Shooting a family session can be tricky. In the past I would go over a shot list prior to my session. I would dream up all kinds of amazing scenarios in my head. After a few sessions, I found that this often lead to disappointment on my part. I would get a energetic toddler that didn’t want to cuddle or play a game I had planned and my whole shot list went out the window. Over time I have discovered if I do these 3 things at every session it provides me with emotive, candid images time and time again.
I would say 95% of the time I get what I most photographers call the “grandma shot” out of the way first. You know the “everyone smiling at the camera” image, right? After I have that image, I typically tell the parents to look at anyone but me and snuggle up to their kiddos or each other. This is usually when I move in and grab some cozy shots of each kid and a far away snuggled up family shot. Depending on the ages of the kiddos, I may try to do the more formal sibling shots and individual portrait right then too. After I have those few shots, I have noticed everyone starts to relax a bit and this is where the fun can be begin.
You maybe thinking…levels….what the heck does that even mean? If you want to add a little more depth to your images start thinking about levels! This can be something as simple as having one kiddo on dad’s shoulders and mom holding another during your family session. You can also try having a parent tossing one kid up and other parent walking with the other children. I like to use levels when I do sitting poses too. A great example would be one child laying down in mom’s lap and a kiddo standing behind dad with their arms around dad’s shoulders works. Try to think of ways to add more dimension to your basic shots and you will see your images come alive. Of course make sure to grab every angle you can every. This is how you create those diverse galleries clients love.
I also use prompts during my family sessions….like a lot! I have a few go to prompts that I try at every session but I also have learned to just pull some out on the fly. This is the number one way I keep young children so engaged (plus keeps mom and dad less stressed) during our sessions. Some families need more prompts that others. The magic is not in the actual prompt but in the moments that follow. Stepping back and just being there to capture that is where you will find the magic. Those will be the images that truly represent the family in front of your lens. Give a prompt and then give your client the space to just be.
I see so many people missing this simple idea. When I am looking for locations for sessions, one of the most important things I ask myself is, “Can we move around in the space?”. I hate feeling confined during a session! Movement is such a powerful tool in photography. If I have a family that is a slow to warm up or a toddler that is crazy, I get them moving. You will instantly see people relax a bit the minute they start moving. Often times once you allow a busy toddler to move around they will also be more willing to snuggle up later in your session.
Combining movement and prompts is a great way to really get your family comfortable and having fun! It provides an interesting way to layer with your environment or use diffident angles while they are moving. Don’t forget to grab those authentic smiles!
I hope these simply tips can help you create emotive, candid family images for your family session! The great thing is they can be used at any location and even indoors.
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Angie Wynne Photography serves the St. Louis and surrounding areas specializing in lifestyle family, newborn, and maternity photography.
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