How to choose the best location for your family photography session - Melbourne Family Photographer

One of the top questions clients ask me when booking their family photography session is “where should we have our session!?" and so it's made me think about the things I look for in a great location and I thought I would share my thoughts about it, here.

The four main points that I think about when trying to decide on a location are - 

SIGNFICANCE
DISTRACTIONS
PRIVACY
VARIETY

 

I'll chat a bit more about each of these points below, so please read on. 

Sometimes it's worthwhile venturing a little further out of the city for your family photography session - this session took place on the Mornington Peninsula

Sometimes it's worthwhile venturing a little further out of the city for your family photography session - this session took place on the Mornington Peninsula

SIGNIFICANCE

Think about places you go with your family and things you do together that are important and meaningful to you.   Do you guys love to go for adventures in the forest together on weekends?  Do you spend every evening in summer at the beach ? Do you visit your local café  so regularly that they no longer even ask you for your order?  Having your family photography session in a spot that is special to you and already holds its own memories in your heart are going to make your images just that much more treasured in the years to come!   

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DISTRACTIONS -

While it’s wonderful to choose a spot that has significance to you, it is also important to think about how practical the space is going to be for the purposes of a photo session. For example, if you want to do your session at your local park, but the only time you guys ever visit that particular park is for your toddler to play at the playground there, how do you think they will cope when we arrive and tell them they can’t play on the playground and that we’re going to go and do some photos instead!? If they’re anything like my kids, that probably won’t go down so well #tantrumcentral !!!  For that reason, I do try to avoid parks that have playgrounds, because once your toddler sees that, they’re never going to forget about it and you probably didn’t book a professional photographer to get 100x photos of your toddler going down the slide !  

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PRIVACY

Chances are, unless you’re a professional model, you’re probably not SUPER comfortable in front of the camera !! One thing that I think really helps during your photo session is picking a location that isn’t always packed full with people so you don’t feel like you are being watched by a group of 50 curious onlookers.  Crowded areas with lots of people can make it that much more difficult to relax! For example, inner city parks and beaches on a sunny afternoon = top destination for 99% of Melbournians ***!!  In summer, I try to schedule beach sessions for the morning when they tend to be quieter or I suggest that we venture a little further to some of the quieter beaches further out that have just a little more space.  I also suggest we avoid the really popular/well known parks and opt for quieter spots that are just as (if not more) photogenic !

(***completely made up statistic...from time to time I like to exaggerate to make my point)

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VARIETY -

OK, so you were thinking that the park across the road from your house has some nice greenery on the very far right hand side of said park….BUT it is bordered by roads / houses and/or car parking that is slightly less photogenic…. Because you see, the thing about my photo sessions is there is no WAY I am going to get you all to stand in once place for the entire time !  We are going to be moving around, your kids will be running around / playing and so if the location isn’t versatile enough, you’ll end up with a big bright blue station wagon in the background that is going to be distracting and take away from your images !!  As you can see from this session, the locations we shot at had SO.MUCH.VARIETY – it didn’t matter where we turned or what direction we were facing, it was all just so beautiful and that to me, is the ultimate test of a location !!

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A few final thoughts

- My outdoor sessions are always scheduled to coincide with sunrise or sunset, the time of day we photographers refer to as "golden hour". This is when the light is beautiful, flattering and well, just generally pretty damn magical !! The times of sunset and sunrise obviously change quite a lot during the year and it's not always the most convenient time when you have young children - but I can promise you, that for just this one day, it is 100000% worth the small disruption to their routine! 

- Pack lightly for outdoor sessions - please leave your pram in the car and handbags/sunglasses etc. at home ! We're going to be moving around a lot during your session and the last thing we want to have to worry about is moving bags/prams out of the shot. 

- Given we live in Melbourne, there is always the possibility that mother nature will have other plans for our desire to be outside on the day your shoot is scheduled - if the weather is looking dicey, I generally suggest we hold off making the decision to reschedule until the day of the session as the forecast can be so changeble. But we definitely won't be shooting in the rain ! 

