preparing for your family photo session by jamie atlas


You're longing to have meaningful pictures of your family, so you finally booked a photographer to capture your family in all your cute and cozy glory...but now you're totally nervous and dreading the shoot day. Don't worry! Most people feel timid before jumping in front of a camera (including me). But I've been around a lot of shoot days of all kinds, and I'm here to tell you- as soon as you get that first shot clicked, the nerves will dissipate. Promise. In the meantime, here are a few things to prepare yourself for a family photo session, so you're less anxious ahead of time and ready to get that first shot clicked!


To Do (and not do) Beforehand

Prepping the kiddos. First off, there's no homework to do! But you can describe the shoot to your kids beforehand, just so they understand someone will be hanging out and taking pictures. It doesn't hurt to make the event sound like something fun and special. Using words like "photo shoot," "director," or "model" can take the mystery out of it and make it all a fun dress-up kind of game to look forward to. // Don't make them practice smiles or poses! The best photos are made when little ones can just relax and be themselves.

Scheduling. Try to keep nap and food times in mind when scheduling your shoot (I know you're programmed to do this already!) - having your picture taken is a chore if you're hangry at the time. // Don't force it. It goes without saying that cranky babies trump any kind of beautiful light...if your little one is a nightmare before dinner every evening, it's best to skip "golden hour" in favor of a more cheerful time of day.

Photo inspiration. Think a little bit about the types of photos you most love and the moments in your own everyday lives that you'd like captured. Feel free to share images that resonate with you with your photographer ahead of time. Poke around on Pinterest if you have some time, to get an idea of what you most want to achieve - keeping in mind, of course, that if you've chosen a photographer already, your shoot will naturally fall into his or her style and strengths.

What to wear. Think about what you feel most comfortable in...and also pretty or handsome, of course, but now is not the time to break out fancy duds you don't usually wear. Feel yourself. This is especially true for your kids - put them in something they've warn before that allows them to be themselves. // Don't go too matchy matchy with it - you can try to harmonize your outfits with each other, but don't over think it.

To Do (and not do) At The Shoot

Relax! I know, I know, that is such an easier-said-than done kind of thing. But seriously, now's the time to channel your inner diva. You picked a photographer, you packed the snacks, you got everyone there (with shoes on, no less?!) - you're a parenting rock star. Now let the photographer worry about the rest - this is all just a typical day of work for him or her. // Don't overthink it. Try to let go of any thoughts about your upper arm flab or your daughter's "good side." Take this time to just be with your family, and let your photographer find and capture all the beauty that's there.

Directing the kiddos. Feel free to tell your little ones ahead of time to be "good listeners," but let your directing stop there. You'll be a better "model" if you spend your time relaxed and enjoying yourself, rather than talking or frowning as you direct others. Plus you never know what the photographer is seeing through the viewfinder, so it's best to let him or her direct (or choose not to direct) what's going on around you.

Most importantly: Don't sweat it if your kids are acting like maniacs! I promise you, we've seen it all! Your photographer has chosen to photograph families because he or she loves the silly, messy chaos that comes with it. Plus, you'd be surprised how beautiful photos can be taken even while the chaos ensues.

Most of all, of course, try to enjoy yourself!

Click HERE for a free printable download of this list. Break a leg! xjamie


capturing candid moments when photographing children by jamie atlas


There’s nothing more unnatural than the crusty position of a child’s mouth while he groans “cheeeeese” for the 18th time in a row. The moments most worth capturing are ones that have a breath of reality, spontaneity, and whimsy to them. There are a couple simple techniques, way better than yelling cheese, for capturing that spontaneity in our images.

I wrote a guest post over at the MCP Actions blog about capturing these types of candid moments when photographing children - for the complete post, including more photo examples and tips like "please, please don't ever ask them to say cheese," click here!

makers gotta make by jamie atlas


The hardest thing about leading a creative life is pushing yourself to keep creating day after day. The insecurities and doubts that niggle at your mind - what's the point? where do I start? - can stop a good idea before it ever gets going. And simple logistics can get in your way. Especially now, as the mother of two tiresome toddlers, it's hard for me to carve out time to sit at my desk, much less find the brainspace to seek inspiration and be creative. I could write 100 blog posts about motherhood and working, specifically about fueling your own creative needs when literally 100% of your body and brain are devoted to other little beings. I swear, half of my brainpower was literally sucked out with my breastmilk the last couple of years - is that possible?! But wherever the inhibition stems from, creatives all have the excuses that stop us.

On a trip to a museum with my dad when I was a kid, I remember being baffled by some of the modern art (if I remember correctly, it was specifically Black Square, by Kasimir Malevich, that really annoyed me, in that ignorant-yet-cocky way that only kids can get annoyed) and muttering under my breath something like, "seriously?! even I could make that." My dad heard me, of course (parents always hear those mutterings, don't they?) and said, "yes, but you didn't." I think about that conversation a lot. It's so simple, really, but creative things have to be created! I do NOT fancy myself an artist by any means, but I'm a maker, by hobby and trade, and I've found myself in need of this reminder lately: MAKERS GOTTA MAKE. I could make a lot of things...but when do I show up and actually get making?

I'm pushing myself lately to create something every day - the project can be large or small, photography or not, for work or personal. A simple step I've made is to put myself in the habit of leaving my cameras out and about, rather than packing them away in camera bags in the closet. I have one out on a dresser or counter top in a few different rooms of my apartment (it seems stupidly simple, I know, but with curious toddler fingers constantly on the prowl, it's actually super baddass). It's one little thing that has removed a step between me feeling inspired and picking up my tool.

I just bought the book Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and just a few pages in, I'm really into it. How do you push yourself to keep creating?