Everyone always wants to know what they should expect when I'm coming over to do a portrait session in their home, so I've decided to just go ahead and share it here : )
When I arrive, I'll usually walk around the house with my light meter to figure out where our best light will be (please let me know if there are any off-limits areas). I totally do not mind if your house isn't clean, so please don't be self-conscious about it or stress yourself out over cleaning up just for me! We may need to move furniture around to utilize the space best, but rest assured that I'll help you get it all back to normal before I head out. If you don't want something moved, we don't have to move it.
As you probably know, fed, comfortable and rested kids are happiest and most likely to cooperate. Call me the morning of the shoot and let me know if anyone isn't feeling well, if they bumped their noggin and have a giant goose egg or bruise, are badly sunburnt, have a rash on their face, etc. so that we can reschedule. With tiny brand new infants, sometimes there's a little bit of baby acne or peely skin. We don't need to reschedule because of those things.
The best experience for all of us will happen if I am welcomed into the house as a guest, and the kids do not "practice" smiling, saying "cheese", looking at the camera, etc. beforehand. I'm also not a fan of bribes, such as "If you're good and you smile we will get ice cream/candy/go to the toy store later", as this takes their focus completely off of me and all they can think about is getting ice cream/candy/a toy. I become their roadblock to this great prize!
I appreciate most when you simply let your kids be who they are, and discipline them as you normally would were I simply a visitor in your household. Pretend like it's a normal day, don't build it up or threaten kids, ESPECIALLY toddlers and preschool-agers. Let their curiosity work in our favor : )
I'll give you directions while we're shooting about where to stand/sit so we can be sure to have little ones looking the right way. Most parents' instinct is to make lots of noise and coo and laugh, try to be funny, etc. which can sometimes overstimulate kids (especially if there is more than one parent doing so). Please just hang out, keep the volume to a minimum, and be patient. It's not advisable to invite other relatives and friends over for the shoot. If the kiddos are interested in a toy, or need their lovely/wubby/bunny security item that's fine. I shoot a lot of facial expressions and candid little details, and will adjust the scenario/environment/clothing if it is going to make a difference in the shot I'm taking.
If there's more than one child, we'll probably start with both/all of the kids, and do individuals later-- but if it happens in a different order it's no big deal. I try and take hints from the kids while still remaining in charge of the situation! Flexibility is key.
Because the whole experience is a *little* stressful and different to kids, they'll probably be hungrier and thirstier than usual. Have a couple of refreshment options on hand, but please do not feed them while I'm shooting or offer them something like a fruit bar/biscuit/crackery snack to carry around while I'm shooting (it will inevitably get crumbs on their face or be stuck to their tongue when they smile for a picture). We can take a little break if we see that your child's patience is wearing thin; just be sure to gently wipe crumbs once the eating is done. Fruit, vegetables, small bites of meat, etc. are great options. Please do not offer candy/treats during our session. If you want portraits with a piece of candy (people like lollipop pics!), it's important that we save it for last, and do not give the kids this information in advance.
I allow about an hour and a half for these types of shoots. Sometimes we're totally done in 30 minutes, and sometimes we really take up the whole time. Just remember: relaxed and happy kids are usually accompanied by relaxed and happy parents. Relax and let me do the work : ) I don't mind if the kids need to touch my reflectors (ooh! SHINY!), and sometimes they're more comfortable if I've allowed them to touch my camera or press the shutter release button a couple of times by themselves.
If it's really dark and rainy on the day of your session, we may not be able to shoot (to get the look my clients adore, I rely on window light in a home shoot, artificial light will not give us the same results), but in that event I'll try and reschedule to as soon as possible in keeping with your timeline.
Payment is due when I arrive for the session, and I'll bring along the price list and a contract for you to complete. I accept checks, cash, or credit cards (can generally run your credit card from my phone at the time of the session). If you'd like to take care of payment before the day of the session, that's fine too-- just let me know. I like to take care of payment at the beginning for a couple of reasons... a) your children will be getting used to me, and this gives them a chance to observe and build some curiosity and b) in the event of epic meltdown toward the end of our session (or worse, epic diaper containment failure) the last thing you want to have to deal with is making monetary decisions and filling out paperwork.
After your session, you'll be given an edit date. This is the tentative date that I'll be working on your images. Final, edited images will be posted to your online gallery either on your edit date or on the following day. Any editing you request after the gallery has been posted is billed separately. In most cases, I post Facebook sneak previews. If you prefer not to have a sneak peek, please tell me. If you prefer to come to my office and choose your prints in person, we can make an appointment for that process (allow 2 hours).
I look forward to working with you! My clients are so special to me, and helping create these images that will become cherished memories for years... well, it's really and truly the best part of my job. I'm lucky to have found an occupation that allows me to share in these wonderful times with all of you : )