"I honestly don't even know where to start."
"This is kind of intimidating."
"I have some ideas, but I'm not sure if it will all look good together."
Is this YOU?
Let me style your family's outfits!
Our case study. Meet the Acuno family. Lauren was totally open to having her family's outfits styled for their photoshoot.
Suggested outfits for the family.
How it went!
As you can see the burnt umber and teal really pop, and play nicely with some warm neutrals and mixed patterns.
If you would like help styling your shoot, let me know and I'll create an outfit "recipe" for you all to look fabulous!
I like to reserve my use of the word "epic" for occasions where it is truely warranted. Overuse is a problem; then nothing is epic. But I feel like this family shoot qualifies. What do you think?
Greater risk yields greater rewards. The forecast called for clouds on their shoot date. And often people ask me to reschedule. But the clouds created this incredible atmosphere. Here in Pleasanton, we often only get clouds in winter and early spring. This is a key reason to book photoshoots then! Embrace it!
About their outfits: the Matsumo family kept things pretty simple for their photoshoot but it looks cohesive with white, ecru, and khaki. They ordered most of their clothes online for this shoot. You probably could find the guy's outfits pretty easily over at the Livermore Outlet Mall, or Stoneridge, but the dresses - honestly probably not. They are both from Joyfolie.
Bring the dog. Why not? Especially if we are working with smaller kids, and wind- there's going to be chaos no matter what. Let's embrace it.
Being open to non-traditional style portraits opens you up to creating artwork of your family that is more layered and nuanced.
Is it ok that not a single person is looking at the camera in your family portrait? Yes! This is a prime example of an environmental portrait where the Matsumo family play the lead roles, and the hills of Pleasanton are supporting characters.
Notice the textures on the dresses. Textures are wonderful for portraits.
People have mixed opinions about solar flare, as shown above. I specifically aim to capture this, when possible. I love the golden glow it contributes to your family pictures.
Now it's your turn. I'm here to help you create an epic portrait of your family. Let's work together to create some magic for you!
Casey and her two beautiful children hit the jackpot on weather for their photoshoot in the Danville hills. It was a sunny and warm February evening. Perfect for their sundresses and shorts.
Her fifth grader, Jameson, charmed me from the get go when he looked out at the vista and pulled a small comb from his pocket to smooth down his hair. Always camera ready!
That is something to be aware of: whenever shooting up in the hills in Danville, San Ramon, and especially Dublin, it does get breezy most afternoons. I always have hairspray with me. But hats really help with blowing hair too!
Stella loves to dress up and pretend she's a princess; she had fun dancing around in my fluffy pink coat.
The Grass Family's photoshoot is an example of Environmental Portraiture. The goal is to celebrate this beautiful valley we live in, and capture authentic moments.
Would a portrait of your family in these rolling green hills look lovely above your mantle? Let's make it happen. Click the button below to start the conversation.
Meet Emily! Check out a few highlights from her senior shoot!
During her planning call, Emily explained that she would probably be going to college out of state and that she wanted her senior pictures to really capture the environment of where she grew up.
So we started out shooting Emily's senior pictures in downtown Livermore.
Then we headed out to the countryside to get a more naturalistic setting during sunset.
We completely lucked out with this moon rising over the pink Livermore hills!
We ended the shoot with this sweet moment with her mom.
If you want a shoot like this for your Livermore senior pictures, hit the button below and let's set it up!
I was so thrilled to get to create family photos for the Stillwells! I had been itching to create some beautiful family pictures in the green rolling hills due to all this rain. We had a 1-day break in the shower and the Stillwells dropped everything to make it happen. What a way to flatter your family photographer!
The weather was in constant flux during their family shoot and this resulted in some very dramatic skies.
After William saw me take this picture of Clara with her dad he asked, "can I get a picture with my mom?" Of course, sweetie. Of course.
Now it's your turn! Would you love to have beautiful artwork of your family created in the surrounding hills? Get in touch soon!
It's hard pulling together outfits for your family's pictures. I get it!
