Say goodbye to traditional family portraits! They want be ROCKSTARS!!!
Very few families are looking for the traditional family portrait of old; this is not to say it’s a revolt against tried and true lighting and posing techniques. It’s a revolt against the same old thing, having a family portrait that looks like everyone else’s. I realized a couple of years back that when I approached a family photo the same way I approached a rock band promo my sales went way up. By employing extreme angles or by shooting from directly above from a ladder or standing on top of a hill to capture a unique angle. Shooting from below by squatting or lying down on the ground creates a whole different feel. Another unique idea is to have each family member hold pieces of paper with letters written on them that spell a word. For example, a family of four can hold up the letters L-O-V-E. Consider placing subjects in unusual settings, of late my favorite setting is a junk pile behind the local concrete plant. Turn those families into Rock Stars!!!
Let them have fun!
This should be the number one suggestion, have fun!!! One of the best things you can do as the photographer is let the family cut loose. You’re not shooting film, you can afford to loose a few frames. I find that by letting a family cut loose I can always get a few perfect exposures in between that shows them in a more natural and relaxed pose.
It is also important to not let the parents be in charge of your shoot. I always tell mom she is off duty and her only job is to look into the camera and let me worry about the kids. Once mom or dad starts getting upset with the kids, all is lost so be prepared to not let this happen.
One of the most important things you can do to insure a great family portrait is having the family dress in similar colors, with no stripes or patterns to distract. Wearing the same color makes you appear as if you belong together, and though it takes some preparation and maybe even a stop by a store, clothing choice is the most impactful factor that you can have control over as the photographer. Your job is not to select but to guide the family to the right wardrobe choice. Ultimately it is up to them but they will always blame the photographer if the photo does not work.
If the family is into a particular sport or outdoor activity try and coordinate the picture around the event. Everyone will be more relaxed and in a good mood and it makes for a memorable picture
Never close enough…
More than likely, if they are like most families they won’t be close enough. Maybe it’s a personal space thing; people just never seem to get close enough. When people are physically close, it visually shows what a family should be like. You could be photographing the Adam’s family, when you have everyone touching they look like a model family.
I wish I could say I have never done this… Don’t forget to check your basic camera settings before you start clicking away. ISO, Image Size (RAW, fine), Exposure Compensation, Metering, etc. Nothing is worst than to get to the end of a session and realize you just shot the thing at ISO 1600.
Never say things like “This isn’t working.” Make it positive, “Looks great, let’s try a few new positions.” Let them know that the pictures are looking great. Think high fashion cliché’s like, “Love it,” “so beautiful,” “What a great one.” If you act like you have never seen such great photos they will up their game show confidence in their smiles.
Working with babies and young children
The eyes have it…
Babies are no different than an adult; the most important thing is the eyes. Don’t try to get those eyes sharp, get them sharp!!! Avoid red eyes by not using flash at all using lots of natural light; there is a school of thought that says flash can be damaging to babies eyes. Use higher ISO if necessary, and a bigger aperture to capture the moments.
It’s all about the baby…
Backgrounds should be kept simple. Not cluttered with chairs, colorful baby toys, or other children. The surroundings are seldom important in a baby photo. Patterned or colored clothing can take away from the baby’s face. For best photos, choose simple, light and solid-colored clothing. Get close or zoom in for impact.
Time is not on your side…
Babies never stop moving, special moments are lost before you know it. You must have your camera ready. I have seen a baby session go from the worlds happiest baby to the world’s coming to an end and I’m never going to stop crying in a split second. If the baby gives you a great look, take it. Never think you can add something to the photo to make it better without first taking the shot you have then. Be patient, be patient, and be patient. Kids have moods; one minute they are happy, next their sad, a moments later playful and sometimes just want to cry. Another thing I have learned is that kids have their own pace. If your young subject does not want to take pictures, don’t force them. Put the camera aside. Play a little. Let them relax. Show kids them selves on the LCD, it is a great icebreaker and they love it.
Leave out parts of the image. Don’t show the whole baby, but for example only her legs, or only his hands. Show the miniature proportions of the baby, the wonderful tiny feet, and tiny fingers, comparing proportions of the hand with that of the father or mother. Capture the baby showing an adult facial expression or behavior. Use mirrors; explore the baby crawling to the mirror on the ground. Use your long lens with a big aperture, blurred backgrounds work really well with babies. Ordinary props can become very funny with a baby, a baby with big adult shoes, big sunglasses, or a funny shirt.