When scheduling a family session, you have three main categories to choose from:
In-Home, On-Location, or In-Studio
Considering all of these options and the pros and cons of each will help you determine the best fit for you and your family.
1. In-Home Session
In-home sessions are really popular these days with newborn sessions and for families with younger kids. You will commonly see two distinct styles of in-home sessions: lifestyle, and documentary.
A lifestyle session aims to capture you and your family in everyday situations in an artistic way. Lifestyle sessions are posed and directed by the photographer while aiming to show candid moments that occur with you and your kids. Wikipedia describes it as “the art of your every day.” I am considered a lifestyle photographer. I craft and create situations within your home to allow you to have genuine connections with your partner and kids, then I photograph these moments. In the photo above, I told them all to plop on the bed and enjoy each other’s company. I created an opportunity for Dad to start being silly and tickling his son to get that great moment.
Documentary photography is not posed and directed by the photographer at all. The photographer is an observer and watches a scene unfold and documents it. I think of it as “street photography in your house.” My friend Carrie is a lifestyle and documentary photographer, although her first love is documentary. She describes documentary as 100% honest and authentic because the photographer isn’t inserting herself into the scene or manipulating it in any way. See examples of her amazing work here.
Pros and Cons
There are many benefits of having your family session at home, especially with a newborn or little ones. You don’t have to pack up your bags and drive somewhere. You can schedule the session at the time of day that works best for you and your kids. You have everything under the sun that you need. You have all the toys and loveys and books (and more) that your kids can play with during breaks, or include in the shoot if it’s an important part of your story. You never have to reschedule due to weather. Kids are more comfortable at home and are more likely to just be themselves (speaking from lots of experience here). If you have a newborn, you have everything you need. Home is where you are making and shaping these little lives and is a very important and meaningful place for you all. Why not document your time here? You can look back and remember how baby’s nursery was decorated, remember that super cool arch between your living room and dining room of that awesome old house you had, reminisce about the crazy wall color you decided to paint your bedroom, or perhaps the funky tiled floor you had in your kitchen before you remodeled.
There are a few cons, although I personally don’t think it’s a huge issue, but is definitely something that stresses moms out. Parents are worried about the mess. I’ve written a big ‘ol blog post about why this isn’t a huge deal, but it is still a stress point. I get it. You’re worried that your house is 50 years old and doesn’t have great windows and that it’ll be too dark. I’ve got ya covered there, too. Living in Seattle, there are certain times of the year where it’s just really dark in general for months on end. As a photographer, I show up prepared for any situation. I bring artificial light to my sessions and it looks natural. You can see a ton of examples of how I do that here. These sessions do tend to take longer. They last 1-2 hours although they are typically more laid-back and casual. Last, the main concern I’ve heard is that moms feel like their home isn’t “good enough” to warrant a session at home. I don’t agree with this concern either, because when I do walkthroughs I always find fun and gorgeous little vignettes that would make great backdrops. A home, regardless of how it is decorated or when it has last been updated, is a special and magical place because you are doing the hard work of raising your kids there.
2. On-Location Session
The second location to consider is outdoors or on-location somewhere, a very popular option. On-location sessions can be just about anywhere – a field, a lake, on a beach, in the woods, in the mountains, among wildflowers, or even at a farm or in the city for an ‘urban’ feel or touristy feel. Most on-location sessions that I see are lifestyle, where you are meeting the photographer at the specified location and specified time, and the photographer is directing you and your kids in an artistic way to create a moment of beauty and connection. These sessions could be documentary if you choose a few activities to do, or play tourist and ask the photographer to document what they see. I personally feel that if you want an on-location session, the location needs to be special and important to you. I think the images will be more meaningful to you in a setting that you are connected with. Another important consideration is the time of day you schedule your session. Any good photographer knows that the quality of light is one of the most important factors in crafting a good photograph, and will ask to meet you when the light will be the best. If you love the look of soft, dreamy, golden light then expect to have your session around sunrise or sunset. If you love bold, punchy colors then expect to have your session in the middle of the day. If it is overcast outside, you will most likely have gray, cloudy skies in your photos with soft shadows (not necessarily a bad thing, just a different look).
Pros and Cons
The pros of having an on-location session are that you can get gorgeous natural backdrops for your family images. This includes beautiful fall foliage, gorgeous sunny beaches in the summer, or soft-muted pink cherry blossoms in the spring. Also, you don’t have to worry about cleaning your house or any of that stuff. These sessions tend to take about an hour, so they tend to be more short and sweet, which many parents find very appealing.
A few cons to think about are that you have to pack up snacks, clothing changes, and extra provisions for your newborn or kids. You have travel time to consider. Another con is the sessions are weather-dependent and you may have to reschedule one (or two or three times). Last, depending on the type of session you want, you might have to get your kids up and get ready really early in the morning, or keep them up later (and possibly have cranky kids) for a golden hour sunset shoot.
3. Studio Session
The third option for a family session location is going to a studio. A studio has many perks, one of them being you know exactly what your images will look like. Studio sessions tend to be either classic, posed portraits or lifestyle. Studios can use natural light or artificial lighting, but create a consistent look with the quality and type of light. Studios range in style, from some being simple and timeless with minimal props, to studios with brick walls, huge windows, a bed and couch which gives the photographer a variety of options and looks to photograph your family in a lifestyle setting. Some studios use tons of props and backdrops and are seasonal and low-cost. If you want a studio session, consider what kind of look you are going for.
Pros and Cons
Like the other two options, studios have many pros and cons. The main pluses are that you will get a consistent look in your images. If you find a couple of favorite photographers, by looking at their work you’ll know exactly what your images will look like from your session. Studio sessions are not weather nor time-dependent, so you can schedule them when it works best for your littles. Studio sessions tend to run 1-hour or less (unless you are scheduling a newborn posed session). Downsides to a studio session are that you have to travel to/from the studio, and you have to pack lots of extras for your babies and kids.
I’ve given you a lot to think about, haven’t I? I would encourage you first to figure out which the main type of location you like the best, then hone in on what style of family photo you were envisioning for your session, then find your favorite photographers that fit that bill. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and don’t forget to snag my info on How to Choose the Best Photographer for You below!
Feel free to check out other in-home family sessions here!