Wondering how to get the most out of your next family photo shoot? Follow these top tips for capturing better family photos. You’ll be sure to shoot moments that will be treasured for generations.
1. Communication is Key
If you’ve been photographing people for a while you’ve probably noticed that a lot of individuals don’t feel comfortable in photo shoots. One of the less technical (but still important) aspects of your job is utilising your social skills – talking to your clients is vital to understand their requirements, as well as getting a sense of their personalities and how best to represent them.
A little banter also helps them relax; find a light-hearted subject you can chat to them about. The more comfortable you make the family feel, the better your photos are going to turn out. Communication is also important with children, who as a general rule hate being told what to do, (especially from a stranger.) The more you create trust with them, the better your rapport for snapping great shots.
2. Go with What Feels Natural
Don’t make the family pose in ways that feel unnatural to them! This only results in forced, austere shots. Instead, discuss beforehand what kind of poses they’d like to experiment with and show them examples of different poses. Have the family interact with each other in a fun way by telling jokes and being silly, this helps them relax while you snap naturalistic photos that capture the good vibes.
Capturing better family photos mean being flexible. When it comes to working with children and young kids, it can’t hurt to be a little childlike and playful with them! Show them that you’re enjoying the session and let them know that it’s okay to have fun. When kids enjoy themselves this translates into beautiful photos. If they start getting restless, let them take a short break to run around and play before bringing them back to the shoot.
3. Strike a Pose
Being observed through the camera lens can make people feel unsure of themselves, and they often don’t know what to do with their bodies. Here are some suggestions. Having subjects distribute their weight on one foot and protrude a hip away from the camera creates more of a dynamic pose than simply standing straight.
When photographing men, shoot from a lower angle than their line of eyesight, this gives them a dominating, masculine appearance. For women, shooting them from above and having them turn their bodies to the side are both great ways to accentuate their feminine figures.
4. Use Manual Exposure Mode
It’s so much easier to take photos with a consistent exposure; you really don’t want to have to painstakingly edit photos after the shoot, trying to match their colours, saturation and brightness. Therefore, use Manual Mode – the setting that gives you the maximum creative control over how your shots turn out.
5. Get Under the Weather
On cloudy days, the light is softer as it’s diffused by clouds, which is generally favoured by photographers who are shooting people, (clear, sunny days tend to stark lighting and strong facial shadows.) That being said, weather that’s overly cloudy can obscure light too much. Check the weather beforehand to find out what kind of conditions you’ll be working with.
6. Lighting is Key
Lighting is everything when it comes to photography, and a family photo shoot is no different. Working with natural light is often the best way to produce photogenic shots of your subjects; however, this depends on a number of factors, including the weather, the place, and time of the shoot. If you’re shooting outdoors, the key thing to remember is that you want to be able to see the catchlight – the reflection of the light source in your subject’s eyes that makes them look alive.
7. The Golden Hour
Shooting in the golden hour (which occurs twice daily: the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset) ensures the sunlight isn’t too harsh and instead produces a soft and aesthetically pleasing glow that gives pictures a wholesome feeling. If you’re unable to do the shoot in one of the golden hours, shoot your family in shade so they’re out of direct sunlight.
When shooting in the golden hour you’re going to want to make sure everyone arrives with sufficient time before those key hours pass so you can set up, give everyone else time to prepare, and take some test shots.
8. Get the Angle Right
Pro tip: Photos usually look better when the light source is coming from the side of the subjects. Have the camera facing approximately 45 degrees away from the light source (experiment with angles to find what works best.) Side angles work better than the light source coming from directly in front of the subjects (which results in unappealing facial shadows) or overhead; another reason why it’s best when you’re shooting outdoors to do it in the golden hours – because of the angle of sunlight.
9. Choose Your Backgrounds Carefully
If the family have selected a location, you’ll want to ask questions about it before the photo shoot to get an idea of the setting. Taken indoors, you’ll need to know what kind of lighting they have and whether or not you need to bring additional lights. When outdoors, you may also need to bring additional lights depending on what time of day it is. For example if it’s 3pm and sunny outdoors, the sun will cast long shadows which may need to be illuminated.
If the family are going with a location you have selected, you probably already have a list of potential locations to draw from. Show them pictures and discuss the options with your clients to find one they’re happy with. Use specific areas that act as attractive yet non-distracting backdrops, and of course, consider the location’s quality of light at the time you’re planning to visit.
10. Help the Family Decide What to Wear
The job of a family photographer is multi-faceted; sometimes you act as a clown for the kids, sometimes you’re a venue organiser, and sometimes you’re a wardrobe consultant. You’ll find families often ask what they should wear. There is of course no right answer, but generally it’s a good rule to wear clothes they feel good in.
To be more specific, tell your family to dress in colours that complement one another and suit the environment you’re shooting in. Avoid super bright, distracting, or fluorescent clothing that clashes with everyone else’s outfits and the background. Where possible, have the family wear a similar style of clothing, for example, everyone dressed casually, (as opposed to everyone dressed in matching outfits – although if that’s what they really want, then that’s okay too.)
In Conclusion, Capturing Better Family Photos
One final piece of advice: take loads of photos! Looking at your shots on the screen of your camera is very different to seeing them in full resolution on your computer screen, and the differences can be startling. When experimenting with shots of different poses or in different locations, take as many as you can to make sure you have a wide range of photos for the clients to choose their favourites from.
When you’ve given your collection of gorgeous family photos to your clients, they’ll most likely want to compile them into a beautiful photo book, so they can re-live these precious memories whenever they choose.