- We live in an absolutely BEAUTIFUL part of the world, with endless natural beauty to discover! Of course we can find gorgeous spots close to home, but if you're up for an adventure, let me know and I'm always SOO excited to travel a little further out and explore new places!! 
 

So, there you have it, my top tips for choosing your outdoor location for your next family photography session.   Would you add any others to the list ? 
 

I would LOVE to know what your dream photo location in or around Melbourne would be.  Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.  If you would like to book in your own family photography session, please get in touch and let's make some magic together ! 

Also, I couldn't help myself but do a big ol' overshare of this gorgeous recent family session on the Mornington Peninsula, only a short drive from Melbourne.

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Natural melbourne newborn photographer - Jessica, Hamid, Ayla & Reza

I had the pleasure recently of photographing Jessica Smith and her gorgeous family after they welcomed their 4th member of the family, little baby Reza, a few weeks ago.  Jessica is (among many other things) a former paralympian, author, passionate advocate for raising awareness of mental health and positive body image - oh, and not to mention, a wonderful wife and mama .  Jessica shares so much of her inspiring journey through life and motherhood on her instagram an facebook pages and when I read this post earlier in the week, I connected so much with her message, I knew I had to share it here too: 

One photo that I will never share, is a before and after baby image of my body. So, Let's talk about body image. 

As many of you are aware I have struggled with negative body image my entire life. Born missing my arm and then sustaining horrible scars after an horrific accident with boiling water. Growing up I knew I was different, not only did I look different, but society told me I was different through the language they used to describe me. 

I hated my body. I tortured my body because I had no respect for myself. Depression, bulimia and anorexia were my coping mechanisms... that almost cost me my life. 

It took years to retrain my brain to be respectful, but thankfully I now appreciate my body for what it can do, not what it looks like. 

Ironically, it's my differences and perceived imperfections that have provided me with so many opportunities in life... I'm celebrated because of my differences not in spite of them. 
As a new Mum I too feel the pressure to conform to society's ridiculous idea of what women should look like post baby.. but thankfully I won't allow myself to fall into the trap. The trap that becomes a vicious cycle for so many woman, believing that the quicker you lose weight and regain your body ... Well to be honest I don't even know what it symbolises or represents. But what I do know is that I'm saddened by all the before and after photos shared on social media. Don't get me wrong I'm not for one second saying that these women shouldn't be proud of their body's transformation... Rather I'm appalled at society for sending a message that women need to do this at a time when we need to recover!! It's been almost a month since I had Reza, and no my body is not back to what it was, nor should it be.  I'm still carrying about 10 extra kilos... and so what. I'm not going to rush back into anything before my body is ready. 

I hope that one day all new mums feel the same, and society learns to support women rather than set unrealistic expectations during such an emotionally and physically challenging time. 
Jessica Smith
 

Don't you just want to hang out with this amazing woman and talk to her all day!? I must admit, I had to remind myself a few times during our session that I was there to take photos and not just chit chat all day log !!

As you can see, her family are also THE SWEETEST and it was such a joy capturing some precious memories of the fleeting newborn bubble and family life for them.

If you would like your own family memories captured, please get in touch and let's chat about organising your own newborn or family photography session ! 
 

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Williamstown Sunset Family Photography Session

Summer is finally here!! Well...to be fair, this is Melbourne, so winter could easily be back again tomorrow, but for now, we've had a run of beautiful weather and I've been LOVING all of my recent sunset family photo sessions in and around Melbourne ! 

