The kids are going mad, it’s raining and mum’s got chocolate smeared on her shirt…oh and the kids are kicking you.
Every time we capture a family portrait it feels like a miracle sometimes as there are so many factors that can go wrong. It’s definitely worth the hard work as a beautiful image of a growing family is something to cherish. The secret to a perfect family portrait is to accept that things will go wrong and prepare for the worst so you can minimise the risk. Though these tips are written for the photographer in mind, they are perfect for anyone in front or behind the camera so that everyone will have images to enjoy for ages.
1. It’s All In The Location
If your standing in the hot sun your going to sweat, or freeze to death if it’s somewhere cold especially as the shoots going to take an hour or two. Get into the rhythm of the seasons and plan for the weather. Try shooting at sunset or sunrise to get rid of the heat and glare of the sun, plus it’s the best time of day for lighting. In the winter it’s best to plan for a weekend shoot so Mum and Dad don’t need to rush home from work or take time off.
Always include a backup plan if the weather turns nasty. Maybe find a second location inside or under cover or book a second date just in case. If it’s an overcast day, then perfect. Fill your boots on even, flat lighting that will reduce shadows and wrinkles.
2. Really! That’s What You’re Wearing?
Sometimes the customer isn’t always right. In fact, in some cases they are very wrong. When it comes to creating portraits we can’t afford to let a wardrobe malfunction ruin the perfect image, such as wearing a summer dress in mid November! A gentle reassurance that they would be happier in a jumper and jeans and that their children would look better if their not frozen solid just because their new t-shirt looks great.
Always ask for a theme on family wardrobes, not identical, just matching in tones and feel, that way the image is about the faces and not the Christmas jumper!
It’s also a very good idea that your clients bring backup outfits, especially for the kids. Messy accidents don’t look great especially on white shirts!
3. Let the kids know!
The most important thing for family shoots. As the photographer, you must ask the parent to get their kids ready for the shoot many days in advance. Explain whats going to happen, how fun it’s going to be and make sure they are looking forward to it. Scared and unprepared children don’t make for happy faces. I find a healthy bribe of chocolate, ice-cream or the cinema is often the best way to ensure a happy smile.
Oh, and make sure the children arrive with a full belly and lots of sleep. I’ve actually seen images with children holding crisps just to keep them still…not great!
You can’t do enough to impart to parents the importance of bringing their kids to the session at their very best. A photo session is not the same as dropping them off at Grandma’s house!
4. It’s time for you to act the fool!
When you first meet the family you’re going to photograph, make sure you spend quality time getting to know the children. On the shoot you’ll need to play with them, run around and get them to relax with you and your camera. Knowing what they like prior to the shoot can only mean one thing…success and a happy family. Bring treats too, snacks and toys to bribe them…don’t think you wont need to!
Finally, be ready to work fast. Often, the best pictures of children occur in the first 20 to 30 minutes of a shoot.
5. Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming!
Even adults can quickly tire of having their photo taken, but the more images you capture, in the most scenes and locations, the more variety and options you’ll have to offer your clients.
Every few minutes in one location, switch up your subjects’ stances. Have Dad hold Junior, or have Sister stand with her hand on Mom’s shoulder. Then immediately mix it up by having them casually walk toward you, looking at each other, to capture a candid moment.
Don’t stay in any one location for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Plan to move around your site. The time between spots is a chance to chat and get more comfortable with your subjects, and to let the kids have a break and run around before asking them to sit still again. It’s also a chance to capture great candid moments.
Capturing the perfect family portrait is not an easy task! But with the right planning and prep, you’ll discover that capturing happy families at their very best can be incredibly rewarding.