Top Parent Questions and Answers about Family Video Making

We’ve rounded up some of the questions that parents ask about Portraits that Move film shoots, and collected them here to help give you a feel for what the filming experience is like for kids and parents.

Here, we walk you through how to prepare, what to wear, and what kinds of questions we ask to help kids share their stories. See more on how to work with Portraits that Move and explore our complete Frequently Asked Questions list from parents like you.

How to Prepare and What to Wear for a Film Shoot with Portraits that Move

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To kick off holiday card video season, we assembled this list of tips that includes colors that stand out on film, setting the stage at home, and the most important thing to remember heading in to a family film shoot.

Location, Location, Location

Parents often want to know about scouting locations for their family film shoot with Portraits that Move. From capturing the ideal location for holiday video cards to choosing the right place to document your Bar Mitzvah video or Portrait video, we offer simple guidelines for choosing and creating spaces to document your family story.

Is My Child too Shy to Appear on Camera?

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Our professional filmmakers have seen it all, and a little shyness will not prevent your family from getting the quality family video you deserve. Here, we walk through some of the steps we take to help kids feel comfortable to share their worlds with us - and with you - on film. It’s all about creating a safe, inviting, and creative space to document life. That’s what we do best!

Peek at the Process

Take a behind the scenes peek at our process as we share some of the questions we ask that get kids talking, and some of their adorable - and insightful - answers!


Guest Post: Helping Bring Work to Life in New Ways for Family Photographers

Led by Executive Producer Susannah Ludwig, Portraits that Move filmed photographers Ben and Trudie Larrabee for an on location video, titled Moments of Grace: The Ben Larrabee Experience. Below, Ben and Trudie share their experience working with Susannah and members of the Portraits that Move team, including how it will help them reach new clients in a new way, that honors the art - and the heart - of their process.

What surprised us most about the filming experience with Portraits That Move was just how important it is to keep the photo session an intimate experience. This is the first time we had outsiders with us. It is that intimacy which allows our clients to freely open up; revealing that special bond within the family that Ben is able to capture. Everyone needs to be participating in the experience.

We appreciate how the Portraits that Move camerawoman blended into this intimate experience. She was nimble and agile.

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After the shoot we came back to the house where we sat with Susannah for an interview. Susannah didn’t want us to know the questions in advance so we could respond spontaneously, much like how we approach a shoot. Her questions were insightful, Trudie was emotional answering some of them. We really felt Susannah’s appreciation for our artistic process and our artist/muse relationship.

When we watch our video we like how Ben’s final black and white images are integrated into the piece. The images give a good feeling for what we produce. The images tie well into the filming of Ben photographing the situations.

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The use of Ben and Trudie’s voices tie beautifully into the filming, in particular the part where Ben says “don’t get the kids, let us find the kids, I don’t want to interrupt what’s going on with the family”. The next scene is Ben photographing the youngest in a quiet moment playing with her doll.

We believe this video will help prospective and existing clients better understand what to expect from working with us. The video gives a behind the scenes look at how we approach a photo session. Even though we tell them the first person who opens the door gets photographed, it is very clear when they see that actually happening at the beginning of the video.

The video shows our approach to a shoot is an active encounter between the photographer and the family. There is no sitting around posing and looking at the camera like most people are used to seeing.  

We tell our clients to wear what they like on a shoot and forget all the rules they’ve read. The video shows them that it doesn’t matter what clothes they wear as long as they like what they’re wearing. Each family member’s choice of clothes expresses their personality. The middle daughter is wearing her fluffy slippers, Dad is barefoot. Everyone is informally dressed. When restrictions are taken away the clients relax.

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We want our clients to know we are a team on the shoot. The footage of Trudie handing a lens to Ben and holding the light disc shows that we work together and portrays our relationship.

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We like the edit of Ben talking about the options for clients of framing their images, putting them in a book or in a museum case. We want clients to know that Ben is an artist. The strong ending sums it all up about having a life-long relationship with our clients.

We are pleased with the final outcome and grateful to Susannah and Portraits that Move.

- Trudie and Ben

What Telling My Own Story Taught Me about Portraits that Move

Recently I shared special memory of mine on the Portraits that Move Facebook page, my interview on NPR's Only Human by host Mary Harris.  Reading the reactions of friends and clients prompted me to dig a little deeper into what the experience of being interviewed was like for me, a person who has spent her career on the other side, asking the questions that help others tell their stories.

