Planning your family reunion session

I love photographing family reunion sessions. Family members travel across the country and sometimes from abroad for a grandparents’ birthday or wedding anniversary, or a Christmas get together. They often haven’t seen each other for a while and are happy to catch up, so genuine emotions and joy are in the air. Relaxed outdoor family sessions are particularly fun, as my featured extended family portrait gallery shows.

Planning your family reunion itself, coordinating the schedules of several families and planning logistics can be a challenge. Some families even create Facebook groups or Facebook events to get everyone on board.  Hiring a photographer and arranging a professional photo session initially may seem like an extra hassle. However, these photographs will become treasured pieces in the mosaic of your family history and are worthy enough to be taken seriously and invest your money, time and effort.

Here are some tips to get the pain out of the preparation process and ensure wonderful results.

1. Decide on date, time and location

You must at least all agree on the date when everyone is coming and keep your fingers crossed for good weather. Don’t worry – best location and time arrangements can be further refined during your pre-session consultation.

Family Reunion session on the beach

Family reunion session on the beach

2. Determine the style of your session

Is it going to be a family portrait session in the park? On the beach? In your garden? On the bridge or a village green? Again a historical landmark? In an orchard or nearby field? On the river bank? In the town centre? Would you like to incorporate your home,a car, a boat, or a family dog or horses? Maybe you have  booked a venue for your celebration that has grounds.

While grandparents may be delighted with a series of group photographs for the mantelpiece, grandchildren may easily become, well, bored and impatient, and parents may consider too many posed groups a little outdated. So plan for some real activities, such as a squirt gun fight or building a sand castle, a volleyball game or a talent show. Bring props and toys to ensure a lot of variety and authentic memories of the day!

Would you like your posed group portraits to be followed by a more spontaneous and candid lifestyle segment (if it is an extended family portrait session) or a discrete documentary coverage (if it’s a wedding anniversary or birthday party)?

Lifestyle portraits

Lifestyle portraits

3. Plan for outcome

Before you book your session you should be clear what products you expect from your extended family portraits. A large framed print or canvas? A keepsake album? Desk photographs? Gift prints? Digital files? You’ll have a full pricelist and be able to plan your investment yourselves knowing all the options.

4. Create a list of must-have photographs

If you have a three generations family portrait shoot (grandparents/GENERATION A, parents/GENERATION B and children/GENERATION C) your must-have list may look as follows:

  • a picture of all three generations together, including spouses
  • a group of grandparents with parents (GENERATION A + GENERATION B, excluding spouses)
  • a group of all grandchildren with their grandparents (GENERATION C + GENERATION A)
  • grandparents on their own
  • individual shots of grandmother and grandfather.

Once the must-have groups are taken and out of the way the session will become more spontaneous and flexible in spirit. Any pairings and combinations will be possible, such as casual sibling shots, individual photographs of grandchildren and of course my speciality – fun lifestyle portraits – to make sure that true personalities is captured.

Grandparents with all grandchildren family group

Grandparents with all grandchildren family group

Siblings family portrait

Siblings family portrait

5. Designate a go-between

Once you know the date you can designate a go-between person responsible for all communications with your photographer. This person will book your portrait session, sign paperwork, have a phone consultation with me about locations and wardrobe, update me on your special requirements and family dynamics, confirm dates and times, email me a list of must-have photos, spread the word when the images are ready for purchase etc.

6. Choose your clothes

It goes beyond saying that the clothes style should match. Will you all wear casual outfits? Or smart ones?

Your photographs will look more polished if you decide on a unifying colour scheme. Just an example – smart black and white monochrome outfit combinations with a splash of red or green accessories. Or all the girls can wear a white top/shirt/blouse/T-shirt/a scarf/a hair flower etc, while all the boys can wear something blue. Don’t be afraid to mix in subtle patterns or textures. You can find an inspiration colour palette on Pinterest or take an iPhone picture and email it to every family for reference. Do some research and make sure that  stores carry clothes in your chosen colours this season

Not all clothes must match EXACTLY. For me it’s enough that only half or two thirds of family members follow the scheme. I’ll make them the colour accent ancors while posing your large groups.

Of course just like at a wedding colour coordination may go down the drain if you have a large birthday party  with invited distant relatives and co-workers. In this case let it go and focus on having fun!

White shirts for a casual portrait session

White shirts for a casual portrait session

7. Bring with you

If your photo shoot takes place in the field or orchard, in the park or on the beach you might consider bringing some folding chairs for grandparents’ comfort, a blanket and cushions for picnic scenes, bottled water and tissues, and some props and toys to keep kids occupied.

Props and real activities

Props and real activities

So with a little bit of planning you will have terrific heirloom keepsakes of your family reunion memories!

I am available for family reunion session bookings in Dumfries area. If you are interested please get in touch for details and further arrangements!