9 Things I've Learned From Photographing Large Families | Whidbey Island Family Photographer

I love photographing families of all shapes and sizes.

Whether it's an intimate in-home newborn session with mom and dad, a session with a couple of wild toddlers, or a family full of tweens and teens - I love how each family I work with tells their own story in their own unique way. 

I've worked with the amazing McGrath family four times now, and each time we have more and more fun together documenting their big, beautiful love story. Which is now even bigger since baby Charlie joined the family last spring. We shot his newborn session at home, capturing a mixture of newborn snuggles and big sisters and brothers jumping on beds and playing with legos. 

For their fall family outdoor session, I knew we needed a location with lots of options and loads of space. Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island was an obvious choice. Shooting a family of seven can be a little stressful, but here's what I've learned from working with this awesome family, and what I try to incorporate into all my family portrait sessions.   

1. Focus on the big picture. 

All mom and dad want is one picture with the whole family in the frame. Seriously. They love their loud, lovely bunch, but selfies with five kiddos can be hard! I try to give numerous options for group shots, and yes - I even include a few shots where I let you look at me (ha!). But the images that really speak to me are of the moments in between. When you sing a song together or hug mom and tell her how awesome she is. (Because she doesn't hear it enough!).

2. Let the siblings steal the show.

It's hard to document just how much your kiddos love each other - especially because it's not always that apparent! But let's face it, they're best friends, and as I like to tell my girls - they're stuck with each other. I love to get kiddos telling jokes or playing games with one another. They end up encouraging participation with their siblings and make each other feel more comfortable and relaxed.

3. Make it all about the baby.

We're all guilty of it. We take a million pictures of our first baby, twenty of our second, and let's be honest - it goes down from there. With bigger families - especially ones with age gaps between siblings - I like to give mom and dad the chance to focus all of their attention on the baby (even if the "baby" of the family is all grown up). Clearly baby Charlie LOVES this idea!

4. Divide and conquer.

If one or two kiddos are extra snuggling with mom or dad, I pull them aside and give the rest of the group a break. Likewise, if somebody needs to run around and burn off some energy, I focus on just the guys, or just the gals. And I swear mom and dad's faces light up the brightest when they get just a few minutes of one-on-one time. 

5. Embrace the chaos.

If you want a gallery full of perfect family pics with everyone looking stiffly at the camera, I'm probably not your gal. And that's okay! But if you want to capture the realness of your family's story - how big, and loud, and incredible your love story is? Well then I'm up for the challenge. My favorite family images are when things get a bit silly. A bit snuggly. When the love you feel for one another oozes out of the frame. 

6. Don't forget the portraits.

Remember when she lost her first tooth? Or when his little dimples took over his cheeks? Getting individual shots of each of your kiddos is important. Because they'll never be this little again, and you want to remember every detail. You want images that remind you of how they smelled, how they felt in your arms, how their whole body shook when they laughed. 

7. Let them be little.

I don't want taking family pictures to feel like work. I want your family to have FUN. And you better believe that means a lot of time to just play. Especially at the end of the session, when we head to the beach, throw rocks into the water, or balance on driftwood logs. Kids just want to play. So we do that.

8. Give mom and dad a break.

These two right here work HARD. They are amazing parents who provide every opportunity for their kiddos to have fun and thrive. And they probably don't get a lot of time together - just the two of them. And they probably haven't had many pictures taken of just the two of them. Until now. ;)

9. Focus on presence over perfection.

Between work, school, and activities, sometimes the win comes from just being together. By the end of the session, when everyone's relaxed, I want to show your family just laughing, snuggling, and being silly. These last 'group hugs' can be pretty magical.



Whether your family is just getting started or finally complete - I'd love to work with you and tell your family's story! Contact me now to get on the books for a gorgeous spring family session on Whidbey Island. 

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