When my photography journey began I needed someone to practice on and families were easy to come by, but I soon discovered family sessions were more challenging. Despite this, something inside of me wanted to master family photography and I enjoyed the challenge. The knowledge I have gained over the years I hope can be of benefit for both new and seasoned photographers.
Before each session I like to know the ages of the children. Knowing the ages helps me get a better understanding of the maturity level and what the children can or won’t do!
4 -5 years and under- Many children at this age still want to cling to mom and dad, so take advantage of that time and start with your posed shots first while they are willing to sit with their parents. There are times when a child/children do not want to sit at all during the session and getting them in the frame is nearly impossible. What do you do? Giving them a break to explore is some times just the ticket, remember that to them you are a complete stranger, the outdoors are far more exciting then you. This would be a good time to grab shots of mom and dad together and of any other children. Revisit the family shots again and if the child/children are still not cooperating then find ways to involve the rest of the family with what the child/children likes. For example, if the rocks seem to be the distraction then have the family play a simple game with the rocks strategically placing the family around the child/children.
6-8 years- At this age children are usually more cooperative and their communication level is much easier. However, it can also be a giggly stage. They understand what is expected of them, but they don’t want to listen and some times goof off. This can be frustrating for the parents and you as a photographer because time is of the essence. This is where BRIBING comes into play. I recommend there be a reward after the session and you should know what it is. Reminding the child of their bribe usually snaps them back into action. Just be prepared that it will only last for a few moments so have the family where you want them and be ready to shoot!
9 and older- From this age on it’s pretty smooth sailing. They know how to listen and know what is expected of them and most will be cooperative. However, there are times when they have a case of “bad attitude” or “too cool for pictures” and that can be difficult to turn around. Reminding them of the bribe can be effective, but also being real with them works great too. Ask them conversational questions, something they have to answer to.
ADULTS- It is possible that an adult may not be very happy about picture day. Now, I don’t want to be sexist here but I might be pointing my finger at the male species a little more then the female. Let’s be real, how many guys jump for joy when it comes to pictures, not many. This can be very intimidating during the session and a good ice breaker is to bring it up at the beginning of the session. I usually get a good chuckle and it starts the session off right and makes it easier to joke with them later if attitude comes creeping out.
FB FRIEND YOUR CLIENTS
I have a FB page that is completely separate from my personal FB page . This may or may not be an option for you at this point but if you have not created a business page on FB then I would recommend creating a new personal account first and then create your business page through that account. This allows you to be friends with clients in a more professional way without them seeing your personal information. It is not only a great way of communicating with clients but it also allows you to see their personal page. I like to browse through their pictures before a session and get an idea of what their personalities are like and putting names to faces.
GREET- MEET THEM, MEET YOU!
It is important to welcome your clients to the session and get to know them. Take the time to go over names again and find time to talk to the children individually so everyone is comfortable. Be social, talk about yourself and anything they might want to know about you before the session starts. For example, if your not good with names and you know you’ll continually forget, let them know. They will appreciate your honesty rather then you pointing to someone and everyone saying, “who me”, “her”, “him” “us?” “him?”…? with fingers going every which way.
WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT
Every session is different so not every session can possibly go the same, but there are things that can be expected at every session. It is important to have a game plan and let your clients know what that is. During my sessions I like to let my clients know what I’m trying to achieve and how I want the images to look. For example, I like my families to look like they love each other, so I tell my clients that one of my rules is they have to be uncomfortably close during the session. By telling clients ahead of time what you expect of them they will know what to do and not feel uncomfortable. You want your clients to feel like they are part of the event, it’s a collective effort, your making images together, they don’t just happen.
This all comes down to your own personal style. And as you progress in your photography you will discover what you gravitate towards which will set you apart and give you a brand. But there are posing tips that I personally follow.
1. Do not make the mother taller then the father. Even if the mother is taller, find positions that lower her.
3. All heads visible. Often you will have children on laps, be careful that the child’s head does not cover up the person’s head holding the child, usually putting their legs to the side and sitting on only one leg resolves this problem.
4. Avoid random hands. If someone does not have a place for their hand find one. For guys on the end I generally tell them to stick just their thumb in their pocket.
5. Relax, loosen those joints and straighten those backs! Wrists, hips, elbows, and backs can make such an impact on how people look in pictures. Slouches should be straightened, elbows down and relaxed, along with wrists. Relax your hips, lean and sit on one cheek verses straight up and down to avoid looking stiff.
6. Attention getters are great and I couldn’t do a session without them. No matter the attention getter I use I always place it on my head. You do not want them looking anywhere but the camera.
7. Standing, sitting, squatting, running, jumping, laying down etc. Switch up your posing.
8. Up high, down below, to the side etc. You don’t always have to shoot straight on.
9. Bokeh! Blur subjects out while others are in focus.
10. Lean on me. Your subject doesn’t always have to be straight up and down. Move their bodies, put them in natural positions that give character to your images.
Take advantage of every minute you have with your clients. Shoot until everyone can’t handle it anymore. If you think you got it all, keep going and don’t finish early. They are paying you good money, and you want them to be happy with the end results. I can’t tell you how many times the session is coming to a close, the sun is almost gone but we grab a few more anyway and often they are my favorite ones. Thank your clients for letting you be part of their day and finish it up by letting them know when they can expect sneak peeks(ask if they are ok with that), and when they will receive their images.