Obviously with daylight savings over summer, the days are long and sunset is getting later and later - which means the time we would plan to start one of these sessions is right around our little peoples bedtimes ! Now, believe me when I tell you that I 100% get the reluctance in wanting to mess with your kids bedtime. By 5pm, I'm counting down the SECONDS until I can put the kids in bed (ok, fine, sometimes I'm counting down from like 8am...). But TRUST ME, for one night...it really and truly is worth it!!  The light during that golden hour, well there is something just magical about it, it is soft and flattering which means you look your absolute best with no harsh shadows or squinty eyes!

"But Jess!", I hear you say, "my kids usually go to bed at 7:30pm and you're trying to tell me we should start a family photo session then!? Are you crazy!? They will be miserable, impossible to deal with, it will be a disaster. The end".

Oh, I hear you, and they are completely justified concerns, but I would say this - the chances are, your kids are actually going to be pretty damn excited to be going out and about (on an adventure, because that’s what you’re going to tell them we’re doing OK!?) when they are normally getting ready for bed. Plus, I’m going to make sure you’re doing lots of FUN stuff together, stuff that your little one LOVES to do … so I find that generally, the novelty factor often seems to be enough to perk kids up for as long as we need.

In saying that, it’s best to try and prepare them a little bit in the lead up and it can be helpful to try and give them later naps on the day of our photography session just to help stretch them out a bit. Also, bring plenty of drinks and snacks along to the session as I always allow time for breaks whenever we need !  Toys that they love (including bubbles) are great to have as a secret weapon – but I prefer to try and keep these hidden until towards the end of the session unless we *really* need them earlier.

This advice obviously does not apply to all kids – and I completely understand that for some little ones, going out at or after bedtime is just impossible, so in those cases, you have two other GLORIOUS options - 

1) Sunrise
If your kids are like mine and are generally up before the sun, this option might not be as mortifying as it sounds. Get your clothes ready and snacks packed the night before, give the kids some toast in the car and you could be all finished and ready to go out for a family breakfast by 8am!

2) In home session
If neither of those options appeal, then a in home session might be perfect for you and has many benefits ! Check out the blog post I wrote about in home photography sessions with me here

Here is a little snippet of a gorgeous, sun filled family photography session that I did recently just before sunset in Williamstown, which will hopefully convince you that it really is worth it - and if it does convince you - please get in touch and let's chat about planning your own session!

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How to prepare for your own in home lifestyle photography session

Looking through the images from this beautiful family session reminded me of why I LOVE in home lifestyle photography so much! So, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share some gorgeous images, and also help explain what you can expect and how you can prepare for your own in home photo session!


1. Preparing your home

I totally understand that having young children generally means you are living in a home that is a little less “Home Beautiful magazine worthy” and a little more “appears to have just been ransacked by intruders” (speaking for myself here) and the thought of getting the place into a semi-presentable state might be completely overwhelming. Trust me, I get it – that is my life.  BUT, the reality is, that for most in home sessions, I am only going to shoot in a handful of rooms, the ones that have the best natural light. Often, this is your main bedroom, possibly a kids bedroom and the living room.  Generally, it’s pretty easy to hide some excess toys, washing and clutter in cupboards and under the bed (well, that’s what I do whenever we have visitors coming over at least!) – but don’t feel like you have to clear everything out as if you are staging the place for a magazine shoot ! Your home still needs to tell your story and show that little people live here.

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2.     Preparing your kids

Can I ask you a favour ? Can you please not tell your kids that I’m coming over to take their photos and that they need to sit still and do as they're told while I’m there!? I don’t want your kids to dread meeting me ! Instead, tell them that I’m coming over to be REALLY silly with them. Tell them I’m going to want to see how high they can jump on mum and dad’s bed, that I want to hear who can make the funniest noises and see all their craziest faces. Yep…. I know, the things that as parents, we try to minimise our kids doing… but, for this 1 hour window of their lives… lets let them have FUN and be kids ! In amongst all the silliness, I’m also going to ask them to see their best cuddles and kisses, and I bet we will see some really genuine smiles and laughter (without telling them to smile!) but that’s not the part I want you to advertise to them. 

