Most moms will agree that having family photographs taken is an absolute must. It may sound clichéd but a photograph speaks a thousand words, and is able to capture a special moment, freezing it in time, making that memory a timeless and everlasting gem.
Photographs also make it possible to capture important milestones, such as being pregnant, to bringing baby home, capturing baby’s first steps or all the family generations together in one picture.
Of course, getting those photos to come out perfectly is not always going to be an easy task — especially if your family includes a fussy baby or toddler. This is why preparation is key, regardless of whether you have a professional photo shoot or if you have opted to take your own portraits.
Professional vs. DIY?
When planning a photo shoot, you can either decide to hire a professional photographer or to go the DIY route. This decision will lie heavily on what exactly you expect to achieve with your photos. Are you happy with casual, fun photos, or do you expect high quality photographs?
A professional photographer obviously comes with the equipment, knowledge and experience to produce amazing quality photos — however you may not always have the extra cash needed to hire one. Ask yourself, what do I want? Before making the decision to hire a pro or opting to do it yourself.
After evaluating your budget and needs, you have decided to work with a professional photographer. Now what? The first step will be to track down a good photographer who can produce the type of photos that you require. Photography is like any other art form and, much like art, each photographer has their own unique style.
Some prefer working with natural lighting, while others prefer doing in-studio shoots. Some may produce soft, hazy and romantic photos, while others prefer working with bright colours and sharp lighting.
When scouting for a photographer, look at previous works to get an idea of what their style is. Or you could simply request to see a portfolio.
Meet in person
Once you have decided on a photographer, schedule a meeting prior to the shoot to discuss what you want. Don’t be afraid of sounding demanding, you are paying good money for this shoot after all. Flip through some magazines, or go online to track down some examples of photos you like, and take them with to the meeting to show the photographer. This will give him/her a good idea of what you want, and can ensure that you are all on the same page.
Location, location, location!
Never underestimate the importance of location in your photo shoot. This alone will determine good from excellent shots, so be sure to pay extra attention to this factor.
Your photographer will more than likely have some places in mind, be sure to discuss this in detail when you meet prior to the shoot. It is also important to take certain factors into account. Everyone loves a beach shoot but is the weather reliable? What is the current season? Is it raining or windy? These may make for tricky conditions that could spoil your shoot, so be sure to take it all this into account before choosing a location.
On the day
It is normal for families to be nervous on the day of the shoot. The most important thing to do is to try and relax and have fun. It is not uncommon for the mood of the subject to be captured in the photographs, so if you are genuinely relaxed and having a good time, this will show up in your shoots.
Easier said than done? No problem, the pros have listed some handy tips to help you make it through the big day.
- Preparation is key: This factor cannot be stressed enough. You have done all the ground work, chosen the photographer, location and even planned some poses. Now it is important to plan the actual day of the shoot to ensure you are not rushed and flustered by the time you are ready to start. Ensure you have allocated enough time to get the whole family ready at a relaxed pace and then to the shoot with time to spare. Fights and tears before the shoot won’t help. Keeping a calm and positive attitude will go a long way to ensure that the shoot is a success.
- What to wear? Arguably the most commonly asked question. While matching clothes tend to look good, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit with some colours and even props. The goal of the shoot is to capture the essence of your family, so dress in a way that captures that.
- Dealing with toddlers and babies: Most photographers will agree that telling a child to smile is a no-no. This will likely end in sulking and even tantrums. Instead try to make the day a fun event for the whole family. Explain to toddlers in advance what the shoot is all about and get them interested and involved. Forced smiles may make for standard photos, but the best photos come when you are relaxed and are busy being yourself. But don’t stress yourself too much about it and just have fun.
Instead of hiring a pro, you have decided to go the DIY route and take the family photos yourself. This does not mean that you need settle for average photos though. Even without all the equipment, you can still manipulate the situation to produce some really great shots.
First things first, what equipment do you have and how can you use it to produce good photos? Pros use Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras because they can manipulate various settings to produce varying results. However, the chances are that you are not a pro and just want to use your camera to take some decent family shots. In this instance, do not concern yourself too much with the technical lingo of aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
The automatic option on your camera is a very handy setting that takes care of all of that. The good news is that every camera offers an automatic function so do not feel intimidated if you do not have the latest and greatest in camera body and lenses. Even the most basic of cameras will be able to produce decent shots in automatic mode.
Lighting and location
Lighting is the most crucial aspect to consider when planning a shoot. You do not want to have photos that come out too dark or blurry so it would be easiest to work outdoors with natural lighting.
When the lighting is too dark, photos will be too dark and will also come out blurry. Chances are that your camera flash will pop up to illuminate the scene and this can be very unflattering when taking portraits. Instead, consider taking the family to the park or even the back yard where the natural light will be brighter. A word of caution though, most professional photographers will advise you to avoid direct sunlight from midmorning to early afternoons, as this is when the sunlight is the harshest. Instead try to plan your shoot for the early morning or late afternoon when lighting is softer.
Take great shots
The key to taking great photos is lighting and composition. Once you have sorted out the lighting issue, the next step is to plan compositions. This sounds a lot scarier than it really is. When it comes to portraits, a good guideline is to get up close and to try as best as possible to keep the subject (aka your family) the centre of the photo and to minimize negative space. Also, when taking group shots, try and get everyone to stand close together. Really close together. Don’t be afraid of affectionate gestures such as hugging, holding hands and even kissing, especially when there are little ones involved.
Always remember To have fun and enjoy the day. The photos are only the end result of an exciting experience. So relax, smile and let the camera take your natural sides.