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Family photography tips and techniques

It might be intimidating sometimes if you were retained by a family to shoot for them some new born portraits or group portraits. 

If you have never done a family or group portrait before, just be honest with the family and tell them that this is your first time and that you intend to make the best of it. If you are a friend with the family, I am sure they will be helping you out in your setup and posing directions.

Let's face it; if you know already how to shoot portraits and you know the basics lighting techniques, then you are 80% there...

Below are tips for you to cover the remaining 20%:

  • Take time before you open your bag. Having a chat for 20 minutes will help everybody relax a bit.
  • Call them before hand and ask them to wear something with solid colors, muted and similar tones. Don't be afraid to ask them to keep jewellery simple and minimalistic. At the end of the day, they are the subject and not their shiny jewelry or cluttered cloths...
  • Family portraits should be fun for both you, and the family so try not to reflect a stressful persona. Keep the lighting simple and don't bother with the gear and settings.
  • Kids are kids and want to play. Get playful and goofy with them.
  • Don't be afraid to give posing directions. They are  no models and they need help relaxing. For women show the curves and for men mock the V shape posing techniques. Bring less tall people in front and seat the children on the floor.
  • Lighting is very important. If using flash, you can make use of a shoot-through umbrella triggered by another master speedlite on the hotshoe. Move the umbrella at 45 degrees from the camera left or right to capture some catch light in their eyes.
  • Camera settings: use the "don't care" aperture f/8 so that everybody will be in focus
  • Post-processing is key. Removing those blemishes, softening skin tones, adding clarity and sharpening for screen and/ or printing are basic knowledge areas you need to be aware off.
  • Try different house rooms, backgrounds and parts of the house. Ask them to get outside to benefit from the scenery and light quality.

On your next assignment, try to be creative. Use the father lying down on the floor techniques and pile the kids on top. For a fun shot, ask permission from 'mom' to let the kids jump on the bed - exceptionally this time!  Or let them get really close and eliminate stiffy poses and don't forget to have fun with them as you go.