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Finally, a family photo + tips

I was once asked: When you have such a nice camera, why do you go to a photo studio and pay someone else to take your photos?

This is my answer:
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We’re all in the photo!
This shot isn’t perfect, but I’m celebrating all eyes open + a general state of happiness.

But not every photo turns out the way it should…

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Schäfer’s ready to go play with toys.
Sianna is delighted to have access to her favorite doll.
Selah wonders where the milk has gone?

Overall, I was really pleased with our photos. It was our first time to work with this studio.

Going to a photo studio in China takes time and planning. In fact, I can’t go that often because Hubs has a limit. (I think I burned him out on studio photos after Schäfer was born. Too many outfits. Too long a session.)

Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way…

Accept Reality
This is not a studio based in downtown Dallas. The good news is that I won’t be charged a $300 sitting fee. In fact, I’ve never been charged any kind of sitting fee. The bad news is that I won’t be getting those amazing photos of my toddler in a diaper walking on railroad tracks.

Find a Studio
When looking for a studio, I assume the camera equipment and lighting are generally about the same. So, I’m mostly looking for a place that will allow me to purchase digital images at 10rmb/each. ($1.52)

From the initial conversation, I’m very honest. I simply say that we don’t need to buy an album or 20×30 glossy because Grandma lives in America. She’ll never see an album or a poster size print. Yep. I pull the grandparent card.

Local photo books are not designed in my style and contain a lot of Chinglish.

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The English reads: “Drean song I must be dreaming Or am jreally lying here you I know my dream is soming true just one touch.”

Confirm Background Options
Once the price is settled, I make sure they have a solid color background. Black, white or gray all work fine. I prefer white or gray because we’ve had issues with Sianna’s hair washing out against the black background.

Bring Your Own Props
During Schäfer’s 100 day portraits, an assistant grabbed a dog and propped Schäfer on top. I wasn’t pleased with a random dalmatian in our photos.

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After a couple of quick shots, we went back to photos of Schäfer by himself. I did end up buying these because his smile was so huge.

We’ve always had problems with studio assistants handing a ball or some large xylophone to the child. Of course, the kid wants to play with the toy! To solve this problem, we started bringing our own toys.

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Prop ideas: a favorite blanket, a lovie, first teddy bear etc.

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The photo studio has plenty of costumes for rent.

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We’ve never rented them.

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I prefer clothes our kids actually wear. Maybe a special Easter dress? Or a simple onesie?

Make a List of the Shots
Once we’re in the studio, things get crazy. I always like to get these basics:

  1. photos of each kid
  2. photos of each kid with each parent
  3. photos of the kids together
  4. family photo

Print off some examples
It’s true. A picture really is worth 1,000 words. I look around the internet and print off some favorites. Then, I show these print outs to the photographer so he can get a feeling for what kind of shots I like (read: what kind of photos I will buy).

I did this for our 100 day and 6 month sessions. After that, the photographer knew exactly what we liked. I recently had to do this again since we moved and had to find a new studio. It was a big help.

Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Stay flexible. In our last session, Schäfer was the first to take his photos and he was pretty much DONE. He wanted to go play with the toys in the studio. The photos of Hubs and I with Schäfer did not turn out. I didn’t buy a single one.

When it came Sianna’s turn, the photos of us with her individually turned out, but the group ones of Mommy, Papa and Sianna were bad. I didn’t buy a single one.

Selah turned on quite the charm when it was her turn. We got lots of good photos of each of us with her and all together. I bought my favorites.

Be Firm, Never Rude
During the session, if the photographer or the assistant keeps putting odd toys in the photos or changing the background so that my child is suddenly in Venice simply say, “I won’t buy these photos. Can we try the white background?”

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Everybody has different likes and dislikes. You can’t blame the studio for trying.

At the end of the day, the studio has to make money so if you’re not going too buy them then they won’t waste time taking them.

Making the purchase
Within a day or two, I usually go back to the studio and preview my photos. This time, we had over 400 to chose from. I had the assistant make 2 files on her computer: likes and dislikes. It took me 2 hours to make my final selection.

Photo shop is our friend. It can take away mosquito bites, blemishes or unwanted razor burn.

But too much of a good thing is bad.

The new studio we used for our last session got a little (A LOT) photo shop happy on Selah. They turned her pink in some photos and pale white in others. Her hair looks ORANGE in some photos and red/brown in others.

Unfortunately, the studio saved over the originals so there was no going back.

We’ve now clarified that we’d always like to look at the originals first before any adjustments are made.

It was a tough lesson to learn. Our old studio always sold us the original photo + the adjusted image for 10rmb.

End with a smile
The studio was a little disappointed in my final selection. They thought I had not bought enough. I assured them, “We have three kids! We’ll be back!”

3 comments to Finally, a family photo + tips

  • The first thing I thought when I looked at your family picture was: you have a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead :). So sweet!

  • jdavis2

    how timely! we need to do liberty’s 100 day photos next week and we need all the help we can get! just in case i haven’t mentioned it (to you) lately – you rock! thanks again!!!

  • ShellieR

    Thanks for sharing the wisdom! I will remember this as a reference when we head back to Asia in 6 months… I have only used a studio there once, I think, and gave up b/c I wasn’t satisfied and felt helpless to express what I wanted. But NOW, thanks to this post, I have a better idea what to do! [smile]

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