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3.     Preparing yourselves

I can completely understand that the idea of having a stranger come into your home and point a camera at you for an hour and a half, is a kind of daunting / terrifying thought ! I think for most people, it's fairly standard to feel uncomfortable in front of the camera and worry about looking awkward ! That is actually why I LOVE lifestyle photography so much - because it's not about me and my camera, it's about you ! All you guys need to do is be with each other, love each other, look at each other and play with one another and ignore the fact that I'm even there (ok.. so that might be asking a bit much - but I do promise to try and make sessions as PAIN FREE as possible!!). I might guide you guys occasionally into the best light or try and create situations where I can capture some really beautiful connection between you and your family - but for the most part, I just try to encourage things to happen naturally and authentically. Authenticity is really where it's at for me...and I would really encourage you to have a think about what that looks like for your family.  What are the things that are going on in your life right now that you never want to forget ? What do your kids love to do most when they are with you ? What are your kids personality traits that you treasure the most ? Or even, what are their traits that drive you crazy 99.9% of the time, but you know you still kind of want to remember !? I'm not here to capture picture perfect - i'm here to capture real life ! 

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4.     Activities 

Following on from the last point, it's also a really good idea to have a think about some of the things you do as a family on a regular basis.  Does your 2 year old make you sit with her on the couch for hours on end reading her books? Does your 5 year old love to help you bake cookies? Does your 6 month old giggle uncontrollably when you start singing a special song?    If there is something that you love to do as a family or that your kids can’t get enough of, please let me know and let's incorporate those things into your session – it will make your images that much more special and meaningful for you to look back on in the years to come. 

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5.     What to wear

OK, the main thing here is that you need to feel like yourself and you need to feel comfortable !! No, I’m not talking laying on the couch watching TV in your yoga pants, but I definitely don’t want you guys getting dressed up to the nines in clothes that make you feel stiff and uncomfortable – keep in mind that for the majority of my your session, you are going to be playing with your kids!  A few things to consider that I feel like are pretty universally accepted in the lifestyle photography world are -
- Neutrals are timeless (but pops of colour, like the GORGEOUS dress mum is wearing here, are beautiful too and can really inject your own unique personality into your images)
- Long flowy skirts/dresses or simple basics matched with textures (scarfs/kimonos/cardigans) photograph really well !
- As a family, wearing complimentary colours is great – but definitely do not all try and pull off the classic everyone wearing black t-shirt and jeans look.   Mums, it’s great if you can pick your outfit first (take this opportunity to go out and buy yourself something that you LOVE and feel aaaaaaamazing in!) and coordinate the rest of the family around YOU!
- For in home sessions, personally, I recommend avoiding wearing predominately blacks and really dark colours.
-I beg of you, please avoid wearing shifts with graphics or logos/lettering – or mixing too many different patterns. These all detract from what the real focus of the image should be (you) and often, date really quickly !

I'm going to be putting together a what to wear guide over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for some more info on that SOON !

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Ultimately, I think for most of us, there is nowhere in the world that we feel more comfortable and more relaxed than in our own homes. For those of us who are crazy nervous at the idea of having professional photo's done, in home sessions can be a really great way to help take some pressure off ! For family's with really young children, who run off in all different directions the second you go outside, it's a great way to keep things slightly more contained and give kids a safe space to go off and have breaks, without having to worry about where they could potentially run off to! 

If you would like to book your own in home lifestyle photography session, please get in touch here ! I would love to hear from you! 

Oh and lastly, how GORGEOUS is this family and their beautiful home?  Bec has recently made her home  available for photo shoots and filming, so if you want to see more of this amazingly designed, light and bright home, head on over to her instagram account and follow along. 

https://www.instagram.com/houseonhope/

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Jess Worrall is a lifestyle family and newborn photographer based in Footscray, Melbourne.  Jess is available for in home or on location photography sessions throughout Melbourne and surrounds.