Photography & travel tips from an award-winning photographer, educator & wanderlust

5 tips on photographing families

Last weekend a co-worker of mine and his energetic family visited Jangtaesan Recreational Forest for some family portraits. We had a great time running around, playing and interacting with nature during our shoot. Photographing a family can be an exciting session as well as a bit challenging, here are 5 tips on how to make it an easy, breezy shoot:

1. Prepare and Plan.

For a family (or any other shoot really), always lay out your ideas, locations, poses and props before the shoot. Know where you’re going, what locations/spots you’d like to cover, what type of light will be available at a certain time of day. Pre-plan your poses and go over them (some use posing Apps, notebooks or Pinterest for that). In my case, I wanted to capture the whole family together, as well as mom and dad, each child individually, two children together, mom with kids and dad with kids. I use Pinterest for ideas, and jot them down on a piece of paper that I carry with me during the shoot (how old school of me, I know). For our props that day we used a huge bag of autumn leaves from a local park, so make sure that your props are available and/or you have back up.

2. Be ready and prepared the day of.

Pack extra batteries and memory cards in case you get trigger happy (like me). Be on time and ready to go with all your gear and props. Along with a camera and a few lenses, I always make sure to bring a reflector, flash, tissues, water and money. Wear the right type of clothing so that you’re not freezing or sweating and looking less than a comfortable and a professional photographer.

3. Have fun.

A sure way to loosen up the children of any age is to be silly. Relax, use silly voices, make up stories, run around, get creative and don’t over think it. This tip goes a long way for any type of photoshoot, adults like silly voices and whispering silly stories to each other too! My favorite is to have adult(s) stand behind me and do something out of the ordinary, such as dancing, pantomime or actions in order to make the children laugh. Works great every time (watch out for the next post and some wonderful, natural smiles I got from the kids)!

4.  Know your camera.

Don’t fumble too much with the settings, but know how to change them quickly if the situation changes. Use fast shutter speeds and AI Servo to track running children and falling leaves. Use wide apertures to blur out the background for dreamy photos of mom and dad. Know the right apertures for larger groups. And don’t use the shoot time to practice a new setting or function, you’re bound to waste someone’s time!

5. Know when to wrap it up.

Allow time to warm up. Sometimes first few shots are too stiff or unnatural, because its a natural progression of getting comfortable with the camera (unless you’re Cindy Crawford). Sometimes, even if you plan for 2 or more hours of shooting, some children lose interest or enthusiasm after just 1. So get your shots and get them fast in the first hour or so, then play it by ear so that your subject doesn’t get tired or bored and walk away with negative emotions about your shoot. As for me, that is something I should definitely work on, no one benefits from a 3+ hour shoot!

Hope these simple tips were helpful in your next family session!

Happy shooting

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