Kristen Carter Photography Children Photography

Happy boy sitting on steps next to his stuffed teddy bear. Copyright 2013 Kristen Carter Photography

I get asked many questions from potential clients, but by far the most common are what I call the “when”, “wear/where” and “what” of a photo session. When should we schedule? What do we wear/bring? Where do we go? So this blog post will try to answer those questions and help you prepare for a photo session with me.

** “Where do we go for photos in Phoenix or Gilbert?” “Do you have a studio?” **
Nope, I don’t have a dedicated studio, I much prefer the great outdoors as my canvas! You have the options of an in-home or on-location photo session in the East Valley area with Kristen Carter Photography. Newborns are always held in your home and family sessions can also be really fun to show off where you live and spend most of your time! (Jumping on the bed photos rock!) My preference is to use natural light for photos so if your home is small or dark please consider an on-location session for kids/family. I have lists of places we can go around the valley depending on your session style. Desert, green landscapes, lakes or water features, urban setting with industrial walls, you think of it, I’ll find it! Your portrait session will last from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to allow for clothing changes or snack breaks for children. There is no rush, no stress and I fully encourage you to have fun and be yourself while I capture your family.

** “When is it best to book a photo session? What do we wear for photos? What do we need to bring?” **
Every session will have different time constraints but generally, sessions are set for early morning or late afternoon for the best natural light. I am no fashionista, most days you’ll find me in a ponytail and flip-flops, but I encourage clients to wear a variety of clothing with color and accessories. I do provide some ideas for clothing inspiration if you so shall choose, just ask. And don’t think this means a trip to the mall (unless it’s a good excuse for you too). I always say to start with yourself, find a color or outfit in your closet that you love (and feel confident in) and build your outfit around it, then coordinate any other members of your photo shoot with you! Layers are always great. Avoid logos or clothing with distracting patterns. Have fun and show personality. Here are a few ideas for specific types of sessions of when to schedule, what to wear and what props or items to bring to your photo shoot.

Belly photo by Kristen Carter Photography

Mama in red white stripes cradling sweet belly bump. Copyright 2013 Kristen Carter Photography


Belly Sessions
When to schedule: Maternity sessions are best scheduled between 32-36 weeks, or when your belly has passed your bust line, but you’re still fairly comfortable. Some moms choose to be photographed earlier (especially if you’ve had a prior preemie), if this is the case, I will work my magic in posing to bump out that belly!

Wardrobe: You can choose to show your belly or not, either way you are a gorgeous mama and we will be capturing the glow and excitement that pregnancy brings. Wear whatever you feel comfortable and pretty in – long, flowy skirts, especially solids are nice, and tight fitting tanks or bandeau tops that coordinate with them. Tube dresses are great for showing off your shape. Bring a pair of regular jeans, not the belly panel ones. A button-up shirt also makes it easy to transition into showing your belly. Accessories are welcome! You are a fashionable mama, growing new life, lets show it off! If you are doing bare belly photos, maternity pants will create noticeable lines on your skin, so wear loose-fitting clothing to the shoot or roll the belly panel of your pants under your belly. Moisturize that belly if you will be showing it off. Avoid shorts or short skirts, so the focus remains on the upper half of your body, with face and belly being most important.

What to bring: Gather your props to bring along – ultrasound printout, alphabet blocks that spell your baby’s name, baby shoes, etc. We will also discuss any other unique items in your pre-session consult, but we’ve done sessions with a specific food mom had been craving, books read in preparation or sentimental items from a family member. Do bring your significant other and older children! They’ll make great “props” for your photos, lol, and greatly expand on the number of different photos you can make during your shoot. They should bring outfits that coordinate with what you’ll be wearing. The focus should always be on you, your expressions, your emotions, your personality, your joy and your connection.

Baby Girl Newborn Photo

Simple newborn setup with sweet baby in knit cap & feathery flower on white backdrop. Copyright 2013 Kristen Carter Photography


When: Babies are best photographed within 4-14 days of being born and because I only schedule a few newborns every month, please call me while you are pregnant (ideally when you are scheduling your belly session). I will write your due date as a tentative session date (we will adjust once baby actually arrives). My calendar remains flexible the weeks that I have babies due so that once everyone is home and settled, I come over for your photos. I know how hard it is to get out of the house as a new parent, so I come to you. All newborn sessions are done as in-home sessions and include parents and siblings. I lug my buckets of props and backdrops, find a cozy spot in your home with great light and settle in for 2-3 hours. We relax, snuggle, laugh and admire how tiny and precious your new family member is while capturing beautiful portraits.