What I discovered in my own experience confirmed the importance of telling and sharing our stories, and the very real ways in which that act can be healing for ourselves and for our relationships.

Parents and children

My father joined me for the interview to discuss his role both as a doctor and a father of a child with health challenges. Having my father in the room while I was being interviewed was very moving. On one hand, I felt protective of him and was aware of a desire not to say anything that would hurt him or my mother in any way. At the same time, it was an incredibly healing experience. We had the opportunity to talk about how my health affected both of us, which was something we had rarely done before.

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It gave me an important window into how both parents and kids must feel during
the interview process when I create our Portraits that Heal films in particular. Parents feel a need to be involved, to listen, and to be part of the experience. For the children we work with, both for Portraits that Move films and Portraits that Heal films, sometimes having a parent present for the interview process may be comforting, but often they may feel more free without a parent in the room listening to them answer our questions.

I often wonder what I would have said if the interview was with just me. I would
have likely felt more vulnerable and would not have had the opportunity for
connection and healing that occurred. When I interview kids now with their
parents in the room, I look at it as an opportunity for connection, for what we are
doing to be a conversation starter. I hope that after I leave the shoot they keep
talking and never stop.

Switching roles

Having been through the experience of being interviewed about personal aspects of my own story, I think I am a more gentle interviewer now. I go into each shoot with fewer specific expectations. In the case of the Only Human interview, I think both the host and I had a specific plan for how the interview would go and the final story is different than what we both imagined. This was only possible because of the openness on her part and the level of honesty on mine. We were both willing to go where the morning took us. I think the best experiences and stories happen this way. Ultimately, it is important to me that our families enjoy the experience of creating a Portraits that Move film. When they do, that joy is apparent in their video.

Talking about health and healing

Since the Only Human interview two years ago, I am even more sensitive to creating space for children who are living with health challenges to tell me their stories in exactly the ways they want to. Every illness is different and every experience is different. Kids deal with their
health in all kinds of ways and however they want to talk about that is up to them.

I feel grateful - even more grateful now - to share in their stories. Telling mine was an incredible exercise in vulnerability, but it was something I felt called to do. The way in which I told my story was specific to me and to where I was at at that particular moment in time. I believe our Portraits that Move videos and Portraits that Heal videos reflect a similar intention to capture the present moment in the way feels right for the people we are documenting.

Love and Happiness through Their Eyes

I love documenting our families in the everyday, ordinary paths of their lives. It gives me a clear window into who they are, what is important to them and what makes them happy.

It is even more meaningful then, when we are given an opportunity to document a family for a special celebration. One of our clients, Emily, asked us to document her daughter, Violet as a wedding gift for her best friend. We were thrilled at the idea of this video and the process was joyous from beginning to end.

When I arrived and asked Violet about her aunt, she had so much to tell me. It was clear that she has been deeply loved by her and that their connection is a close one. It was incredible to capture these feelings and to document this moment for Emily’s friend. It is a treasure for her.

The final Portrait Video is exuberant, filled with love and a child’s perspective on marriage. It got me thinking about all of the different types of celebrations we could make videos for and about. What could be better than that?

I hope you enjoy watching Violet talk about love as much I enjoyed asking her about it.

Music and Your Memories

Have you ever noticed that when you think back on moments of your life, there always seems to be a soundtrack? While driving in your car, a song will play and you are instantly transported to your freshman year of college, your parents' living room, or your favorite childhood vacation spot...

The connection between music and memory is powerful, both in recalling memories and in cementing them.  Music is also deeply connected to emotion.  So often there are feelings that we can't express in words, but images and music help us to capture those feelings and hold onto them.

That's why we take our time in choosing the right music for our Portraits that Move videos, the soundtracks for the moments of your lives that our films help to cement and celebrate.  When we choose your music during our production process, we do so with the images and emotions of your film shoot fresh in our minds and our hearts.  We select unique music that helps to tell your story in a way that is all your own.

Yes, it costs more to get licensing for the music we use, but we know that it is absolutely worth it, for a few reasons.  First, as artists, we support artists.  Composers truly make something out of nothing - they create songs out of silence - and they most certainly need to be compensated when their work is used.  Second, your unique films deserve their own unique scores.  This is your family, your joy, and it is our job to help bring it to the screen in all its glory, complete with the soundtrack of this moment in your life.

