There is nothing more exciting than a homecoming, and nothing more beautiful than those homecoming photos. Don't miss the opportunity to look back on this day by skipping a photographer. Whether you have a friend tag along or you hire a military spouse to professionally take your pictures, these are moments you won't ever want to forget, and if your family isn't in town, I promise you, they're going to want to see pictures, too.
While each second of homecoming day is precious, the whole day is also the most incredible blur. Having photos of the day is a gift that will last a lifetime, and to make sure you have the perfect pictures, we sat down with premiere homecoming photographer and Navy wife, Dyan Witt, to get her secrets. Norfolk has the largest Navy base in the world, and over the last eight years, Witt has photographed countless homecomings.
Witt says homecomings are her absolute favorite. "It is so emotional to watch these families be reunited," she tells us. "There is something magical in that first embrace, where you can physically see a burden being lifted from the spouse's shoulders. It's a visible exhale, a release that says, 'you're home.'"
While every homecoming is wonderful, Witt gave us 10 great tips for having awesome pictures:
How to Have the Best Military Homecoming Photos
1. Dress for the weather.
Some of Witt's favorite homecoming photos have been taken in rough elements, and if you're freezing or wet while you're waiting, you're going to be miserable. We know you have the perfect dress, but don't be afraid to find a cute trench coat to go over it if rain is forecast. There's nothing more adorable than kids all bundled up waiting for their mom or dad to come home, and there's nothing worse than toddlers crying because they are cold. Pro tip: if it's raining, make sure you have a clear umbrella so the color shade of the umbrella isn't cast on your face.
2. Start with you.
Before you buy the kids' outfits, figure out what you're going to wear. Witt tells us, "I love it when the family coordinates, but it's so important mom (and dad, too!) feels good about what she's wearing. It's much easier to find kids' clothes so start with what you want to wear first.
3. Embrace the patriotic.
As Witt says, it's the most American event possible -- your spouse coming home from fighting for our country. Embrace the red, white and blue theme in your homecoming photos. They make for great Christmas cards.
4. Have a backup plan.
If you're planning on wearing any iteration of tights, definitely have a second pair. Witt shares, "I had a client that wore a cute dress and black hose in the winter, and as she was getting out of the car she snagged her nylons." Fortunately, she had a back up and it was no big deal, but things like that are the little things that can set you over the edge if you're not prepared. This goes for babies and toddlers, too. Extra outfits are key.
5. Wear underwear.
Please. Enough said.
Maybe you did what I did and bought the size of dress you wanted to be when your spouse got home, and maybe you did what I did and had to binge diet for the two weeks before, and maybe you'll have to do what I did and drive through for a cheeseburger immediately after picking up your spouse because you're starving.
But you don't have to. Witt recommends buying your homecoming photos outfits about a month before and trying it on one week out to make sure it fits. And homecoming is a long day, so be sure to grab breakfast so you don't pass out. Nobody looks good in pictures when they're hangry.
7. Don't wax the day before.
Whether it's your eyebrows or your back (fellas) or other, ahem, parts, don't wax the day before. Witt once had a client who had an allergic reaction to the wax and it wasn't pretty. Her recommendation? Test it out five to six weeks before to see how it goes, and schedule your next appointment based on the day it looked the best -- usually around day three. Similarly, from experience, do the same experiment with a spray tan, or you might end up looking little oompaloompa-ish for your wedding. Oops.
8. Handle your day-of logistics.
You can anticipate a long wait, so one of Witt's clients brought signs and markers to the pier for the kids to color their signs there. Snacks are always a plus, but watch out for ones that "shed" (I'm looking at you, Pirate's Booty). A sucker is always a good option, just be sure the color won't turn little mouths blue or some other unnatural color. Also, if you're bringing family, a friend or photographer, make sure they can get on the base (another reason to hire a military spouse!). And finally, there is no time like the day of homecoming to realize your ID expired last month. Make sure you're good to go.
9. Smudge proof is your friend.
It's an emotional day, and there's a 10 in 10 chance you're going to cry. Witt recommends you go beyond the waterproof mascara and opt for smudge-free make up for your homecoming photos. Bright red lips always photograph well, but they might not look quite as attractive on your spouse's mouth after that first kiss, or all over your teeth. There really is nothing as bright as the smile of a spouse who has just been reunited.
10. You be you.
Let your photographer capture your candid moments in addition to the "big one." Not comfortable in something fancy? Skip it. Love wearing heels? Bring a pair of flats too and rock those stilettos. "And at the end of the day," Witt reminds us, "your spouse isn't going to care if you're wearing a paper bag as long as you're there."
Happy homecoming! We can't wait to see your pictures.
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