Photographing families could be the perfect photography niche in which you can stake your claim. There are many perks to becoming the local “go-to” family photographer. As a family photographer, you position yourself to be the first choice for specialty photography such as newborn sessions, wedding pictures, senior portraits, and more. Additionally, once you gain a family’s trust, they’re much more likely to refer you to their friends, associates, and extended family members. Here, Isa Battaglin, owner of LillyK Photography, shares a few tips to help you make the most of your family photo shoots.
- Client consultations
For simplicity, many parents want to skip the formalities and just show up on picture day. However, it’s in everyone’s best interest if you convince the heads-of-household to set aside 30 minutes to meet with you a few days in advance. There are many reasons to consult in person with a client before the session. You have an opportunity to engage with the client(s) in person. The consultation can help you gauge personalities, plan poses, and get an idea of the family dynamics you’ll be challenged to capture. Furthermore, it’s important that you understand the vision of the client. It’s their story you’re telling, so take the time to get to know what they expect. Consultations are also the perfect time for signing contracts and paying session fees.
- Schedule accordingly
If your client wants a session outdoors, your goal is to catch the early morning or early evening light. Early evenings are best for that twilight glow, the “sweet spot” for light. On the other hand, the midday sun can be a nightmare. If your client has a toddler that naps in the afternoon, scheduling a session for 3:30 p.m. may not work out to your advantage. The client likely isn’t thinking about the best lighting. Although moms usually tend to the needs of their family members, important details may slip her mind while she’s scheduling her shoot. Take the time to ask, “Do your little ones need to nap? Will this interfere with lunchtime?”
- Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to stray
Preparation is a beautiful thing unless you’re too stringent or inflexible when it comes to photographing families. Know in advance what kinds of poses you’d like to capture, but be willing to modify as you go. Every family is unique.
- Make a fuss
Pay attention to the fine details: the ruffled skirt, the crooked tie, the necklace with the clasp falling toward the front. It’s good practice always to ask before you touch, but most clients are more than happy to have you straighten their hair or make small adjustments. Even if there’s nothing to fix or adjust, do a little pampering anyway. This attention builds the clients’ trust in you as their photographer and helps them relax.
- Age before beauty
If you’re doing breakdowns of individual family members or sibling groupings, start with the youngest children. Although it may be tempting to start with that camera-hungry teen, smaller children tend to lose interest more quickly and may become impatient. Photographing them first increases your chances of catching the tiny tots with happy faces.
Remember, not all body types are capable of bending, kneeling, or moving as you may have envisioned in your pre-shot imaginings. Work with the body structure of your clients and pose them in positions that flatter their form. Aim for a pyramid or triangle structure in your pose. In aligning heads, try to arrange one person’s smile to the next person’s eyes, a “stack and stagger” approach that adds depth to your images. A good rule when posing people for portraits is that if it bends, bend it.
- Shine like a superstar
Your clients are relying on you to relax their nerves, to draw from them their best and most natural smiles. People tend to stiffen up when in front of the camera. Although you focus the lens on them, all eyes are on you! Your job is not only to focus on lighting, posing, and the details of the shot, but also to help your clients enjoy their photo experience. It’s not a bad idea to have a “go-to” set of jokes that are proven to get smiles almost every time.
Some experts say that if you gave ten photographers each a camera and the same subject to photograph, you’d have ten unique photos. Trust your creativity. Honor your instinct. Go with your gut. But remember to balance your artistic style with tried-and-true tricks of the trade.