Family portraits call for a very special type of photography (we take amazing family portraits in Sydney and the Illawarra’s beautiful locations every weekend!). Personalities, mannerisms, and most of all the ties of familial love need to be portrayed in a two-dimensional format. It’s a wonderfully challenging and creative genre, and getting the best pictures is a matter of judgement rather than luck. The end result has to be portraits that will be treasured for a lifetime, and even for generations to come. Read on to get the inside track from a professional photographer who specialises in family portraits in Sydney and the Illawarra.
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7 Tips for taking awesome Family Portraits
To get families to show their true personalities in a relaxed way, rapport is the magic ingredient that results in wonderful, intimate family pictures. That means the photographer has to establish a connection and communicate well with his or her client. Enquiries should be answered speedily, and to ensure the photoshoot happens as planned, reminders should be sent. A frustrated or annoyed family (or an irritated photographer) isn’t going to result in beautiful, relaxed photographs. Before the shoot, the photographer should get to know the family a little. If they will “friend” you on Facebook, you can get an insight into personalities and preferred activities in advance.
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2. Get input and ideas
Every family is unique and family portraits should reflect that. Apart from forming his or her own opinions, the photographer should ask for input directly from the family. What everyday activities do they enjoy? Do individual family members play a sport or enjoy a hobby? Rather than asking 20 questions, I will generally explain this philosophy to the client, and ask them to think it over and come up with photo theme ideas. Once they’ve had a couple of days to think about it, the photographer usually gets a whole list of possible photo ideas from the family. Can I photograph little Jenny with her pony? Peter loves his mini quad-bike, can we have a shot of him with helmet in hand? Dad loves taking the family on nature walks, would I be willing to come along for one? And so on.
3. Time of day and length of shoot
Although one can do quite a lot with diffusers and artificial lighting, natural light that isn’t too bright makes for the most natural-looking and attractive photographs. Harsh noonday light can be very difficult to work with, so I generally prefer an early morning or late afternoon photoshoot. If everyone is well-prepared, getting the actual raw images doesn’t take long at all. An hour is usually enough, and if we have to trek to an additional location, two hours will do.
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4. What should the family wear?
I like to take two sets of pictures. One set is taken with everyone in their smartest clothing. After all, every proud mom likes to have pictures of the family looking their best. Because it takes a little time to get the family feeling relaxed and at ease in the presence of a stranger with a camera, the formal shots are usually a good place to start.
My favourite pictures come from the second part of the shoot. Now the family changes into comfortable everyday clothes and we have a little fun together. Mom and dad play with the kids; we take pictures of the family enjoying their favourite pastimes, and so on.
Families hoping to get the most memorable pictures should ideally avoid clothing that distracts from the people. Shirts with slogans or very brightly coloured, patterned clothes work less well than understated colours and patterns.
5. Location is important too (…and Sydney has amazing locations for family portraits!)
Although most photographers have favourite locations (we have our own favourite spots for family portraits in Sydney, contact us to find out!), it’s always best to let the family choose. The home garden is a lovely setting because its familiarity puts the family at ease. But if attractive vistas are to be part of the setting, a local park works well too. When photographing kids, it’s best if they have plenty of space to play and have fun, and a bit of shade is also helpful if you want to avoid pictures in which the subjects are squinting into overly bright sunshine.
Posed shots have their place, but the best pictures show families having fun together. Bring a picnic along. Bring toys for the kids. The last thing a photographer wants is to photograph bored children who would far rather be doing something else and show it! You can be sure the atmosphere shows in pictures, so I encourage families to turn the photoshoot into a fun family outing.
7. Group photos
Group photos are tricky, and the bigger the group, the harder it is. The photographer has to catch everyone in a split second when they are all smiling and have their eyes open. Believe me – that can be a tall order! But the group pictures are likely to be among the ones that are treasured most, so getting the group photo absolutely perfect is a must.
Depending on the group’s configuration, the photographer chooses the right lens. Usually, it will be a mid-range lens so that everyone can be in the frame. But for small groups, and a head and shoulders shot, a closer range lens would be the right choice. Camera settings are also important. A fast shutter speed helps to reduce the chances of a movement resulting in a blurred shot, and the ISO should not be set too high.
Here’s a trick to help photographers capture everyone with their eyes open. Remember, you discovered this secret here! Get everyone to stand close together for a nice shot with no odd gaps in it. Now ask everyone to close their eyes and open them on your count of three. I like to use continuous-release to take multiple shots just in case someone is a little slow off the mark and still has their eyes half-closed when I take the first shot.
Have fun Australia!
The very best pictures come from fun times, and the photographer can’t be the kind of person who would put a damper on the occasion. It’s all about enjoyment and positive energy!
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