Family photos are an adventure, to say the least. There is so much that can go on and capturing the picture-perfect moments can leave the family and photographer stressed out. These sessions are meant to be a joyful occasion for everyone involved. While the kids may be running rampant, family members may be feuding, or someone is running late, there still needs to be some sort of sanity in order to get the shots you are looking for. Whether you are doing a small session of parents and one child or a full family reunion, there are some go-to tips that can make the whole experience enjoyable the entire time.
Pack the Right Equipment
While you may not want to carry around a load of equipment when you are doing a family shoot, especially if you don’t have an assistant tagging along with you, you do want to ensure you have a variety of the basics.
Tripods aren’t a must, though it could be helpful to get some stationery shots. A tripod, in fact, allows you to make actual eye contact with your families, it allows you to step away to better position them without having to move the camera and waste time trying to find the right angle to shoot from. Also, you can more easily set the focus so you have a clear and crisp image.
The lens you take will depend on where you are shooting. If you know the shoot to be done solely outdoors, a longer lens is best. If you know you will be shooting in the family’s home or indoors anywhere, then you will want to have a shorter lens to compensate for the smaller space. In either case, you always want to have a back up with you.
Filters will help in harsh lighting situations. Have your basic three, a neutral density filter, UV filter for outdoors shooting, and a polarizing lens. Again, these may not be necessary but they are also great to have on hand when you find yourself in tricky settings that may not be ideal for shooting.
Extra batteries are a must. This should go without saying as most photographers almost always have a spare battery on hand, but for many portrait sessions, it can be easy to forget.
Off-camera flash or lightbox. Having a little extra light during the family session is never a bad idea. Being able to add more light to the scene can help capture the fast action of moving kids with ease. You don’t want anything big and bulky. A collapsible lightbox or something that can easily be placed where you are shooting that won’t cause a big distraction is best.
What to wear, how to help families better prepare for their shoot, how to make them feel more comfortable, and what happens if the shoot is outdoors but the weather doesn’t cooperate? What about using bribes to settle the kids into the correct posses? There are a number of ways you can advise your clients to help them feel more confident and relaxed for their upcoming shoots.
Reach out to the family before the shoot to give them some tips that will make their family portraits unique and help the shooting run more smoothly. Give them pointers on what to wear. Let them know what colors will best pop in their images and what colors clothes to avoid (like white shirts that will throw off your exposure). Suggest that they don’t pick matching outfits but choose a color scheme to stick with.
Have them bring props and mementos that they want to include in their image or use that plays a tribute to their likes as a family.
Finally, have a list of the best poses on hand. Remember that you want to stagger their heads and have them bend their legs instead of just standing straight and stiff. In the moment, it can be easy to forget some fantastic poses, especially if you are still new to family portraits, having a shot list and suggestions can help you out when you draw a blank of where to place everyone.
Get the Candid Moments
Kids will be kids and the best images you will capture are the ones that catch these glimmering moments. Allow the siblings to play and shoot as they chase each other, blow bubbles, or jump in a pile of leaves. Don’t forget to capture mom and dad reaching to their children. Even when one comes up covered in the mud these are the moments that make a family a family. Approach it in a way that will help you freeze these moments in time which they will cherish years down the road.
Most families are nervous when they show up for their sessions. They are worried about how they look, how the kids will behave, and how long before the chaos ensues. By giving them plenty of compliments and helping them relax you will get a better authentic expression from everyone. Show them a few of the shots you captured as you go to reassure them that they look great!
Once the shoot is over the job isn’t done. How you edit the images you capture can make a huge difference. Transforming to black and white can help salvage most images that may be over or underexposed or even a little out of focus. Remember not to overdo it with your edits. You want to enhance the images, not completely alter them. Doing simple color corrections, removing intruding objects into the scene, taking the glare out of glasses, or bringing out the colors in their eyes are small changes that can make a big difference without making the final image unrealistic.