Family portrait photography is important because clients are looking for pictures that they will be able to treasure for years to come. A good family portrait can bring back memories of golden years and can be shown to future generations when telling old stories of days gone by.
For high quality family portraits that will stand the test of time, there are a few suggestions worth keeping in mind:
Setting the Stage
Where and when a family portrait is taken can have a huge effect on the final result. Taking that into consideration, it is best to stage the photos somewhere with minimal amount of people in the background so that the shots feature just the family members. Some scenic locations tend to draw large crowds, but crowds can sometimes be avoided if the shoot takes place during certain times of day. Simple backgrounds, for instance trees or the ocean, are hard to go wrong with.
Related to taking the photos at certain times of day is picking a time and place with optimal lighting. Harsh sunlight can cause those in the portrait to squint if they are facing the sun, and sunlight can cause unflattering shadows and light-spits that might reduce the quality of the photos. Somewhere with shade is ideal, but if a sunny location is a must, the sun can be combatted by adjusting camera settings.
A Good Time Makes for a Good Photo
The best family portraits are the one where everyone looks naturally and at ease. To achieve this, family portrait photographers should try to interact with their clients and create a pleasant, enjoyable atmosphere. This can involve striking up conversations with the parents and trying to keep the children from getting too bored during a session, if children happen to be present. Scheduling a session according to what a family’s schedule best might make this easier.
For instance, some families might prefer early morning sessions when everyone’s awake, but others might prefer afternoon or early evening for their photos. Family portraits should be a fun experience for everyone involved because after all, the better the mood the better the results.
Communication is Key
Like with anything else, communication is key for successful family portraits. Photographers should not be afraid to communicate suggestions they have, for example, what a family should wear and how they should pose. For families who do not take family portraits often, this advice can make them feel more comfortable and less awkward.
When offering suggestions, it’s best to word them simply to avoid any possible confusion or misunderstandings. Communication is a two-way street, though, and photographers should be open to the requests of their clients. If there are certain poses that a family would rather not do, then they should not be forced to.
Poses are one of the things that can make or break a family portrait. The goal with poses is for them to look natural and not stiff. Tried and true poses include walking, leaning against objects, and hugging while sitting. A good pose will flatter the person posing and will help hide any perceived flaws.
It is worth noting that some of the best shots are candid ones, because those truly capture the feeling of a moment. Yet in a collection of family photos, there should of course be some more formal ones, not just candid moments. Something else worth mentioning is to not go overboard with posing. Planning too many poses for a session can overwhelm the family whose portrait is being taken. Instead, turn less into more by taking photos of the same pose from different perspectives.
Keep Things Simple
With poses, outfits, backgrounds, and even editing, simple is generally best. There is a sense of sophistication that comes with simplicity that can really contribute to making a family portrait feel timeless. Keeping things simple also makes the photo taking process easier because there is less room for error.
Be Flexible and Prepared
In order to avoid any worst-case scenario situations, such as a having the perfect photo except for that one person with their eyes closed, photographers should always take multiple pictures. Being prepared for a photographer also means having all the proper equipment. The right equipment will vary depending on the location of the shoot and it is important to be prepared ahead of time for best results.
Knowing how to change camera settings to get optimal effects as well as how to use lighting are also skills family portrait photographers should be aware of ahead of time. Perhaps most importantly, family portrait photographers should be flexible. Even if what they had planned didn’t work the way they envisioned it, that does not mean that the results can’t be great.
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*Photos by Vlada Karpovich