But as someone who has done professional pictures for her family nearly every year for the past decade, let me tell you what not to do!
2011: Outfit ideas- Beginner's luck
Do I look tired? I was. This kid was running me ragged. But I still love these pictures.
Why they worked: everybody is wearing different colored tops, but they are all in the light blue/white space.
What I didn't like is that all 3 of us are wearing jeans. So the full body pictures look a bit more uniform. But no big deal.
2013: Outfit ideas that didn't work!
First off: 2012 is the only year skipped here. See that extra person in the picture below? He was all over 2012. But back to the photos..
I do not have a digital file of this picture. I love it because the kids look super cute but here's the disaster.
I thought, "We'll all wear blue. The theme will be blue and white." That worked last time, right?!
I'm wearing a bold navy/white stripe. Kid 1 is wearing light blue. Dad is wearing a shirt that is "technically" a navy/white check pattern. Kid 2 is in a navy polo.
Why this doesn't work:
1. Very small patterns read in front of the camera as an approximation of themselves. Dad's shirt looks like a pastel blue from far away.
2. Me and Kid 2 go together and Dad and Kid 1 go together, but as a group we all clash.
I thought putting this into black and white would solve the problem.
2014: Outfit ideas that were ok.
This is me out ahead of the neutrals trend that will hit hard in another 7 years. Who knew?
If I could go back in time I would change my sweater to a cool neutral.
But it's fine.
With a bunch of guys, the light blue shirt thing was honestly just easy to pull off.
I'm also not super loving the adults in jeans, kids in khakis thing. I wish we had mixed that up a bit.
2015: Outfit ideas that worked, and some that didn't
We did professional family pictures twice that fall. I don't remember why. But the shoots were completely different.
First shoot: again with the neutrals
Husband and Kid 1 are wearing the same sweaters as last year. Whoops!
Without the blue collars, all these colors go together better.
This is one of the rare situations where we were all in jeans and it doesn't bother me. Possible reasons:
1. I'm wearing tall boots so that adds visual interest.
2. Kid 2 is wearing a lighter wash of jeans so again, some variety here.
Second Shoot: Christmas!!
My thought process: grey & navy with a "pop" of red. (Pops of color were a big thing in 2015. So were statement necklaces.)
I was so committed to this concept that even though people like me-- with an olive skin tone-- look terrible in fire engine red, I said, "We're DOING THIS."
Did I learn my lesson from 2013 that small check patterns average out to pastels?
Not one bit!
Husband's shirt here is a very small red check pattern on a white background.
That's why it looks like pink.
Also- don't ever have one person in the family wearing red. The goal is to create balance. Not the eye-suck that is this flannel shirt.
2016: Outfit ideas that worked, and why
Full disclosure; this was the first year where I finally got the balance I wanted. I own a 24x36" canvas of the portrait of us sitting. It hangs in our living room and I love it.
Things to note:
THREE people are wearing different patterned shirts in these portraits! But it works. Why? If you squint, the colors in all the shirts even out to cool pastels in the blue color space.
Both boys are wearing khaki shorts - but we separated them visually so it wasn't obvious.
Kid 2 is wearing the same shirt Kid 1 wore in our first photoshoot. It's a cowboy style from Janie & Jack, fyi.
2017: Family outfits fail
Same problem as 2013: color factions with Team Burgundy and Team Dark Tops.
This was thrown together at the last minute and involved no shopping whatsoever.
In retrospect, this could have worked if Kid2 was wearing burgundy shorts and Dad had a grey top with jeans.
2018: Family outfits- unusual choices but it worked
This experience was The Hot Mess Express.
We were supposed to shoot on top of a mountain, but when we got there the wind was blowing 40+ mph. By the time we all made it to a park at the base of the mountain there were 15 minutes of sun remaining.
But I had gotten my makeup done and was wearing $300 worth of hair extensions. So we were going to MAKE IT WORK.
That 15 minutes involved liquid gold sunshine and I have three giant metal art pieces in my dining room that I adore.
Why these outfits work:
Yes, the kids are both in khaki shorts. Again. But at least they are different shades of khaki!
