echoed this sentiment, “As the sun starts to get low it makes for beautiful golden backlight images. Sunset shoots can be tough with little ones and their bedtimes but if the parents are willing to give it a shot then I try to recommend a later nap time so the kiddos are well rested and the images will be worth it!”

Photo by Rhianna Clark Photography, 2020 Philly Happening Finalist for Children’s Photographer

That part about kids’ bedtimes bears repeating. People that are tired and/or hungry usually don’t look their best in photos! If you can attempt to play around with naptime leading up to your session, things will definitely go better. And while you might be tempted to bribe your kids with a special treat for good behavior during the photos, making sure everyone (adults too!) have had a snack prior to the session is essential. No hangry faces welcome!

Photo by Kay Dee Photography, Montco Happening List Winner for Photographer

When it comes to the days that are best for fall photography, Keri stated, “I will be starting to shoot outdoor fall sessions come end of September into all of October which is the best time as the trees begin to slowly change and the weather cools off a bit.” Rhianna explained that that one PERFECT week for fall leaves changes every year depending on rain and temperature, “but almost always near the later part of October.”

Keep in mind though that a photographer can always give you suggestions on how to use clothing and other features to add the vibe you’re going for even if nature doesn’t completely cooperate.

Photo by Photos by Julie Michelle, 2020 Montco Happening List Winner for Children’s Photographer

The Outfits

What to wear?! Outfits are probably the most challenging part when you’re planning a family photo session. Do you go dressy or casual? What about matching?

When talking to photographers, the consensus is that “matchy-matchy” is out. Instead of everyone wearing jeans and the same color shirt (we all know those pics), go for looks that coordinate.

This often means coming up with a color palette that works for the location, the people, and the end result. For example, if you’re doing a pumpkin patch, rich jewel tones can look amazing against the oranges of the pumpkins. And they also tend to be flattering on everyone! Don’t wear colors that aren’t right for your own coloring just to go with a theme though. Are these photos for holiday cards or to hang over your mantle? Think about that too. What goes with your overall style?

Photo by Rhianna Clark Photography, 2020 Philly Happening Finalist for Children’s Photographer

“When it comes to choosing what to wear, I always tell families don’t be afraid of colors and don’t be afraid of patterns. With that being said, not everyone needs to have a wacky pattern on, but especially putting a little girl in fun pattern tights under a solid dress, or having a fun flannel pattern is always a great option for fall clothing. When choosing colors, go back to basics. Think of the color wheel and complementary colors. Blue and yellow, Maroon or cranberry and yellow, purple and orange. So many combination options. Also something to remember, they don’t have to be the same exact shade. Pick 2 colors and have fun with different shade: For example blue & yellow- It could be regular blue and someone else wears a navy, could be a bright vibrant yellow and someone else in your group wears a darker richer yellow. Have fun with it!” – Julie from Photos by Julie Michelle

Photo by Photos by Julie Michelle, 2020 Montco Happening List Winner for Children’s Photographer

“I am personally a sucker for neutrals such as creams and warm tones such as yellow and orange. I also love pops of dark colors such as maroon and navy.” – Keri from Kay Dee Photography

Pro Tip from Rhianna Clark Photography: “I tell mom to find her outfit first and coordinate around that.”

Outfit changes usually don’t work well, especially if you’re working with little ones with short attention spans. Keri from Kay Dee Photography stated, “Instead, I will suggest mixing textures or layers such as sweaters or vests into their outfits that way we could always remove a layer for a different look.”

These are your photos – so you decide if you want casual or dressy! But either way, try to keep comfort in mind. While you probably don’t want your pro photos to be if your family in sweats (unless you’re going for a realistic quarantine vibe!), you also don’t want to worry about getting heals stuck in grass or little ones pulling at itchy sweaters.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Pinterest can be your best friend for this! If you search “fall family photo outfit ideas,” you’ll find a ton of ideas.

 

Photo by Rhianna Clark Photography, 2020 Philly Happening Finalist for Children’s Photographer

The Atmosphere

All of the photographers we spoke to agreed that they usually keep props to a minimum for family photo shoots, preferring to focus on emotions and the connections between the family members. They typically only get into props for mini shoots or indoor newborn sessions. The one thing they actually all mentioned though was a blanket! It sounds like a lot of photographers might bring their own large blanket to use as needed, but if you have one that has special meaning (and goes with your color scheme), it’s always nice to add a personal touch.

Photo by Kay Dee Photography, Montco Happening List Winner for Photographer

Perhaps the best piece tip for creating right atmosphere though is to remember to have fun with your family! Be playful, laugh, hug. Don’t worry if your kids never look and smile at the same time. Your photographer will be able to capture the most beautiful, authentic shots if you try to relax and just enjoy yourselves.

Photo by Photos by Julie Michelle, 2020 Montco Happening List Winner for Children’s Photographer

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