It may seem easy to simply book a local photographer for your family portraits and leave them to manage the shoot. However, there are a number of tips that could help you to get the most from your session and ensure you get the best results.
Family portraits are special. I have been booked to take photographs for a wide range of reasons including; to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries or to create an album of special pictures to be given as a gift to parents, grandparents or other relatives. They have all been different, whether it is the location, the setting, the number of people or the style of photography requested. But for each one the following tips applied and ensured that each shoot was a success.
Make sure you speak to your photographer. It’s no good booking them and then not speaking until the day of the shoot. A good portrait photographer will discuss all of the following points up front with you to ensure a successful shoot.
Decide on a photographic style or ‘feel’ before you get started at the shoot
Have you spoken to everyone attending the shoot? Do they have an opinion of the style of shoot required? Some will want it to be formal and organised; others may want it to be fun and spontaneous. Participants in a group portrait always have an opinion and this often doesn’t become apparent until everyone is in the studio and time is wasted with unnecessary discussions.
Do you need a studio or could you have the shoot at home?
Shooting in a studio can be beneficial, especially for large groups. But it could be possible to shoot at your home. Many portrait photographers, me included, are able to bring a mobile studio to you. This will include a range of backdrops and studio lights and often produces very relaxed looking images. For some people, a photographic studio is an alien and often intimidating and uncomfortable environment.
Make sure the photographer knows how many people are expected to attend and what the age range is
This is really important! The planning required and the space needed to fit, say, 20 people into an image should not be underestimated compared to a shoot of only 3 or 4 people. Knowing the number of people and their age range can help a photographer plan ahead of the shoot and ensure excellent results.
Do all of your shoot attendees know what is expected of them?
Do they all know where to go and at what time? This is critical, as photographers will often have back to back bookings (especially for studio sessions) and you could put everyone under unnecessary pressure if anyone is lost and / or late. How about what they should wear? Having some people in suits or very smart clothes and some in their jeans and jumpers doesn’t always work very well. You will need to ensure you have some level of coordination with your attendees ahead of the shoot date.
Do you have any special considerations?
Family members in wheelchairs for instance, or family members needing special assistance when at the studio? Maybe your older family members will need a chair to sit in for the shoot as they cannot be expected to stand for an hour or more. This should be mentioned so the photographer can incorporate a chair or a sofa for instance into the shoot plan.
Above all, make the most of your session.
A family portrait session should be fun and a real social affair. A good portrait photographer will ensure they cover the above with you, but by making sure you follow the above tips you can ensure you get the best possible images. In addition, by being organised you will find that once the initial group shots are over you have spare time. Make the most of your photographer and have them take pictures of smaller groups or individuals. You have booked the photographer normally for an hour so make use of that time.
Jim Selby is the owner of Bluesden Photography http://www.bluesdenphotography.com and http://www.linkedin.com/in/bluesdenphotography
He has many years experience of shooting a wide range of subjects and is interested in the science and technology of photography, not just the artistry. His technology curiosity often gets the better of him and he takes things apart... Maybe not big or clever, but it's a lot of fun and after all, life is for learning!
To view more of his work visit his site here