Photographing families and children, removing the stress.
First in a series in family and children photography by Kathy Miller. Thanks for checking in!
Family photography is complex. You’re photographing many personalities with their own set of expectations and anxiety. The clothes can be perfect. Location and lighting, perfect. I’m sure you’ve heard, “If mama isn’t happy, no one is.” In a family portrait session, mom is mostly concerned about the children, their behavior, cooperation, and smiles. Mom can be so focused on the children, that often times, she’s photographed with a stress look on her face – she’s worried. As the photographer, my job is take her mind off the kids, the lights, and the camera. But how? Especially in family and children photography, clients need to have confidence the photographer knows what they are doing. First, don’t be 100% set-up when clients arrive. In the studio or an outside photo session, it applies. Use ten-minutes to chat while you test lights, check camera angle, whatever. The family will see that you know the equipment and took the time to make sure technically, you know what you’re doing. Be observant in how the family interacts with each other. Just talk, laugh, and be silly with the kids. Make looking for a milk mustache, animal fur on clothes, keys or cell phone in pockets a game. Anything to lighten the mood. Clients are judging you on how you relate to them. The more you relate and are personable, the more confidence they will have in your ability as a photographer. You cannot fake this, either you’re genuine or you’re not. Second, quickly then move to posing. Rearrange if needed. Watch for body language, where children gravitate and how the parents mold and bend themselves with each other as you pose them. Posing should never be forced or uncomfortable. Sometimes, however, guys in tight jeans have problems with the sit-on-the-ground poses. Ask parents to ignore the children. I know easier said than done! Focus on the kids, talk to them. Laugh, giggle. Have parents look at the camera, tell them to ignore the temptation to look at their children. It is very common for the kids to have great smiles and bam, the parents are looking at the kids instead of where they should be looking. Even though you’ve posed the family, it should look natural, also. If you’ve engaged the family, they will forget there is even a camera. End on a high note, but how? Ask the oldest child to tickle dad. Give mom a hug. Ask them to laugh, you laugh. Ask them to pose themselves, then ask them to make a silly face. Line them up, have them jump. (You’ll need a fast shutter speed.)
Two more things: 1) Use a tripod and a shutter release. The tripod frees up your hands, reduces camera shake, and every image will have the same framing, which is what you need for head-swaps in Photoshop. 2) Have an assistant…mine is an eight inch, orange and fuzzy stuffed monkey named Fred. Fred goes to every family or child photo shoot and comes home happily with grass, sand and dirt between his toes.
Kathy Miller Photography 1517 McGarry Road, Joshua Tree, CA 92252 Open by appointment. 714-473-8491