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What You Need to Know for Taking Professional Outdoor Photos This Fall

The autumn season makes for a beautiful backdrop when it comes to outdoor family pictures. Fall is the most in-demand season for professional photographers because the weather is typically great and the sunset lighting is magnificent. The changing of the leaves adds background color, while the gentle harvest breeze distracts the bugs from biting. Family photos taken during fall also have a practical essence because proofs can be ordered in time for the gift giving season or to be mailed as holiday cards.

As pretty as autumn is, it cannot dismiss the stress associated with booking a photo shoot, especially when extended family members need to be involved. Young children make pictures great, but they are still prone to tantrums no matter the time of year. Autumn also means school days are in full swing, as well as hectic extra-curricular activities. Preparation and realistic expectations are key for those wanting memory making moments to be captured on film by professionals.


The best way to be prepared for a photo session is to talk about it beforehand with the photographer and all of the adults planning to be in the picture. Things will go smoother if everyone is on the same page regarding date, time, and the length of the shoot. Most photographers like to have a pre-session consultation, which lets the professional behind the lens know exactly what a customer wants. This type of meeting can be short and take place in person, over the phone, or via email, text messaging, or social media. The photographer will be better prepared if details and expectations are shared.

Here is a list of items and questions that should be discussed with a photographer in advance:

1 | The number of people attending the photo shoot must be known because location and backdrops can change dramatically if too many or too few people are in a shot.

2 | The ages of children involved is important data to share for scheduling purposes, and also for establishing the amount of time needed to complete the session. Photographers often try to avoid nap times or meal times when dealing with younger children. They may also stage it so different families come at different times in order to avoid a lot of standing around time for all involved.

3 | Is the photo shoot for an immediate family consisting of just the parents and children? Or is it a multigenerational photo with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents? A photographer needs these answers beforehand in order to create a rundown list that accommodates all requests. Multigenerational photo sessions may include several families, plus pictures of just the grandparents with the grandchildren. By knowing the family dynamic before picture day, a photographer can be sure to take all of the necessary group poses.

4 | Is there a preference between candid or formal shots? What is the overall look hoping to be achieved? A photographer wants to know a person’s style and a good photographer never wants to waste time (or precious lighting) taking unwanted pictures. Outdoor family photos are meant to resemble the style and dynamic of the individuals being photographed. The poses and staging need to reflect a personality that is recognizable to the photo subjects.

5 | What kind of final print images are wanted? If there is anything specific one wants from a photo shoot make it known early and often to avoid disappointment when proofs are made available. A photographer needs to know when a person wants a large, rectangular canvas for over the fireplace because he or she can then take multiple shots that fit this desired horizontal look.

Clothing and hair

What to wear can be the biggest stress when it comes to getting family pictures taken. Matching outfits is never mandatory, but coordinating colors is a plus. The family member that is hardest to shop for should be the starting point for all of the other outfits. Find something for him or her and then work to get everyone else dressed in similar styles and complimentary colors.

Women should be cautious about wearing dresses or skirts because they make sitting difficult. They can also inadvertently add a few pounds to a person’s look due to an unflattering angle or sudden gust of wind. Little girls look cute in dresses, but getting them to sit with their legs together can be an impossible feat. Sometimes these unladylike poses are adorable and sometimes they are irritating.

Everyone wants great hair on picture day, so try to keep it simple. Ladies should avoid ponytails because pictures taken from straight ahead can give the look of having short hair. Pigtails are very cute and photograph well on young girls. Guys with spiky or parted hair may want to use gel to keep the look in place. However, above all else be natural because a family does not want to be unrecognizable due to fancy hair.


Outdoor pictures include grass, dirt, and sticky tree branches. Bring a blanket along or ask your photographer to have one on-hand so that clothes and body parts do not become stained or dirty during the photo shoot.

Props are typically welcomed by photographers, but it is a good idea to discuss what items need to be brought and their importance so the photographer can make them a priority. If a family picture is to include a sports theme, than it would be smart to bring balls and equipment from home. Photographers typically have a stash of props they can bring, as long as they know to do it. Seasonal items, vintage decor, and more can all make a family photo cozier.


The best time for an outdoor photo shoot is the late afternoon leading up to sunset. Many professional photographers describe this time as “the golden hour” or “the magic hour” because the sun puts off a beautiful glow that is great for a variety of skin tones. If a photo session cannot be booked during this magical hour, than a spot with a lot of shade should be used so that photo subjects do not have to squint or worry about being washed out by brightness.

