It’s that time of the year again when everyone’s perfect holiday photos are just popping out and making you want exactly the same: great lighting and location, happy faces and palpable magic. The truth is, everyone wants fun and exciting photo session and beautiful, vibrant photos. If you haven’t had much chance to take family photos, you may find it difficult to satisfy all those expectations and photographic criteria.
Here are some advice for the first timers, as well as intricacies, techniques and strategies which photographers who already had a chance to do this kind of adventurous photoshoot will find helpful.
Respect family uniqueness
Yes, the key for a good family photo is, basically, knowing the family. Make sure you get all the relevant facts before you consider a detailed plan for the photo session.
Even then, the session could still take an unexpected turn, but unconventional photo session can create just as amazing photos.
The composition of the family
The number of family members on a session will affect your work, so will dealing with different types of personalities. Take the time to create an initial connection with each member and set positive and relaxed communication and atmosphere.
Mood, tone and action
In a photographer role, you are in control but don’t forget that the overall mood of each member and group itself doesn’t depend much on photographer. Observe well before capturing the precious moment.
Have a little patience
Especially with large families, teenagers, toddlers or elderly, you can count on numerous delays, slowing down the process. Even if you perfectly planned a timeline for the shoot, it will probably be changed ad hoc. Remember that everyday families aren’t models.
Set the session
Proper basic preparation will ease opening tension you might feel, but don’t underestimate the extent of a job that needs to be done.
Set your camera to shoot raw
You will need to do some color correction in post-processing. You will thank yourself later.
Set the theme
Depending on the season, the number of family members and purpose of the photoshoot, you should agree on a theme and arrange all the props for the shoot in advance. Also, it is important to instruct them on what to wear for a photo session in advance.
Location is important
You don’t take photos of a group of people, you capture the family spirit. Whether the session is in a family home, in a studio or a public place, make sure that location indicates family identity.
Time is important
If it’s possible, don’t do the outdoor shoot in the noon. Always try to use golden hour rule (or early morning), so that shadows are not so harsh. Slightly cloudy weather makes great photos: clouds diffuse the light and create more flattering shadows.
Candid vs. perfect
Trying too hard to be immaculate is what families often do during the photoshoot. However, a little spontaneity will make all the difference between good and great photo. Relax and, if needed, amuse your clients so you can capture reactions and interactions.
That way you’ll be threading a little in the area of amateur/selfie photography, but there is a lot more regarding the topic of DIY Family Portraits/Selfies vs. Professional Photos.
- Always have an all-rounder zoom lens with you, because you will need to capture subjects very closely and at some distance. Zoom lenses are great at photographing unpredicted situations and quick picture-taking. A good choice is 24-70 2.8, found in many camera manufacturers and will cover all the basis of a family photoshoot.
- Have on hand prime lens as well. You will find it irreplaceable in portrait photography, buttery backgrounds and bokeh. A good choice is 85, 100 and 135mm.
- For filling the light, some kind of reflector will come in handy.
- Don’t forget the white card for correcting colors in post-processing the images.
- Like we’ve established, photographing family can take longer than you predicted, so good idea is to carry spare batteries for your camera.
Strike a pose
Posing might seem like a very important segment of a shoot, but don’t be seduced by seemingly easy job of placing people. Posing is so much more and if you want amazing natural-feel photos, you’ll also want to keep reading.
Replace traditional posing with a fun relaxed atmosphere
Creating it, you will find those props from the Set the session chapter helpful – with kids involved, some funny-sounding toys or balloons is a must. Natural looking photographs demand relaxed family.
Give some guidelines, but don’t be too specific
Once again, remember that families are not professional models. Being too specific will make your clients excessively aware of themselves, not feeling comfortable and photos will end up unnatural.
Nevertheless, you can give basic tips such as:
- Slightly extend your chin towards the camera and then, again very slightly, lower it.
- For women: Don’t square your shoulders to the camera; For men: Freely do it, unless you want to achieve a slimmer look.
- Get close to each other. Large open space between subjects is almost never a good thing.
Make the most of each setting
Once you get a family in a good spot, it can be challenging and time-consuming getting them to reset in another place.
Move yourself, not the family
Emanating from the above, it’s easier for you to get moving, then little kids or elderly: get the standard eye level type of shot, then get low, get high, move around to the side and do whatever else you can to create different looks from that same setup.
Family member combos
Group the family members. Your clients are looking for emotional and timeless pictures, so take photos of a group, but also make sure you capture father-daughter, mother-son and grandma-kids moments.
A great way to do it can be seen in this Dad and Daughter Portrait blog post.
Kids are different species
No kid is perfect in following your guidelines and being very attentive. Sometimes is better letting them do their own thing and capturing natural behavior when they are comfortable and relaxed. Also, they can help you if you gain their trust: include them in posing by asking how they want to pose, then ask them to pose themselves and finally, ask them to pose with other members.
If you still think kids are not so easy to photograph, there are some specific guidelines which will help you to relax yourself and the little ones.
Interested in photographing newborns? Let me introduce you to the joy, fluffiness and know-how behind the lens and give you some tips for successful newborn photography. You can also check out how to play with newborn, with bonus info for photographers.
- Post-processing for family photography doesn’t have to be more demanding than for any other type of photoshoot. Here are some basic guidelines:
- Choose the best photos – it is hard, but no one is going to do it for you!
- Color correct your photos – use the photo of white card to adjust white balance.
- Don’t skip the histogram – adjust colors to your liking, fix exposure and add or reduce contrast.
- Lens correction – use any of available software to fix lens distortion.
Are we there yet?
No tips or tricks can replace practice. Just like every photographer, every family is unique. Practicing family photography will take you to your own rules, strategies and techniques that best work for you.
Also, you should check out my blog post on top 22 tips for natural family portraits which gives some in-depth and specific information on subject of family photography.