Yes, a lot of white shirts. But the texture on Kid 2's sweater, and the buttons on Kid 1's shirt give some variety.
Yes, I'm the only one wearing a true pattern. Does that bother you? Because the pattern is a large gauge, it still reads as a "white" (err, off-white) dress.
2019: Family outfits based on PINK!
"This is the one and ONLY time we're doing pink," said all the guys.
We tried this spot again and it was gorgeous. I knew that the background would be warm/golden so I went with pinks & khakis. A giant canvas of this oak tree shot hangs in my living room.
The pink thing was an excuse for me to wear this Free People dress. No regrets.
Lesson learned: husband is wearing the same red/white checked shirt as in the 2015 Christmas shoot. But this time around I knew it would read as pink in the pictures.
Also: pink is a fairly forgiving color- many different shades of it can play together nicely.
Aside: If you notice how I look way darker than the rest of my family - I was swimming 5-6 days/week at this point in my life.
I spent a lot of time photoshopping out tan lines on these.
2020: Family outfits based on blue & teal
I've got no real beef with the outfits here. They are totally ok. As you can guess, this fairly masculine color scheme is a direct backlash from 2019.
The only thing was that it was FREAKISHLY COLD during this shoot.
We were doing jumping jacks to stay warm.
And later, husband asked why I was wearing a little sundress when everyone else was in pants and dark colors.
That's a valid point. With a do-over I would swap out my outfit for something that matches the formality of the rest of the group better.
2021: Family outfits for a beach shoot
Over the pandemic I had become absolutely obsessed with this photographer in San Diego. And as soon as we were able to travel again, I booked her immediately because she did this one particular shot that I wanted.
This! The reflection and open sky? This exists as a massive metal piece of artwork that hangs over my couch in the family room. LOVE. IT.
Now about the 'fits:
EVERYONE is wearing different patterns here! Why does this work?
All the clothes are light colors.
The patterns all "read" as pale blues and teals.
The guys are all wearing different colored shorts for once!
I chalk this up as a major win.
Behind the scenes craziness:
We drove an hour from our AirBnB to get to the Del and the shoot got rained out. So we came back the next day and did this shoot for real. Even still, it was drizzling on us here. This, in July!
The wind was blowing so much that the photographer loaned me her sunglasses to wear on my head to keep my hair out of my face.
But it was so worth it.
This was the last photoshoot where I was still taller than Kid 1. How does this go by so fast??
2022: Family outfits for a formal shoot
Upon entering middle school, Kid 2 decided he was going to take things more seriously and wear a tie to school every day. We got him a 12-pack of bow ties off Amazon, and it got me thinking. We've never done a formal shoot.
Normally when I see everyone in the same shirt I think "soccer league" or "customer service team" photos.
The only reason I'm ok with all the guys wearing white shirts is because of this location.
It looks like we are going to an event.
The event is family photos. Ha!
My husband after this shoot: "Can we stop doing walking shots?"
A formal shoot at this point in our lives also made sense because both boys are playing instruments and doing performances. (Read: we already had black pants and white dress shirts that fit everybody. Ha!)
There were actually a ton of people here. I have no idea how we got this shot.
Lessons Learned over a Decade of My Own Family's Pictures
1. Skip family portraits AT YOUR OWN PERIL. You will never get these years back.
2. Physical artwork from your photoshoot is a MUST. Pictures on a hard drive are a waste. Hang canvases. Hang metals. Get big framed prints onto your walls. They will bring you joy.
3. Try considering the colors at the location when picking colors to wear.
4. Does everyone look like they are going to the same party? Pay attention to formality.
5. Squint Check: throw all the outfits on a bed, stand back and squint. Regardless of patterns, do all the clothes look like the same general color saturation? (All deep, rich tones, or all light/pastel tones?)
6. Is one person wearing RED? Get rid of that.
Now it's YOUR turn
I did not take any of the pictures in this blog. I hired other talented professionals so that I could be in these shots with my family.
I do, however, love to create portraits for other families. And help them navigate outfits and locations and create beautiful artwork for their homes.
