3 Tips for Capturing Connections in Family Portraits
We’ve all heard the dreaded words, “Okay everyone, look at the camera and at the count of three say Cheese!”. I have been guilty of using this technique too in my early days of as a family portrait photographer. I remember coming home from client photo shoots and kicking myself for not being original, botching up my client’s experience, and getting really mediocre images that lacked any emotion or connection.
Over the course of time, my style of photography evolved and I started investing more time and effort in making my clients feel comfortable before, during, and after their photoshoot. The results were images that were fun, fresh and full of emotions. Exactly the kind of images that I want in my portfolio. My clients love the experience and I often hear words like, “Oh that was so much fun!” or ‘Thank you for making it so easy”, and “I loved how you made us feel at ease”. I realized that if, as a photographer, I was having a good time interacting with and photographing my clients, they were having a great time too.
At the end of the day, my job as a photographer is not only to take great, meaningful and beautiful pictures for my clients but also to make sure they have a great time and it is a pleasant experience. To that end, there are some things to keep in mind to capture connections among your clients
#1 – Family dynamics
It is very important to understand family dynamics prior to the photoshoot. This goes beyond the typical questions about the names and ages of the kids. Try and understand likes and dislikes of the people involved. If there are young children involved, take the time to understand personalities of the kids as individuals, and with their siblings. Is the family casual and easy going, or do they like formal, traditional posed pictures? Just because they like a particular style of imagery does not mean you have to stick to that. But certainly incorporate what they want first, then feel free to experiment.
This family made it very clear that their new puppy was their second baby! – Rather than excluding the dog, I made sure to include him in almost all their images.
Large family groups don’t have to be intimidating. Just engage with them and give them something to do.
#2 – Structure the shoot
Trust me, this is key and will ensure you maintain your sanity during the photoshoot. Have a plan of action. I make it a point to spend the first five minutes of every session educating my clients on what they can expect. The first few minutes is warmup time – testing the light, figuring out the right lens, etc. I let my clients know exactly what’s happening, and many times, I get a lot of beautiful images during this time. Clients are much more relaxed if they think these first few minutes don’t really count.
Then we incorporate an activity like walking along a path, climbing a tree, playing in the park, and I photograph around that activity. Finally we just sit down to enjoy each other’s company. This not only let’s the clients know exactly how we are going to spend our time but also helps keep me in check. Because let’s face it, for most of us, once we start clicking that shutter, it is so easy to loose track of time!
A simple conversation that was set up resulted in some magical daddy-daughter moments.
Sometimes just use hands to communicate connection among family members.
#3 – Make it fun
This is a critical part of capturing connections among family members during the photoshoot. For family portraits with little kids, try techniques like tickle-fest, blowing bubbles, rocking out those dance moves and other such methods to get the kids in the spirit of having fun. If kids are a little older, try cracking jokes. Bring some basic props if required and let the kids play. Photograph around the activity and capture candid moments of family interactions. If all else fails, it is okay to setup the shot and work the family into the pose. Make sure to keep clicking so that you can get some candids through out the whole process.
Bride + Bridesmaids + a catwalk pose = really fun images!
Remember that families that play together, stay together. Your job as a photographer is to capture these family dynamics in a fun and pleasing way. If your clients have a great time during the shoot, it is more than likely that they will love your images because they will remember the experience in a positive light.
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