Weather cannot be controlled, so when a person plans an outdoor photo shoot they need to be flexible and realistic. Rain, fog, clouds, and extreme temperatures can all put a damper on pictures taken outside in the elements.


Ultimately family pictures should be celebrated and during the photo shoot it is important to try to have fun and let go of the worries. There is definitely stress associated with planning for professional photos because everyone wants to look their best. However, the goal is to capture the beautiful moments in life that are happening right now. A child’s toothless grin, a grandmother’s distant look, and the laugh lines (that may actually be wrinkles) make for great photographs. Childhood is fleeting and everyone ages, but professional photos lead to hard copy proof that a family cared enough to make the time and get together.

Capturing a family’s bond against the backdrop of changing leaves and harvest sunsets will showcase a moment in time that cannot be lost.

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There are certain things that get less challenging with each child you have—like changing diapers or figuring out how to tie a Moby wrap—but breastfeeding just isn't one of them. Breastfeeding is different for every woman, and it can even be different for the same woman at different times in her life.

Mom of three Jessica Alba knows how true that is. She tells Motherly she's no longer nursing her 6-month-old son, Hayes, and while she's been through the end of breastfeeding with her older daughters, 10-year-old Honor and 6-year-old Haven, this experience was different and challenging in its own way.

"Emotionally, I know kind of what to expect. But every time, with all the hormones, it's so overwhelming. It doesn't get any easier," she says.

Alba and her husband Cash Warren welcomed little Hayes on December 31, 2017, and in the months that followed Alba shared several sweet breastfeeding photos on social media. In one, the Honest Company founder nursed during a board meeting, in another she breastfed Hayes in a Target fitting room. To her social media followers it seemed like she was always breastfeeding—and now we know that's because she was.

"I felt like he wanted to nurse 24/7, which was obviously really challenging when you're trying to go back to work," says Alba, who wasn't just busy with the Honest Company in the early weeks and months of Hayes' life, but also shooting her upcoming TV series with Gabrielle Union, 'LA's Finest.' The timing of the opportunity wasn't ideal, but the project was.

"I was actually bummed about it, I really did want to take four months but I got the pilot offer and it just happened to be shooting, so it cut into my maternity leave."

Alba was used to juggling the demands of working and nursing, having brought Honor to movie sets a decade ago and having welcomed Haven right when she was launching the Honest Company, but this time there was another hurdle, one many moms can relate to.

"Also my milk supply was challenged with him. I felt like I had the most milk with Honor and then it got less with Haven and even less with Hayes. And so that was just tough for me," she tells Motherly.

Although she had more milk supply back when she had her daughters, she's never been able to exclusively breastfeed for as long as she would have liked. She wrote about this challenge in her 2013 book, The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You.

"I breastfed as long as I could, but not as long as I wanted. I had to get back to work, and I wasn't able to keep it going. But I am proud to say I did the best for my daughters and I'm proud of all of my mom friends for doing the best they can on this issue."

Alba is hardly alone in having to stop breastfeeding earlier than she wanted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, "Although most infants receive some breastmilk, most are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended."

More than 81% of American mothers start out breastfeeding, but less than half are exclusively breastfeeding by the time their baby is 3 months old and fewer than a quarter make it to the 6-month mark without formula.

Studies show that although it is incredibly common, supplementing with or switching to formula is a decision fraught with feelings of guilt, failure or "shattered expectations" for a lot of moms.

But you don't have to breastfeed for a full year or two for your child to benefit from the cuddles and the antibodies, and no mother should feel guilty about doing what is best for her child and herself.

Take it from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: The organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding but also recognizes that a mother "is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant."

A bit of advice Alba wrote in her book echos the ACOG's statement:

"Whatever you do, trust that you're doing the best that you can for your baby."

Still, weaning earlier than you wished to doesn't get easier even if you've experienced it before.

Years after writing that line in her book, Alba tells Motherly, "The only thing you kind of know the third time around is that it will pass."

Alba is an amazing mama, and she is obviously doing what's best for Hayes. And by being so honest about her breastfeeding struggles, she's also doing a great service to other mothers who are facing similar challenges.

Thanks for the honesty, Jessica.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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I have a confession to make.