Wardrobe: Baby skin is the best wardrobe for a newborn – no outfit fits a newborn well, and they often look swallowed in clothes. Accessories are good, though – little hats, dainty headbands, boys in crocheted hats, etc. Have sentimental items like the quilt that Grandma made for the baby, a baby blanket from your own childhood – they’re great for the youngster to lay on.

What to bring/How to prep: I have an entire prep guide dedicated to newborn sessions to help take away any stress from parents and allow us to capture those beautiful sleepy squishy newborn photos. Key points include when to feed baby, temperature of the house and what new parents should should wear.

Downtown Family Photo Session

Cute sisters hugging and smiling for the camera in black & white striped shirts. Copyright 2013 Kristen Carter Photography

When to schedule: I like to photograph children doing what they do best… being kids. It’s not necessary to have them be “posed”, I like to set them up in a spot, and get natural expressions and looks. Kids are at their best when they are rested and well fed, so just after a nap can be a good time for photos. Snacks and drinks are essential for keeping little ones motivated and content. I encourage you to allow your children to be themselves and I will capture the moments that make you love them. Having your children enjoy being photographed makes the session more enjoyable for everyone. We will make silly jokes, stupid faces and just generally be goofy! If you are wanting photos/cards back in time for a birthday party, consider scheduling well in advance. It’s not unheard of to photograph a “One Year Cake Smash” at 11 months old. (On the flip side, I’ve also photographed them at 14 months when life got hectic!)

What to bring: As stated above, snacks and drinks are encouraged. Clear, non-staining liquids are preferred and items such as cereal, fruit snacks or sliced fruit make great mid-session snacks. Depending on our session consult, we will determine additional props to fit a theme, but common items include a child’s favorite toy, stuffed animal or book. I also have many child sized chairs and props. For on location shoots with older babies, don’t forget, if your baby takes a pacifier, have it– if they’re bottle fed, bring an extra bottle! Baby wipes are great, and not just for babies! We can smooth hair, wipe away eye boogers, clean feet (sandals on kids = black feet!), wipe snotty noses or dust dirty hands. The cleaner the kid, the better their photos will turn out. Avoid bringing bribes to a photo shoot – it often backfires and causes meltdowns instead of encouraging good behavior. I always have my “magic” orange tic-tacs on hand, and will offer them as rewards when we are shooting and everyone is participating!

Wardrobe: For girls, you can’t go wrong with cute dresses, rompers, and dainty hats or headbands. For boys, jeans and polos or a button-up shirt, or a T-shirt with a button-up over it can be very cute, as well as overalls on the right age and personality. For siblings, the children don’t have to match perfectly, just coordinate. You can’t go wrong with dark, rich monotones, which drive the attention in photos to sweet faces and darling expressions instead of loud prints or colors. If nothing else, pick a color that compliments your child’s eye color. If your child is still in diapers or pull-ups, tuck’em in or wear bloomers. And one tip I’ve learned from our own photo experience last fall, avoid colorful drinks or lollypops within hours of your shoot, don’t let them eat or drink anything that will stain their face, teeth or mouths.

Family in purple and black with jeans

Love the coordination of this family’s outfits! Purple & black with punches of pattern and texture. Copyright 2013 Kristen Carter Photography


Family Portraits
When to schedule: Family portraits are a mix of posed and candid photos. The images with everyone looking and smiling are great and make perfect gifts for gramma, but my favorites are the ones where everyone is laughing, playing and showing off true personality. (And yes, that might be with the littlest one pouting.) Those are the moments you remember most, and the ones I work to capture. To get everyone at their happiest, think of the grumpiest member of your family and schedule around them! Maybe early morning, maybe after nap… If they don’t like the heat, avoid a late afternoon session in the summer. I am willing to schedule a session for whenever we will have a full happy family (even if it means sunrise!). Seasonally, the fall is when my calendar fills quickly. I often start booking October sessions in July. So, if you know you want to have photos for holiday cards, don’t wait to call. Book early. Conversely, summertime in Gilbert, AZ is often slower. So, if you have a whim for an early morning splash pad session, feel free to email and I can often work it in last minute.