If you live in or are visiting the Tri-Valley Area of California (Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon, Danville, Walnut Creek etc.) get in touch today to discuss pricing, artwork, and availability!
Parents: it's easy to take lackluster formal pictures of your child who is headed off to prom or ball.
Here are some tips & tricks to help up your game!
Sure you can take the shot straight on.
But have you tried squatting down low and shooting up? This angle A) makes everybody look taller, and B) can highlight some fun shoe choices.
Don't be afraid to take pictures in full direct sun. This gives your shots a bit of pop that you won't get in the shade.
It's ok to look away
People don't always have to be smiling and looking at the camera!
Personality is everything
Yes, the outfits are important for spring formals. But emotion and personality are what will make you LOVE your pictures.
Finally, get this one.
Your daughter doesn't need a date. Just borrow any random person's hand who happens to be in a suit and lean over in front of them to take the shot.
This will end up being one of her favorite pictures from the night. I swear.
Want more help?
Samantha Grant Photography would love to help you memorialize your high school student's spring formal with beautiful professional pictures!
Get in touch ASAP because I can typically only accept one to two groups on any given date due to timing restraints.
Hit this button to inquire about pricing and availability.
Amador Valley High School senior Griffin was fun for me to shoot because we are both swimmers.
He swims with the AVHS team in the spring but in the fall he trains with the Pleasanton Valley Club.
"My favorite class right now is an aerospace engineering ROP," he explained. "We designed scale models of airplane wings, used 3D printers to create them, and then tested them out in a mini wind chamber."
Not surprisingly, Griffin wants to major in engineering.
Griffin, it was a blast to spend the afternoon with you and I wish you the best of luck with your college applications!
1. Let the Sun Shine In
By shooting directly into the sun, you get this solar flare effect.
It naturally creates a golden glow to your senior pictures.
And the best part? You don't need a special location -- you can literally do this anywhere you have full, direct sunlight.
2. Play with Angles
Get way down low and shoot upward.
Get shots from above and below to mix things up.
3. Don't be afraid to get wet!
If you love water, incorporate it into your senior pictures.
4. Hair flips
If you have long hair, make sure to get a hair flip shot during your senior pictures!
5. Twirl It Out
If you have wear a long, flowy dress to your senior pictures-- twirl around! It's fun to get that fabric flowing.
Whatever is closest to the camera appears largest. Play around with that!
7. Bonus: Coffee Shop Vibes
Do you have a favorite coffee shop? Go shoot your senior pictures there!
Level Up Your Pumpkin Patch Pictures
4 Tips to do better with this timeless classic
Heading over to the pumpkin patch to take some pictures? Here are some tips to help you get the best shots possible with your phone.
1. Plan your Pumpkin Patch Shoot Outfits
Even if it’s 85 degrees out, you can still make it look like fall by wearing the right colors. Think about deep, rich tones and if you wear white, go with a creamy off-white.
2. Pick a fall nail color
You will probably want some shots holding pumpkins or gourds. So now’s the time to get yourself a cute fall manicure! Burgundy and nude are great choices that will carry you into November.
3. Shoot with your back to the sun.
Shooting with your back to the sun will mean that you can get the bluest of blue skies and super bright orange pumpkins.
Yes, it does also mean that the people in the pictures will be looking directly into the sun. To help with that, do a “three, two, one” countdown with their eyes closed and have everyone open their eyes on “one.” One other thing to be aware of: is your own shadow. If the sun is to your back, be careful that you aren’t casting a shadow onto the people in the shot. The easiest way to avoid this is to get down low (either squat or sit down) when you are shooting.
4. It's a pumpkin patch: have fun!
Some of the best pumpkin patch shots are ones you won’t think of until you arrive and see what there is to play with.
Don’t be afraid to get silly. Juggle some baby pumpkins, jump in the air, or skip down a lane of hay bales. Look for motion and emotion to get the best pictures. You got this!
Samantha Grant Photography is based in Pleasanton, Ca and specializes in high school senior and family portraits.