You have been hired to take family photographs at an event. It could be a day at the beach or a family reunion. Whatever it is, the family wants to remember their lives at this particular moment in time.
If you are a new photographer, you may think the only way to accomplish this task is to get some killer backdrops from an industry leader like Denny Manufacturing and have the family stand up in front of it and say “cheese.” Backdrops and props are always a good idea as they add depth and creativity to the shot. But the mechanical smile and posed position of the family may not be what they are looking for. It certainly will not add to your portfolio.
It is important to talk with the family. Get an idea of how they live. Some families are very structured. They may live by a strict timeline and maintain control at all times. This is the family that would like the traditional family photo. Other families are all about having fun. They work hard, play hard, and have a great time just playing with their kids and pets. So how do you get a photo of this family?
Create a comfortable atmosphere.
When you are preparing to take your photos, tell them to just hang out for a few minutes while you get your equipment set up. During those moments they do not know you are taking photos. Some great shots often happen while they are laughing, interactions with each other, and just being themselves.
It is great to have the photos they didn’t know were being taken along with the photos they sat for. Even the family that is very structured loves seeing how they really look when they are just being them.
Make it fun and be creative
You can get all kinds of props that will make your photo better. Having the family sitting on an old park bench, on a log, or sitting and standing under a tree. Make it fun for the family. Have them each make sure their hands are showing. They can place a hand on the shoulder of the person next to them. They can place their hands on their laps, or everyone can point in odd directions.
Have them pair off and hug each other. Have them wave for the camera. Whatever they do, make it fun and you will see natural smiles on their faces.
Who is the family?
Many people have pets that are very much part of their family. Do the people have dogs, cats, or other animals that are part of the family? Get that member in some of the photos. It may be a challenge, but it is worth the effort.
Hang around taking random shots after the shoot is over. You may catch a kid petting his dog or a man throwing the ball for his dog to retrieve. You may see the cat curled up on mom’s lap as she sits in the shade. Again, you can get some great shots during the time that the family thinks you are preparing to leave.
The most important part of any photo shoot is to understand exactly who you are working for and what they expect. Then just make it fun and you will give them moments of their lives, frozen in time.
Graduate from the Hallmark Institute of Photography and Highest Academic Honor recipient.
Published in several magazines including Shutterbug, Digital Photo, Outdoor Photographer, and PDNedu.
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