If you have more questions about the music in our films, or the production process, pop them into the comments below, or reach out on Facebook.  We love to talk about what we do and to share it with you!

Overcoming Shyness: Tips for Working with Kids on Camera

People often ask me what happens if their child is shy or does not want to participate on the day we arrive to film their Portraits that Move video. I always respond with complete sincerity that this is not a problem at all.

Our main goal for the film shoot is to create an open, loving space for the child to be who they are. If they feel pressured, pushed or coerced in any way, it will not work.  We want your kids to know that we love them exactly as they are.

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We recently did a holiday shoot for two girls, Savannah and Derby. For the second year in a row, we documented the sisters for their family's Holiday Video Card. We had spent time with them last year, we cherished them and the entire family loved their first video.

Still, when we arrived to shoot the video the next year, one of the girls, Derby, was not into us being there. Initially, she refused to talk to me. She did not want to do anything we asked of her and, at one point, she even hid from us.

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I showed Derby love at every turn, letting her know that her feelings were normal.  I assured her and made her feel comfortable with the filming process in the following ways:

  • I let her know that she could show us and tell us what SHE wanted. All of her answers were up to her.
  • We loved her and smiled at her even through her protest. It is a weird situation to have a camera there - we acknowledged that, and we acknowledged her feelings.
  • We encouraged anything that would bring her comfort. You will see a purple stuffed snake throughout the video. She wanted it close to her, and we agreed.
  • When she said it was over for her, we wrapped it up. There is no reason to push a child beyond the point they are willing to go. Safety and comfort are most important.  Children need and deserve to feel in control of their own experience. After all, how can our kids show us their best selves if they feel uncomfortable?

Ultimately, the film captures Derby’s spirit beautifully. She is sparkly and loving and filled with fun. I loved spending the afternoon with her. I hope she felt the same. 

Peek at Our Filmmaking Process

We talked with Max and Julian about video games, superpowers and what they love about mom.  We talked about how it feels to have a brother and to be one.

Throughout the Portraits that Move filming process, we asked Max and Julian questions independently and together.  We gave them space and time to really talk to us, to do more than introduce themselves and some of their favorite books and keepsakes (Harry Potter, a panda photo). 

Our questions and the environment we create during a Portraits that Move film shoot, allowed these adorable, imaginative boys, ages seven and nine, to tell us about some of their aspirations and their concerns. And as always, we got some priceless responses.

"growing up makes me scared because I have to pay taxes and make money"

"I appreciate my family because they're nice to me and they care about me.  I love them."

Like all of our portrait length and snapshot films, we as filmmakers and the family who received the final product, developed a new insight into children's lives.  And what a gift that is!

Discover your own Portraits that Move Portrait or Snapshot.

Behind the Scenes: How I Prepare for a Documentary Portrait Shoot

Once people see our family documentary portrait work and decide that they would like our team to create a video for them, the first step is to set up a call to talk about the process.  

We Learn About You, From You

On that initial call our team gathers  basic information about the family and their interests. How many children are in the family? What Portraits that Move product is the best fit right now (a full Portrait, a Snapshot, a Vacation Experience Package)?  

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Is the family asking us to create their documentary to honor a special occasion or event? Will the video be used as part of a celebration or treasured at home together? Once we know these details, we talk about scheduling a date to shoot the documentary with the family.

About a week before the shoot, I, or someone from the team calls the family to learn a bit more about the children and to plan and customize the shoot for them. We ask about the children’s personalities and preferences. What do they like to do?  What is a typical day like for them? Do siblings typically do things together or independently? Are there things the parents would like highlighted or not?

Planning a Family Documentary Shoot with Your Comfort in Mind

Also, during this second call we discuss a plan for the shoot day. We talk about arrival times, length of the shoot and general order of the day so everyone is comfortable and well prepared. Like any film shoot day, we go in with a plan and we are prepared to make changes as appropriate.

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I love our documentary planning calls. They are a fun way to get to know my clients, to create a comfort level for them about the process and to create a plan to best document their children. It is important to me that our clients feel our love and acceptance at every step of the process, in the initial conversations, while we are shooting and revealed in the final product.

We have great gratitude to be able to do this work - everything we can do to make the filming process easy and positive is incredibly important.

Contact us to schedule a call to discuss the documentary filming process for your family.