El Matador Beach Family Photos
How to Plan an Experience Session With Me

March 14, 2022

My most recent post shared with you all what my experience sessions are all about. Today, I want to go into my process for planning an experience session, and how you can make it unique to your family’s interests and personalities. 

Purpose of an Experience Session

I created the experience session to better represent visually a family’s personality and authentic connections. The idea behind an experience session is to spend time doing something you all enjoy and to document that story focusing on how you interact with one another. I find this to be the most authentic  way to highlight you as a unique family - instead of planned family portraits!

My Process

STEP 1: Get to know each other and brainstorm

After you have booked a date with me, we will spend time talking through you and your family, the kinds of activities you all enjoy, various personalities, different locations, and how to truly document your story authentically (the fun part!).

*Please keep in mind that I typically book out 3-6 months in advance so the sooner you contact me the better chance I’m available! 

Here are a couple examples of how that initial brainstorming works: 

  • A family inquired with me sharing that they spend a lot of time at the South Bay beaches. They also told me they would soon be moving. After checking out some of their Instagram photos, I suggested we spend an evening at the beach, just how they spend most of their summer nights. We wanted to document the special memories of sandy hair, wet faces, and big smiles to hang around their new home. So, we did just that and went out to the beach just like any other summer night. We told their story and how it looks for them…in bathing suits, feeling the warm summer sun on their skin, wrapped up in towels, and swinging on those iconic beach swings. 

  • Another family came to me sharing that the beach isn’t actually their vibe. They prefer the downtown streets of Los Angeles and find that the urban aesthetic, city streets, and graffiti walls represent their personalities better. Their closet included a lot of black and urban pieces so we decided to spend a night out in downtown Los Angeles Arts District streets. We strutted along sidewalks, discovered some alleys, and pulled the little one in a wagon for his first birthday.

STEP 2: Styling your family

Once we settle on a location and activity, we can begin styling. This step of the process is my personal favorite, as I think each person’s personality gets to shine! When considering styling, choose pieces that complement the location, experience and vibe we are trying to create. Together we will create a coordinating and non-matching look for your family that will photograph and edit well for your chosen location. I will send you my style guide and an online style tool that selects actual pieces you can purchase. It will also recommend a color palette based on location and your skin tones! Typically, I like to style moms first. I have an extensive client closet that is complementary to all my clients! The try-on location is in South Bay. I also have some kids outfits available too, which is usually who I focus on next to style. Some families pick out almost all their outfits from my closet, others send me ideas of what they think would work and I give my suggestions and advice! 

Here’s some examples of how I styled families: 

For this family, we decided on the iconic El Matador beach in Malibu for location, where I recommend styling neutral colors without big patterns in order to play up the romance of people with the location. The mom had the idea of wearing her mother’s wedding dress, which inspired us to style everyone else in a classic, retro vibe. I recommended some nostalgic activities like a picnic and using vintage lanterns which everyone enjoyed, especially the little one! 

This was the second time I photographed this family in a year, and this time mom wanted to wear something other than a dress that she would be comfortable in. Since we chose a hiking location for their experience, I styled the mom in jean overalls, hat and boots - something stylish she would normally enjoy wearing. The baby girl was the star of the show for her 1st birthday, and we put her in an adorable, eye-catching knit romper with sweet details - socks, shoes, and pigtails (and a bonnet that did stay on for a few shots!). Beautiful and thoughtful details (even texture of fabrics) are very important when styling little kids since we do a lot of closeups with them. We styled dad with a neutral plaid shirt which added a pattern. This created depth and separation within the family ensemble and tied into neutral, black and browns color palette.

STEP 3: Enjoy your experience! 

The last step is actually spending time doing what you love and enjoying every second of it! You don’t need to worry about looking at the camera, how the children are interacting, and how you look. I will always tell you if something could look better, but I care so much more about you enjoying the moments and loving on your family.

Your experience session is all about telling your authentic story. If this seems like the best way to photograph your family, inquire with me here. I am always shooting in the Los Angeles and Orange County area, but I also travel all over California, and out to Joshua Tree too. I’d love to document your family’s unique story with an experience session! Don't think this kind of session is your speed? Have an idea you've been dying to put to life? I also offer custom creative concept sessions where you and I work from start to finish on bringing your vision to life! 

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