I once completely ruined a (rare) date night out over... popcorn. Seriously.

Who knew such a delicious, buttery treat could be such a catalyst for drama?

So, we were at the movies and after sitting down in our seats I asked my husband if he could go get me some popcorn. I mean, I didn't want to miss the beginning of the movie… He said something along the lines of, "Ugh, can you just go get it?" And I said something along the lines of, "You better sleep with one eye open tonight." 😜

I sulked off and got my popcorn. Then, I proceeded to watch the movie with a scowl and a bad attitude, similar to the combo my 2-year-old threw me a few days prior because I wouldn't give her my hot coffee (logical). This nonsense carried over into the car ride home. The evening that could have been a light, carefree night out with my partner turned into a bit of a dud.

But the thing is, it was never about the popcorn.

It was about my stress levels of being a work-from-home mom. It was about my exhaustion around having children who weren't sleeping well during the time.

It was about the mental load of motherhood that I carry around like a boulder in my brain. It was about feeling burnt out by all of life's responsibilities. It was about the fact that we hadn't been out on a date in over a month.

It was about the fact that our lives are consumed by preschool pickup and decisions about childcare and guilt over parenting fails and to-dos. It was about the pressure. Of parenting. Of adulting. Of date night.

Who has time to think of a new place to try for dinner? Who has the energy to shower, do their hair, put makeup on, and pick out a cute, flattering outfit on a Friday night after a long, long, long week? Who has the determination to make sure your date checks all the boxes—Is what we're doing exciting enough?

Are we going to the perfect restaurant? Does it matter that these Spanx are making me feel miserable? Should we do something spontaneous after dinner? Should I come up with some options for our spontaneous activity so we are prepared for spontaneity? 😂

The only question we should be asking ourselves is—what do we WANT to do on our date? The only goal we should have is to ditch the pressure and Just. Have. Fun.

The point of a date, especially as parents, is to connect. To have some alone time together. It's not to plan some magical, unicorn, non-existent "perfect" night out. This isn't The Bachelor. This isn't a planned-by-ABC one-on-one date involving a helicopter and bungee jumping. We both have already accepted the rose—we don't need perfection. What we need is to get out.

We're talking a meal at a restaurant and a rom-com. Sometimes we get wild and throw in an after-dinner drink somewhere. We go on dates to get away from poopy diapers and screaming toddlers. To go somewhere for a couple of hours so we can speak to each other at a normal decibel without pausing to answer questions like "WHERE DID YOU PUT MY WITCH HAT, MOOOOOM? I CAN'T FALL ASLEEP WITHOUT IT!" or "CAN YOU WIPE MEEEEE?!"

After more than a few dates like the popcorn-drama-night, we both have learned our lesson.

The recipe for a great date night is simple:

1. Leave your children home with someone you trust.

2. Exit the house and go somewhere together.

3. Wear clothes that are comfortable.

4. Have a good attitude.

5. Talk to each other.

(Bonus points if you can leave your kiddos home with a family member you don't have to pay!)

Recently, my husband and I went on a day date, to the beach, just the two of us. We left our girls home with their aunt (thanks, Liz!) and hightailed it outta there. We got iced coffees and sat on the sand under the warm sun.

We chatted and laughed and even just relaxed, laying there, closing our eyes—enjoying the peace and quiet. No one was eating sand. No one was complaining of the heat. No one had to go potty.

It was pretty amazing.

There was no bickering and no disappointment. It just worked.

I think we've found the secret to the elusive perfect parent date night: decrease your expectations and then you'll decrease the pressure. By doing that, you'll automatically decrease the chances of something or someone sabotaging your date, like an adult-sized tantrum caused by slick buttery popcorn.🍿

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While we love the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale for clothing and accessories for the fam, some of the biggest savings are on cult-favorite baby gear items.

We're talking Nuna, Joolz, Maxi-Cosi and Bugaboo, mamas. 🙌 These pieces rarely go on sale so if you're in the market for one, grab it while supplies last.

Here are our team's favorite picks:

1. Nuna convertible car seat

This convertible car seat will take your little from their first day well through toddlerhood. It offers a little extra legroom for you toddler as they grow and features ventilation panels that allow baby to stay cool.

Fave features: 10-position recline and head support, one-handed use harness, flip-open cupholders (on both sides).

RAVA™ Convertible Car Seat, $374.90 (after sale $499.95)


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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