8 Tips For Photographing Natural Family Photographs
my favorite emails come from the clients saying, “you did it! you captured us perfectly!” and that is my goal as a family photographer. i like to capture my clients being them. instead of putting my clients into position and having them stare towards my camera with forced smiles, i love creating images that capture them being naturally themselves. when clients look back on their images, they want to look at themselves being authentic and real. ask any parent and they will tell you that they love photos that capture their children’s personalities. they don’t want to see fake smiles from their children, they want to see pictures of their children being themselves…silly, giggly and all. they want to see that goofy grin with missing teeth and how they love to run around as they giggle. photographing natural family photographs is all about capturing moments that really happen instead of moments that are forced.
to learn more about how i learned to place my clients within the frame, check out my post on how i learned to pose my clients.
8 Tips for Photographing Natural Family Photographs
1. encourage interaction.
after i get my clients placed close together, i encourage them to cuddle and kiss their little ones. i always tell my clients to pretend that i am not even there and to just be them. to ease any confusion, i always say, “i am going to step back and just capture your sweet moments together. don’t worry, i will tell you when to look at the camera.” and then i simply do that. i step back and just let them laugh, snuggle, and tell funny jokes…capturing every single smooch and genuine laugh. every once in awhile i will tell them to look at me, and those are the smiles that are priceless! by allowing them time to have fun with one another and loosen up, i am easing them into a photo that will capture them genuinely smiling and being who they truly are.
2. incorporate favorite family activities.
a lot of my families love telling me about the fun things they like to do together. whether it is throwing rocks in the pond or carrying their children on their shoulders, incorporating activities that families love to do is a great way to create a natural photograph. allowing families, especially the children, to do the things that make them happy makes it even easier to create a beautiful family portrait because you can simply let them have fun, while you step back and document it. plus, when families look back on their pictures they want to see themselves doing the things that made them happy! it’s all about capturing their true memories and documenting that moment in their lives.
3. have families bring some fun!
documenting family moments means capturing them at a certain moment in their lives. those are the moments they are going to look back on with warm hearts and think, “oh, remember when we loved to do that!?” whether it is taking picnics or pulling their little one around in a classic red wagon, encourage your clients to bring items that define their current family moments. for the clients who want to bring items, i have them tell me what they are bringing before their session so i can be sure to have some ideas prepared to incorporate their activity.
4. put someone on the spot.
this one is of my favorite tricks, as it creates the best portraits. after positioning my clients close together and having them look at me, i will suddenly say, “everybody look at dad!” or “everyone look at sister!” oh, the reactions are priceless! when clients look at one another, they giggle. they forget that their picture is being taken and they get lost in the silly moment, which creates genuine emotion.
5. take a little walk.
i do this during every single session. having them hold hands, i have my clients walk down a road together, then turn around and walk back. i tell them to look at their children or one another during this time and, from time to time, swing their little ones up in the air. not only do the little ones just love this, but the parents always look at them in the most adoring way…a look that i love to capture. if you have more than one child at your session, it’s always helpful to space parents between the children to help with behavior. sometimes the last thing siblings want to do is hold hands with one another, but they always love holding mom or dad’s hand. to make things even more fun, play red light, green light as they walk towards you! it helps create some giggles.
6. up, up, up and away!
this is a great one for the whole family and everyone loves it. on the count of three, have mom or dad lift the littlest one up in the sky while everyone looks up at them. then take a break (mom or dad’s arms will want a little break), count to three and have them do again a few times. if you have another sibling at the session, encourage them to look up at their little sister or brother too. everyone’s sweet reaction during this activity creates the sweetest photo. even better, position your camera behind the parent’s shoulder and capture the little one’s reaction as they are lifted in the air.
7. get witty.
don’t worry, i won’t make you tell jokes during your session. but let siblings tell jokes to one another. this allows them to have a silly moment, while forgetting their picture is being taken. never will you hear parents at my sessions say, “stop being silly!” because i allow a little sillyness to take place. it helps break up the session a little bit and creates some sweet smiles in the process. what if the kids don’t know any jokes? well, have them whisper a secret to one another and watch the reaction. most of the time, just telling or hearing a secret that nobody else knows will encourage cute little smiles.
8. just let them run!
you know they want to do it. they know they want to do it. so let them do it! let those little ones run around and have some fun! most little ones are happiest when they are on the move. they are at that stage when they want to be independent, so let them be! crank up that shutter speed to capture their fast movement and let them run it out! again, playing red light, green light is a great game for incorporating movement into your session while also getting them to stop moving from time to time so you can get the photo!
there are so many fun things you can do with your clients to create natural looking family portraits, but the most important thing is to have fun. don’t be afraid to have fun with your clients! when they walk away from their session and look back on their photos, you want them to remember having a great time while getting their photographs taken instead of being stressed out and uncomfortable. creating a fun and memorable experience for your clients will not only create beautiful and natural photos, but it will be why they email you again and again every time they need to update their photographs. creating a fun experience will take you from being a family’s one time photographer to their one and only photographer.
for a list of what photography books that have inspired me along the way, check out what’s on my bookshelf!