In the fall when the leaves turn, many families like to take advantage of the beautiful backdrop of nature and get family photographs taken. Saucy is always happy to oblige, especially when old friends get in touch because their beautiful daughters are available for a quick photo shoot!
Having done this for a number of years, Saucy has the family photo shoot down to a science. It's not a precise formula, but it works for her. Some people are more at ease in front of the camera than others (in this family, everyone was pretty chill). When shooting families, there are things you can do to "warm everyone up" to the camera and ensure there are more good shots to choose from.
For this small group, Saucy began like she would with any family and staged a pretty standard shot, relying primarily on the backdrop. Generally, subjects like to "start out" with the idea that the surroundings are pivotal to the shot... but we know it's not. Sure, a nice background can make an interesting picture, but it's really about the subjects. In this case, three very attractive women and a really fluffy dog.
After you take a few shots, it's time to get closer. Literally. Pick up your camera and move closer to the subjects, while talking and visiting with them. Just zooming in with your lens won't create an intimate portrait, and you want some variation in the light as well - so take a step towards the family and break the ice!
After the initial "basic" pose, it's time to pack everyone up and move the entire group to your next location. Saucy has a few places around town (another blog post entirely) that she likes because they afford the flexibility of many different posing and lighting situations. You will find that as you work with families, they will become more loose in front of the camera, creating more casual - and sometimes even candid situations.
Don't be afraid to rattle off a few shots while people are laughing or not even looking into the camera. These photos are really what the family is all about, in their most intimate moments. Sometimes you might catch a special look or glance that they will recognize in one another. That, my friends, is awesome.
Next, Saucy will take her cue from the main client (in this case, and most usually, the mother) as to what shots they would like in the breakdown. Usually this will include individuals of the children and it's a pretty good time to do this now, because you have a bit of a rapport built up and they are a little more comfortable in front of the lens. Saucy makes a fairly deliberate effort at this point to shoot the individual children fairly differently, as in, not "matching portraits" unless that was specifically asked for. Younger children might insist on getting the exact same shot as a sibling, but you can exercise your best judgement to accommodate these jealousies and work around them.
Teens are more flexible, they usually like the opportunity to express their own personalities in their individual photos. They probably want to use them for Facebook profile pictures and whatnot, and that's great.
After individuals, Saucy groups the children together and works a variety of angles. Only subtle changes to posing are required - it's you who can climb and move the camera around, not the subjects.
If the pets are brought along, make sure you snap a shot or two of them by themselves! They're important members of the family as well.
Standing shots are the trickiest... Saucy saves those for nearing the end of the shoot. Generally, people don't like just "standing around" trying to appear natural because, well, there's nothing natural about it. Who randomly stands under a pergola walkway in a lineup facing the same direction?
But by this time (about three quarters of the way through the shoot) people are quite willing to at least try this kind of pose and they are certainly used to the sound of the shutter. Even the pets will cooperate... if you're lucky.
At the very end of the hour, Saucy likes to do the "Pinterest" shots. She will ask the subjects if they have any ideas or poses they would like to try (most do) and if not, she usually has something up her sleeve. This family wanted a photo of themselves walking away down a path, with their pup following after them. Very sweet idea, and it worked.
Whether you are shooting a large or a small family, thanks to the wonders of digital photography you can get an amazing assortment of shots in an hour. Saucy often thinks back to the days of shooting on her medium-format camera, then sending the film away to be processed and then sweating for a couple of weeks to see if the few precious frames of film she shot were properly exposed. Thank God those days are gone. She relishes playing with images in PhotoShop, finding the gems in the heaps and heaps of shots she takes.
- Start with general, basic group poses highlighting the setting or background.
- Physically move closer to your subjects and continue to shoot.
- Move your subjects to a second, more intimate spot.
- Photograph children, pets and couples individually.
- Suggest an unusual pose or location after a rapport is evident.
- Keep your camera shooting to capture organic, unstaged moments.
- Leave the "standing" shots until the end of the shoot.
- Finish with the creative, most emotional or unusual poses.
If you have any questions or thoughts about taking family photos, leave a comment below!