Things to bear in mind ahead of your outdoor photoshoot …based on my own experience

I booked a professional photographer while on holiday last Easter and it was one of the best things I’ve done for our family. I switched from photographer to client. It was good for me to walk around in my customer’s shoes. I learned – and was reminded of – a great deal…

(I’ve chosen not to share all my favourite images of my children and husband from our holiday photo session. I want to keep the most precious ones to myself, so here’s just a few. If you want to see more, you’ll have to come over for a cuppa and see them on the walls)

Flic-en-Flac beach at sunset

At Easter we took our three young children to the other side of the world, to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

This was our first big adventure since having our first child 9 years ago. This was long-haul! It was unknown, exotic, a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We would explore & experiment, bond & bloom as a family, and I would photograph it, document it, to the max.

However, I wanted someone else to photograph it for me aswell. I wanted to see me, my family and our holiday experience through another pair of eyes. A professional pair. Someone creative who thought just like me. Above all, I wanted to be in the photographs and, I hope this doesn’t sound vain but, I wanted to look half decent. Not styled or made-up, just placed in some good light and at a flattering angle! Aside for a selfie or two, this wouldn’t happen otherwise.

Before we left home, I did some rummaging around on the internet and discovered Beata Albert, a female photographer living in Mauritius. Beata specialised in dreamy, carefree photographs of families on the beach, just what I wanted… and so I booked her. We met on the 15th April on Flic-en-Flac beach in Mauritius, and we clicked straightaway, not just in the photographic sense, but in the like-minded sense. Beata was warm, friendly, enthusiastic, everything that I aim to be when meeting up with new customers. I had a hundred questions about her professional life and so we strolled along the beach “talking shop” for a while before I remembered that there was a job to be done. I took my photography head off, and transformed back to my mummy and client role.

The photo session began…

The experience was entirely positive, I couldn’t fault Beata at all. In fact, she operated a lot like me! The experience reinforced, or reminded me of a few things, namely…

It’s OK to be nervous

For most of us, being in front of the camera is not a comfortable place to be. I don’t enjoy it anymore than you do. I felt pretty self-conscious during our photo session, partly because I was having a bad hair day. The tropical humidity had taken its toll.

Ridiculous, but I was also worrying about the rest of my family playing ball, husband included! Ten minutes into the session my little boy asked when he would be allowed to go home! I felt a little tense yet I was expecting everyone else to relax and be themselves! Trust me, if you end up feeling like this, it is totally normal and that’s why your photographer allocates you a full hour. As the session develops, it does get a bit easier. You get used to the photographer, and they get used to you. Whatever you do, don’t worry unnecessarily about the children being a tad awkward or unwilling. If your photographer is experienced, this won’t phase them at all. It’s pretty standard behaviour for little ones, and who can blame them really? Your photographer should be patient and reassuring, just as I am with my customers, and just as Beata was with me and my family.

Select the right personality

It’s easy to work out whether your chosen photographer can take a good picture, but what are they like as a person? Having your photograph taken is actually a very personal and intimate thing, so it’s important that you’re going to get on with this person. That’s why recommendations from other friends are so important, they can vouch for the temperament and personality of the professional you choose. You can often get a sense of this just by speaking to them on the phone before you make the booking. Are they interested? Are they keen? Are they prepared to go the extra mile for you? Will they make you feel relaxed and special?

It’s a physical job, and your photographer should throw themselves entirely into the job in hand. Yes, Beata was entirely engaged with us throughout the session. She ended up soggy and sandy after galloping around on the beach and leaping through the waves, and we felt as though nothing was too much trouble. Beata is in the right job, she has the perfect personality to be a family photographer and when I look at the photos, I remember her fondly. She completed the experience for us all. I hope I make my families feel a similar way and I vow to make even more effort for them all.

Don’t tell the children it’s a photo session…

…because for the majority of children, that just isn’t a fun thing! Tell them you’re going to go into the woods and build a den, or walk by the river and throw some stones in. You can mention the nice lady with a camera who will also be there, but make sure it’s a secondary detail!

Put your trust in your photographer

If you’ve hired the right person then this should be easy to do, you’ll feel confident to be led by the professional. Allow him or her to do their thing. They’ll undoubtedly have assessed your family’s requirements and will be working to a rough plan in their head, taking into account whether the baby is due a nap, or the two year needs some time to warm up and get used to the camera. I always get my priority shots first, and then if the children are still compliant, I carry on – everything else is a bonus! I’m always very conscious of the attention span of the little ones. Beata, a true professional, did in fact manage to get the shots in the bag before my littlest one had wilted. She knew exactly what she was up against.

Hot, bothered and tired, losing the plot…

Mummies and Daddies matter

Make sure YOU are in the photographs! My brief to Beata was actually to focus on capturing a family portrait, that was the most important shot of all. I wanted to make sure my husband and I were in as many of the pictures as possible. It means the world to have photographs of me and him looking happy and relaxed with our children, as it’s something I cannot capture myself. I’ve tried so many times, putting the camera on a tripod, setting the timer and then darting back into the photograph. I never get the results I had in mind! A professional photo session doesn’t break the bank these days and I believe families should do it more. It’s so worth it.

a photo of me and my children, such a precious thing