Wardrobe: Women know what to wear, but in general, unless you are extremely thin you may want to wear something that covers your upper-arms. If you wear jewelry, aim for subtlety, and be aware of it twisting or turning. Find an outfit for you first. One that makes you feel comfortable and confident! Coordinate the other family members to you, rather than coordinating everyone else and then throwing something on last minute. Pamper yourself a little, you deserve it! Men, go for jeans or pants, tucked polo or dress shirt with a belt, or go casual with just a T-shirt or untucked polo, button-up short sleeve, etc. In general, whatever your wife/mom tells you to wear. Again you don’t have to perfectly match the rest of the family, just wear something that coordinates. And be sure to clean up your shoes, they will show. Kids – Same advice as above, but again, everything needn’t match, simply coordinate with the parents’ outfits. If Dad’s in a T-shirt, don’t put the kids in dress shirts – make it make sense.

What to bring: Same items as the children’s sessions; family sessions have little to no props as the focus is on your connection, relationships and emotions.


Vintage country Senior girl in boots

Senior girl in cowboy boots & vintage lace sweater. Copyright 2013 Kristen Carter Photography

High school seniors

When to schedule: Most schools have deadlines for yearbook photo submission. so before scheduling a session, find out that deadline. if your school has an in-house studio to take care of the yearbook photo then your only timeframe is for getting announcements out or showing off your memories to your friends! Fall is lovely for the bright colors of AZ trees and landscapes, Winter gives us the cool down and is perfect for sweaters, jeans and more outfit options, Spring is usually when caps & gowns come in, making those formal photos possible. If you any decide, I have options for multiple sessions over the course of Senior year, including Prom Night Paparazzi,
just ask!

What to bring: Bring props that recall your high school years – band instrument, sports gear like a volleyball or baseball bat, your beloved (or cursed) high school car, letter jacket, sunglasses. Most of all, rep your style, whatever that may be. Your senior photo should be unique to your life and personality.

Wardrobe: Bring a variety of outfits – cap and gown, something casual, something stylish, ladies slip a dress in there to throw folks off, fellas try a formal look to impress. Wear what you think you look best in, but take the opportunity to also try a new look, just to surprise folks. Bring more outfits than you think you’ll need and don’t forget the accessories. We will mix, match and play dress up! My biggest tips for seniors are to have an even tan, don’t get sunburned, clean (and/or freshly-paint those nails), and moisturize and scrub away dry skin. Professional hair and makeup is encouraged (plus its fun!)

A few general tips for any portrait session
Hair – If getting a hair cut for your shoot, do so about two weeks beforehand, just in case it goes wrong – you just never know. Bring bobby pins, hair clips, headbands or any other favorite accessories for yourself or the kids. For men, a fresh cut a couple of days before the shoot is perfectly fine.

Glasses – If folks wouldn’t recognize you without glasses, you want to wear glasses in your shoot – however, the glare on glasses can detract from your eyes in photos. You can have your lenses removed from your frames for your shoot (don’t worry, it’s what Hollywood does to avoid glare in movies), ask your eye doctor to loan you a pair of similar frames, or you can also visit an inexpensive company online like Zenni Optical and buy a suitable pair of duplicate frames on the cheap.

Lips – You will probably wipe or lick your lips during your shoot, so bring fresh lip gloss or lipstick to do touch-up. Use lip balm for a few days in advance of your shoot to make your smoochers look their best.

Make-up – A subtle application of make-up can really soften your skin and accent your facial features. But make sure you know what you’re doing, and make sure it matches your skin tone, or your face may look orange compared to the rest of your body. Professional makeup application is always an option, and I have a list of who to call should you decide to go with it.

Facial hair – Men, be freshly shaved with a new razor, shaving cream and a moisturizing after-shave lotion to avoid bumps and redness. Trim up your board, sideburns, moustache or goatee, especially looking for wiry stray hairs.

Nails – A fresh coat of nail polish will make a world of difference in your photo shoot. Pick a neutral color that won’t distract in your shoot or clash with your outfits. Freshen the morning of the shoot, then be careful not to scuff it while prepping. [I see this most often with high school senior girls, to whom half-gone nail polish seems to be a popular fad.] Your photo shoot is a great excuse for a fresh manicure, but if you can’t go to the salon, make sure your nails look tidy and clean.

Undergarments – Bra straps won’t do anything to help your outfit look its best. Be sure you bring a set of bras and strap-adjusting accessories to work with any outfit you want to shoot in to keep those straps well-hidden.

Sun burns and tan lines – If your shoot is booked for Saturday, don’t go to the beach on Friday. An unintentional sunburn can be fixed in post-processing depending on the severity.

Shoes – Ladies, can’t go wrong in heels or wedges. Men, clean’em up! Dress shoes are best, but as with most things, let your momma or your wife decide. Barefoot is usually an option as well depending on location.
Use the contact tab if you have further questions, and I’ll be happy to answer!

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