Tips for Photographing Families!
Photographing families can be one of the most fun and stressful activities a photographer can do. You can meet some really nice families, make some amazing photos, and maybe even get some more work in the future. However, it can also lead to stress because children get cranky, parents must deal with said cranky child, and you still have all your photos to make. This post will provide you with what you need to make family photo day as painless as possible; I split this into two parts: "Have A Plan," and the "Technical Settings."
Have A Plan
It's easy to go into a family photo session thinking you'll just show up, snap some pics, and leave. While that may sometimes work, it also helps to have a set plan of ideas to move the shoot along. Having a plan and confidence in what you're about to do not only allows you to relax but it also gives the parent one less thing to worry about. Your plan should consist of (but not be limited to):
Specifically know where you plan to take your photos. Your general location has already been discussed and decided with the family but you need to know where to go once you arrive. You do not want to show up and say "uhhhh, lets go over here, that looks nice!" Not only will you look unprepared and unprofessional, but you will also not achieve the best photos possible. I try to show up to a shoot 1 hour to 30 minutes early to scout out the area. Ideally, I would like to visit the place days in advance to have plenty of time to think things through.
How long will your shoot take? How long do you plan to spend on each family pose? Will the shoot take so long that you may want to give the family a break? These are questions I ask myself before showing up. That way, I can tell the parents how long we are going to be doing one thing before we move on to the next--this allows the parents to fend off and prepare the children for small chunks of bite-sized photo sessions instead of one big photo time.
If you possess creative abilities beyond mine (not hard) this may not cause any problems for you. However, if you have the creativity of a rock, like me. then you will want to plan our poses for the family before you begin the session. I often Google or Pinterest family poses for the number of people I know will be in the family and then create some sort of rendering of the photo I see. This again decreases stress because you are prepared and have a strong understanding of how you want the posing to look.
The Technical Settings
Settings for family photos can challenge any photo taker. You want to make sure everyone is crisp and in focus but still get that separation from the background with a shallow depth of field. To accomplish this, you need to get creative: Here's what I do.
Shoot With A Narrow Aperture
This means, your "f-stop" number should be bigger (if you haven't read my "camera basics" post you can do that here: https://morethanaglimpse.wixsite.com/mysite/post/understanding-how-to-use-your-camera-in-5-paragraphs-or-less). Shooting with a narrow aperture allows you to get more people in focus when they're stacked in their pose. I would suggest something around f/ 3.5-4. I personally use f/4 because I value having my subject completely in focus more than fancy "bokeh" (though, I do love it).
Shoot With A Longer Lens (Focal Length)
Shooting with a longer focal length allows you to "compress" the image and regain that separation and shallow depth of field you lose by shooting with a narrow f-stop. This does mean that you will have to shoot from further away, so clear communication is key. I often will set up the family the way I want them and then back away to snap the photo; then, I will come back to the family to readjust instead of yelling. The process can feel tedious but in my experience does allow for the best family portrait photos.
I hope this short post helped you out! When I went into my first group photo shoot, I had to learn this the hard way, with people out of focus all over the place. Avoid my same mistakes! As always, the best way to understand your camera and photos is to practice; so get out there and shoot!