Beginning in late October I start to receive requests to shoot family photos. It is something I enjoy doing, but am still learning. The skill-set is quite different from what I know about shooting the landscape photographs that fill my Instagram feed. First of all, anything can happen in a family photo session; people blink, children act out, parents get tense, something gets overlooked in the background, light is wrong, etc. The list of things I can’t control is infinite. But, what I can do is prepare.
Family Photo Preparation
- choose a time of day that will ensure optimal lighting; late afternoon, about one hour before sunset is the best time of day for natural light portraits.
- make sure you have the right equipment; camera, portrait lens and wide angle lens, backup battery, lens wipes, tripod, reflective screens and flash (if you use them)
- check out the location; arrive a few minutes early and scout out a few good settings and backgrounds so you won’t be fumbling and wasting time later
- get to know the family; spend some time learning names and try to get a sense of the general family dynamic. Use this time to set the tone for the session.
- share your plan for poses and locations and take requests; families always have a particular shot that they have seen and want to recreate
- loose the tri-pod after the first series of shots or shoot with a second camera; hand held shots are scary, but you will have a lot more freedom of movement
- stage spontaneity; don’t be afraid to choreograph a shot, people love being actors in their own play
- be patient; quantity is great for vacation shots, but in this case you’d rather have quality
- be playful; there is a time to be serious and a time to get goofy. Children may need encouragement and it can’t come from the parents when they are included in the photo
- be flexible; keep shooting even when the action moves away from the group. The best shots are not always planned.
- trust your instincts; your gut is usually right about when to end the session and when to press on
Today’s Captured Moment
I call this photo PURE JOY for two reasons – his expression and my feeling when the shutter captured this.
My session plan always includes a variety of shots, from taking several poses with the entire group, to capturing each individual separately. This little guy was hard to nail down, but toward the very end of the session, mom and dad got a little goofy and coaxed this expression out of him. I knew I had taken enough photos for the family to have choices and I could have stopped several minutes before this happened. But, my instincts said keep going, and the light was absolutely perfect.