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  • Robyn Davie

Photographer Tips: Family Photo Shoots


First up, well done for taking on the daunting task of family photography! It's a big thing being responsible for capturing the photographs that a family are going to frame for their walls, gift to grandma, and look back on for *the rest of their lives*! Hehe, no pressure.

My best part of family shoots is just being able to hang out with a family and capture their lives just as it is - wholesome and love-filled - but I've completely accepted that a few tears and tantrums are part of the territory, and I don't let them affect my cool composure.

I read a great quote the other day about kids and their moods - we as adults are allowed to have bad days, and bad attitudes, and be annoyed and grumpy sometimes, and yet we expect our kids to always have a sunny disposition - which is a little unfair really! In any case most kids bounce right back after a good cuddle or a fun tickle - something we're not so great with as grown-ups.

But moods aside, I've outlined a few basic tips here for making a family photo shoot work:

Magic Hour

This item is top of my list for a very good reason - it is the one thing I will not compromise on. If my clients want truly beautiful photos (and assumedly they do!), then I will not budge on shooting during magic hour. If you've started taking pics and feel like something is missing, head on over to your app store and download the 'Magic Hour' app - it tells you the exact two hours of perfect light in which to shoot, during any season, i.e. the hour around sunrise and the hour around sunset. I will always make sure that I'm shooting as close as feasibly possible to these two time periods.

This blog post describes in more detail the magic of magic hour.

The above pic shows my ultimate culmination of all the tips in this post - magic hour, backlit photographs, foreground details, something fun to keep the kids smiling (those little colourful dots are actually bubbles getting hit by the light at the exact right angle = magic!), sweet little outfits, and great depth of field!

Basic Composition Tricks

Try and avoid things that make the frame cluttered and distract from the focus being on the family or kids. The easiest way to do this is to move yourself to a new angle, or to use the subject to block out a distracting object.

My biggest things to avoid are the not pretty things - fences, rubbish bins, brightly coloured objects that pull the eye away.

If you're shooting outdoors, make sure the trees are far enough away that they don't look like they're growing out of someone's head. Same goes for street signs, light fittings etc. It's a bad visual.

Depth of Field

Encourage your clients to step away from the wall, the house, the tree, and leave a good few meters gap as so to get a good depth of field.

In the above pic of mom and daughter, those trees are a good few hundred meters away, and give the pic a lovely glow, while keeping the focus on the subjects.

Families will often like a pic on a favourite couch inside the family home - I always try and avoid the couch that's right up against the wall, and go for the one with space behind it, as in this above pic.

If you do like the idea of a wall (and its a prop I use often in my headshots), get them to lean up against the wall, and then do the same yourself - instantly creating depth and visual interest.

Speaking of walls ~

A LOT of people have a red undertone to their skin, so when you put them in front of a red wall, or red bricks, or anything red it tends to emphasise the red in their skin - which tends to not look good in the final product! I like steering my clients away from wearing red, or being anywhere near to it.

Speaking of the ways that colour affect skin tone ~

If you're snapping pics inside a house try and make sure there are no lights on, as interior lights tend to be quite yellow, and unless you're watching you're white balance like a hawk, your clients will end up looking like yellow marshmallows.

Rather turn the interior lights off, and steer your clients close to the windows, or better yet, outside.

Speaking of steering your clients (I'm on a roll here!) ~

Don't be scared to encourage your clients to interact with one another rather than staring at the camera. Speaking up and asking them politely to move into a different spot because the light is better is always 100% worth it!

Use the light.

Always be aware of where the sun is, even when you're inside. It can make for beautiful backlighting coming through a low window in the late afternoon, and the sun sneaking through dappled trees is always a plus!

Turn your aperture down as low as it can go and get gorgeous bokeh! (While making sure that your subjects are still sharp and in focus!)

In these pics I positioned this sweet little family a few metres away from a window through which was streaming the most gorgeous late afternoon light - and voila! All kinds of magic :)

Foreground detail

I love finding things that I can shoot through - trees, windows, the bars of a crib. That foreground detail (even if it's just a blur of light instantly makes your pics look more pro).

Wardrobe tips and tricks

It's great to run a quick eye over the wardrobe options that the family is wearing, and making sure that the colours all complement each other and will work on camera.

In my early days I did a family shoot in which the mom put on a lumo orange dress - it looked fantastic on her, but when I sat down to edit the pics I realised that the lumo orange colour was reflected onto everything - making her face, and the faces of her family members look bright orange! It is a very hard colour to get out of a final image, and I ended up barely being able to use those pics besides from the few that I put into black & white.

This post outlines more in detail the do's and don'ts of dressing for a family photo shoot.

Get up close and personal

I love getting as close as possible on little details - hands holding, sweet gestures, and even just general framing.

For the Clients

This is the post I share with my clients on how to get the most out of their family photo shoot.

Feel free to contact me should you wish to ask any questions, or if you're an amateur photographer looking to get into the lifestyle family photography business I'd love to hear from you!

#photographertipsandtricks #howtoshootafamilyphotosession #robyndavielifestylephotography #deltaparkfamilyphotography #kimmyandbear #newbornphotoshoot #forthephotographer

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