For some, family photos are an annual tradition, while for the majority of families, they are a rare occurrence. As new parents ourselves, we know how busy daily lives can get in the way of dedicating the time and energy required to create family photos. While many parents have the intention to take more family photos, it can be hard to put this into action and move it off the To-Do list. With so many pressing priorities, family photos put off, and before long, we find that our children have grown up and our cherished pets have moved on.
As photographers, capturing family photos can be challenging. In addition to the usual photography challenges such as lighting and weather, there are other things to contend with such as large groups, uncoordinated clothing, reluctant or shy kids, and pets that refuse to cooperate.
Upon reflecting on our experience taking family photos over the years, here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your family photo shoots:
1. Go Somewhere Beautiful
With portraits and couples photography, the shooting location may not always be important. Leveraging camera settings, perspective, and depth of field, photographers can create amazing photos almost anywhere. With traditional family photos, the goals are different. Rather than creating interesting perspectives, the objective is often to have equal focus and representation for each family member. This often means the background will be sharp, and will play a prominent role in the resulting photograph. For this reason, we believe the most important aspect of family photography is to make sure you are in a beautiful location. Not only will the scenery add to the image and allow it to be appreciated by a broader range of people, but it will also help create a lasting memory of the photo shoot itself.
2. Know your Client
While we at Starfish Photography prefer to shoot in the great outdoors whenever possible, not all clients appreciate the wilderness as much as we do. Some families may not be willing, or able, to walk along a muddy trail to get to a spectacular view point. For this reason, it’s really important to get to know your prospective clients ahead of time and get a clear understanding of what they are expecting. It is worth putting in the extra effort understanding your client’s need so you can arrange a shoot location that works for both of you, you have a clear understanding of the types of photos and amount of direction they would like, and the family will be more relaxed during the shoot. To us, this is a win, win, win.
3. Have Fun
For families that don’t have a lot of experience with professional photographers, a photo shoot can be incredibly intimidating. We find that starting a photo shoot with some light-hearted, ice-breaker photos can go a long way to helping families relax and get ready for the shoot ahead. Introducing fun and silly shots throughout the photo shoot can help keep children engaged. If very small children are involved, it may help to include a playground, toys, or secretly ask them to do something funny (such as pulling their parent’s ear) so that you can capture some truly authentic and heartfelt moments. Make the experience fun for everyone. Your shots will be better for it.
4. Be Diverse
Building on tip #1 (Go Somewhere Beautiful), it’s important that you bring diversity to the shoot. There’s nothing worse than spending a long time at one location only to find out later that the lighting was poorer than anticipated and no amount of editing can save your photos. Moving families around to different locations and different positions keeps them active, provides unique photo opportunities, and ensures the backgrounds for each of your photos will be unique. Splitting people up into smaller groups can give people off-camera a much needed break while adding additional utility to the shoot. Variety is the spice of life after-all, so make sure you take full advantage of your location.
5. Adapt to the Circumstances
With so many variables at play in creating excellent photos, it’s important for the photographer to adapt to the environment. This may mean re-scheduling a photo shoot multiple times to get perfect weather, or it may mean changing your plans during the shoot if something isn’t working well. As the photographer, it’s your job to make your clients look good. If someone is struggling in front of the camera, change things up and put them in a position to succeed. You may need to give them something to do, change how much direction you are giving them, or get them to tell you a story to help them relax. The best photographers are the ones that can identify when something isn’t working and have the foresight to do something about it while they still can.