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To be a good family photographer, you have to build skills that go beyond your camera gear. While knowing how to use your manual settings is necessary, being able to build a rapport with the family you are working with is just as important. Most families are nervous about getting their pictures taken. Your first goal when you photograph families is to relax them, as this will ultimately make your images turn out better overall.
Start with the Children
The children are the first people who will get bored at a photoshoot, and boredom leads to getting dirty and messy. Gather together the children for the photoshoot and have the parents help you arrange the children. If it’s a big family group, you’ll want to know which children are siblings and which are cousins. You’ll get to know the children and the parents as you try to take candid images and portraits of the children first.
Tell Parents to Focus on Their Own Smile
Parents want their children to look good in a family photo, and they will often try to make their children laugh or smile during the photoshoot. You will end up with images where the children look great, but the parents look down or make a silly face. Reassure the parents that you will get their children to smile and focus on having a natural look on their own faces.
Study Some Basic Poses Before Hand
Posing a family can be difficult, and there are plenty of ways to learn posing techniques that work well. While you may want to have the photographs be original and your own artistic vision, it always helps to have a few posing ideas in your back pocket. Posing is a learned skill and one that you will get better at over time. Don’t be afraid to move people around and try different techniques.
Pay Attention to the Details
As you look through your camera at the family you are photographing, pay attention to the details. Look at collars to make sure they are straight, make sure hands are in natural-looking positions, and look for odd gaps in clothing that form when someone sits down. The more you pay attention to the details, the better your images will come out.
Bring Some Humor
If this is your first time photographing a particular family, they haven’t heard the jokes you might use over and over to help people relax. Keeping the situation light will help ease the nerves of everyone. If you aren’t a naturally funny person, you can still memorize a few jokes that will help ease the tension at a photoshoot.
Know When the Session is Over
When children start crying, it will be hard to continue with the photoshoot when parents get frustrated. If it is possible to take a break and maybe have a snack, take the time to allow everyone to regroup. If the children cannot stop fussing, you may need to stop the session and reschedule for another day. It is not worth it to try and force a photoshoot to work out.
When In Doubt, Stay in the Shade
It is difficult to take pictures of anyone in the sun. While people may believe that a sunny day is perfect for a photoshoot, you’ll want to find as much shade as possible. People squint when the sun is bright, and the sun casts unflattering shadows on the faces of people.
Look for Basic Backgrounds
If the photoshoot is outside, you’ll want to take a walk around the property before you begin shooting to determine what backgrounds would work best. Look at the side of buildings for flat, plain colored backgrounds where you can line up a group.
Bring a Step Stool or Small Ladder
Part of arranging a group of people to take a photo is that you will want to position people at various heights. If you can bring a step stool, small ladder, and even a few chairs to the photoshoot, this will help add various heights to your positioning. It’s best to keep a supply of folding step stools, as they’re lightweight, collapsible, and easier to transport.
As you work to photograph families and take portraits remember to stay relaxed. Start with some basic portraits just to get everyone warmed up. Talk with the various family members, and don’t be afraid to let your silly side out when you are working with the children. The more at ease you are, the more relaxed the family you are taking pictures of will be.
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